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OKLAHOMA!

Director: FRED ZINNEMANN

U.S.A. • 1955 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • ANAMORPHIC • 145 MIN


FRESH FROM OSCAR TRIUMPH WITH FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), FRED ZINNEMANN MUST HAVE SEEMED AN ODD CHOICE TO DIRECT A RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN MUSICAL. SO IT PROVED.
Yet for Zinnemann, the novelty was part of the appeal: his first musical, his first film in colour, and an exuberant all-American fantasy from this Viennese-born director with a penchant for quietly downbeat drama. The result, if not the most idiomatic of film musicals, is one of the most unusual. The story could not be simpler: will a cowboy take a farm-girl to a country dance? In a role for which Paul Newman and James Dean were in contention, Gordon MacRae (who could sing) plays the cowboy; a newcomer, Shirley Jones makes a lovely debut as the farm-girl Laurey. The real powerhouse performance, however, comes from Rod Steiger as the lewd, loathed and lonely Jud, a typical Zinnemann outsider who is infatuated with Laurey. The psychological complexity of the performance unbalances the film whilst making it a much more interesting one, just as the filming of the numbers makes up in intelligence what it might lack in exhilaration. —Neil Sinyard.

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