Musical Monday: Darlings, it’s Oklahoma!

Posted on April 09, 2007

O, what a beautiful morning to rip this glorious film to shreds! Darlings, it’s Oklahoma! Where the men are men, the women are manipulative, and the entire damn territory can’t seem to make up their minds about who they want to sleep with.

Our film starts here, with babe-alicious GordonMacRae as not-at-all-gay cowboy Curly singing his impressive lungs out about…well, we’ll let Curly take it from here:


Honestly, one of the best Rodgers and Hammerstein songs of all time. Beautiful melody and memorable lyrics that are made even more effective by the fact that they’re sung by a total manly man.


After he gets that out of his system, Curly meets up with local cocktease Laurey and her Aunt Eller, who appears to be practicing some form of prairie witchcraft. Curly likes to think that Laurey’s his best gal, but Laurey doesn’t like anyone making assumptions about her so she plays hard to get, even though she’s clearly moist for him.


Trying to impress her enough to get her to agree to go to the dance with him, Curly partakes of that honorable age-old tradition of bragging about his pimped-out ride.


He’s working overtime here and for a minute, it looks like she’s melting, but then he loses his membership in the Lothario club by admitting he made the whole thing up and there is no surrey, no fringe, and no chicks or ducks or geese in any danger of being run over.


She petulantly stomps off into the house and announces “Ah’m a-gunna go to the dance with th’ ugliest man ah can find!” and agrees to go with hired hand Jud, outrageously overplayed by Rod Steiger. Curly rides off to beat up his pillow and masturbate furiously.


Later we meet peddler man Ali – who is laughably supposed to be Persian and is laughably miscast with Eddie Albert in the role – along with local dimwitted slut Ado Annie, hilariously portrayed by Gloria Grahame.


Laurey’s all “Hey, aren’t you promised to Will, who’s coming in from Kansas City today?” and Annie’s all “Look, I’m a whore and I can’t deal with your patriarchal bullshit, Mrs. Partridge. Some of us like to say yes every once in a while.”

Seriously, “I’m Just a Girl Who Cain’t Say No” is a fantastically bawdy song for the period and Grahame can’t sing to save her life, but that only makes it better.


When Will shows up, Annie lives up to her reputation and doesn’t say “No” to him.


The rest of the townsfolk arrive at Aunt Eller’s farm to get ready for the party and Curly shows up with his rebound, Gertie. We know they’re not meant to be together because she’s not as pretty as Shirley Jones. The womenfolk all head into the house to freshen up.

Which of course means dancing around in their underwear as Laurey tries to convince her lesbian friends that she’s totally over Curly.


To prove it, she goes outside and beats the shit out of Gertie. We’re starting to like Laurey a little more. If this film was set a hundred years later, this would all be taking place in a roadhouse parking lot and the girls would be wearing glittery t-shirts with fringe that said things like “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!” while wielding broken beer bottles. Also, everyone would have less teeth.


Curly pulls them apart and sings a little about how people might say they’re in love. In Oklahoma, when people are in love, they press their faces together and look off into the distance while one or both of them sings their lungs out.

Unfortunately, the little cocktease won’t change her mind about going with Jud and once again, Curly stomps off.

There is a LOT of stomping off in this film.


Curly heads down to Jud’s shack and – get this – tries to convince him to kill himself because his life is so worthless. What the hell? What kind of passive-aggressive bullshit is this? The ladies certainly aren’t afraid to throw down, you two pussies. For god’s sake, you’re supposed to be manly men, not sorority girls. Hit each other!


Meanwhile, Laurey’s all upset about the whole thing and decides to sit out on the porch and take a hit off something she bought off of peddler-man Ali. We’re pretty sure it was crystal meth…


…because that is about the only thing that explains the next 15 minutes.


Much has been made over the years of the famous “dream ballet” sequence choreographed by Agnes DeMille and we’re going to have to go out on a limb here and declare that it’s not the work of genius that many have claimed.


Oh sure, it’s visually stunning, but it’s way too long and the choreography in many places is just plain bizarre – to the point that whatever they were trying to accomplish with this piece is obscured by its weirdness. We know it has to do with the whole triangle between Laurey, Curly and Jud and we know that she’s more terrified of Jud than attracted to him, but we don’t understand what the hell the conflict is. You have two guys. You’re hot for one and scared shitless of the other one. What’s the damn problem, bitch?

Also, it’s just odd that the principles are not played by the actors, so we get a dancing Curly who clearly isn’t Gordon MacRae and a dancing Laurey who clearly isn’t Shirley Jones (in fact, the sequence goes to great lengths to actually highlight this) and we get an audience who clearly isn’t sure what the hell is going on in this film.


Although we did like these three gals. We’ll always love slutty girls in drag queen clothes.


Inexplicably, the dream sequence ends with her running away from the Bates Motel. That was some good shit you got from Ali, girl.


Later, at the dance, our hearts grow ten sizes bigger as we realize these poor yokels can’t even afford walls and a ceiling for their parties.


Aunt Eller establishes her white trash bona fides by getting drunk at the party and forcing men to dance with her at gunpoint. Poor thing probably wonders why she wound up with such a tight-assed niece.


The women are auctioned off like sex slaves and a bidding war over Laurey erupts between Curly and Jud. Curly sells off his horse, his saddle and even his gun in order to get a chance to hit that.


