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Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

March 22, 2010

by John Farr

A salute to three of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s great ones.


Oklahoma! (1955)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Fox introduced the new singing team of MacRae and Jones in this buoyant musical, adapted from the hit play that launched Rodgers and Hammerstein as a songwriting team .The movie follows the round-about romance of a young couple in the rough frontier days of the early 1900s. Cowboy Curly (Gordon MacRae) has eyes for Oklahoma farm girl Laurey (Shirley Jones), but so does brutish farmhand Jud Frye (Rod Steiger). When Curly rescues Laurey from Jud’s ungentlemanly advances at a social, he also wins her hand, but Jud hasn’t sung his last tune just yet.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Though the film is long and contains a fairly high corn factor, it’s also visually stunning, and truly soars whenever the music and dancing starts, with peerless renditions of “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On The Top,” and the immortal title tune. The dance numbers, choreographed by Agnes de Mille, are original and exuberant, while Steiger and Gloria Grahame turn in fine performances, respectively playing the dastardly Jud and the naively amorous Ado Annie, “the girl who can’t say no.”


The King and I (1956)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

In the mid-1860′s, The King of Siam (Yul Brynner) finds himself with many children to educate and care for, so he hires Anna (Deborah Kerr), an English governess, for the position. What he does not count on is her firm and independent approach to the job, which creates interesting interaction between lady and monarch.

WHY I LOVE IT:

A triumphant screen adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway play turned Yul Brynner into a star. Sets and costumes are breathtaking, the story touching and each song in the lilting score still enchants. Deborah Kerr makes a perfect Anna (with help from Marni Nixon, who dubbed her singing voice), a woman strong enough to stand up to– and perhaps love — a king. This movie will sparkle eternally.


The Sound of Music (1965)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Joyous, honey-voiced Austrian nun Maria (Julie Andrews) becomes governess to seven children at the outset of World War II and eventually falls for their handsome widower father, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). The Nazis are on the move, however, and force the Von Trapps to flee. Will the happy new family survive?

WHY I LOVE IT:

Shot in pristine color on location near Salzburg-and featuring that dizzying opening shot of Maria belting out the title tune from a verdant hilltop-”Music” fully deserves its reputation as one of the most popular films of all time. The daisy-fresh Andrews is simply terrific, whether she’s acting or singing, and the songs-”Do Re Mi,” “Climb Every Mountain,” and “My Favorite Things”-have become part of our cultural heritage. Adapted from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway play, the film might be a bit schmaltzy at moments, but in all, it remains utterly irresistible. The hills are still alive-and your singing pipes will be too-with the wondrous “Sound of Music.”


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  • comments (0)
  • Nikki

    Rogers and Hammerstein’s work was way ahead of its time, dealing with subjects like rape in “Oklahoma;” colonization and clash of cultures in “The King And I;” domestic violence in “Carousel;” Racism and classism in “South Pacific,” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And by doing so created roles for minorities which few playwrights were writing for, as in their wonderful “Flower Drum Song” which dealt with arranged marriages; and giving us songs that decades later are still sung and admired, like the beautiful “Love Look Away,” and introducing audiences to such fine actors as Miyoshi Umeki, Nancy Kwan, and Jack Soo.

  • rayban

    Great choices, John and Nikki, I’d place “Oklahoma” at the top of my list and, then, “Carousel” and, then, “The King and I”. But I always enjoy a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical film, even their original film musicals, like “State Fair”. And who could resist Ross Hunter’s gorgeous production of “The Flower Drum Song” (which is not really R&H at their best) and the simply sensational Nancy Kwan and all those other actors, Myoshi Umeki, Benson Fong, Juanita Moore and the equally sensational Patrick Adiarte.