Humilated and horny, Jud drags Laurey off into the shadows and basically threatens to kill her.


Then Curly shows up and even though he sold off all his goods to prove his love for her and even though the other man in her life just threatened to kill her, this stinking bitch STILL plays hard to get. Girl needs to lay off the crystal.


But Curly knows that all you have to do is press your faces together and look up at the sky while you sing and sure enough, it works. Just like that, they’re engaged.

These people are seriously weird.

Meanwhile…

Annie’s out in the parking lot…


…servicing every man who walks by. Annie’s got the right idea.


The town gets together once again for Laurey and Curly’s wedding. Ali shows up with his new bride Gertie. Man, these people just bounce from partner to partner like they’re at a key party in 1974. Will is thrilled to hear it…


…but Annie’s a little more conflicted about the whole thing. Why is it that the best fight scenes in this film are always the catfights?

Manly men, my ass.

Anyway, Laurey and Curly finally tie the knot and we’re treated to the entire reason one should watch this film – the sublime title song, which is probably the best thing Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote. We’ll admit, little queens that we are, when the entire ensemble kicks in with the harmonizing, we get a little chill. It’s just that good.


After the wedding, in some bizarre sex ritual, the menfolk force the couple to stand on top of a haystack while they throw dolls at them. Of course. That makes perfect sense.


Did everyone just forget about the sociopath that threatened to kill the bride? These people need to spend less time staring at the sky and more time paying a little attention to what’s going on on the ground.

So we’re thinking “Alright! Curly’s gonna beat Jud’s ass!” Instead we get the lamest, most anti-climactic fight in film history:

That’s it. Curly jumps off the haystack and lands on Jud, killing him. Lame.


The town quickly convenes a kangaroo court in Eller’s kitchen and declares Curly not guilty so he can get on with sexing his bride.


All’s well that ends well and the couple ride off to their honeymoon – you guessed it – staring off into the distance and singing. It’s like the whole territory was on drugs.
Apparently, after you get married you don’t have to press your cheeks together anymore since you’re getting the real thing.

Next Week: Hey Big Spender! It’s Sweet Charity!

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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  • BG

    OMG. What? I think I saw this musical, but your recap of it makes it clear there are plot holes big enough to drive a bus through. Suspension of disbelief, indeed!

    Or just pass me whatever she was smoking.

  • Gorgeous Things

    And of course, there is absolutely nothing at all phallic about all those tall cornstalks in the opening song!

    Love it! And I can’t wait for “Charity” next week!

  • Anonymous

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, Oklahomo is still one of my favorites. Comfort songs that I grew up hearing crazy costumes that I wanted to wear, and manly men I wanted to touch.
    As we like to sing in Chicago.
    You’re doin fine you’re a homo
    You’re a homo you’re gay” (sing it to the title song, it works then imagine 300 gay men bellowing it at the top of their lungs every Sunday afternoon during showtunes)

    MT

  • Bill

    I always thought Laurie was just sniffing some poppers out there on the porch.

    I have never understood Rod Steiger being cast in this movie. He always seemed so out of place to me.

    I love seeing Charlotte Greenwood in this movie, though her signature high kicks (straight up over her head, like a standing split, even in middle age – truly weird and a sight to see) are sadly absent.

    You guys were right on target about the gals doing all the best fighting in this movie.

    Barbara Lawrence (who played Gertie) was stabbed in a movie theater in 1947. Had it happened after Oklahoma was made, I’d put my money on Gloria (Ado Annie) Grahame as the assailant.

    Gloria lost the 1948 Best Supporting Actress Oscar (for Crossfire) to Celeste Holm (Gentleman’s Agreeemnt). Holm was the original Ado Annie on the Broadway stage so I guess Gloria got her day by taking Celeste’s part for the movie.

    More Gloria – she was married four times. The third time was to the son (by another wife) of her first husband. Marrying your step-son: Gotta love dirt like that.

  • winged_sheep

    My favorite song through childhood and prepubescense was "Cain't say no." I modeled myself on Ado Annie who seemed a lot more logical and normal than scheming little Laurie. I blame Rogers & Hammerstein for my behavior during the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's!

  • DanielDC

    “Anonymous said…
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, Oklahomo is still one of my favorites. Comfort songs that I grew up hearing crazy costumes that I wanted to wear, and manly men I wanted to touch.
    As we like to sing in Chicago.
    You’re doin fine you’re a homo
    You’re a homo you’re gay” (sing it to the title song, it works then imagine 300 gay men bellowing it at the top of their lungs every Sunday afternoon during showtunes)”

    OH MY GOD, That is freaking hilarious!!

    AWESOME post, boys! I absolutely love the beginning of the movie.

  • mumblesalot (Laura A)

    “If this film was set a hundred years later, this would all be taking place in a roadhouse parking lot and the girls would be wearing glittery t-shirts with fringe that said things like “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!”

    Oh gosh I owe you big time for starting my day with a
    sense of humor.

  • DivineQueen

    “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!”

    Oh no, you bitches didn’t. Hahahahahah. LOVE IT.

  • Carl

    “But Curly knows that all you have to do is press your faces together and look up at the sky while you sing and sure enough, it works. Just like that, they’re engaged.”

    LOL. That is so true. I followed a link from TCM. Excellent post and observations, and what a great idea. Keep up the good work!

  • BrianB

    OMG I’m having convulsions here, this was so funny! It’s like the bigger they are, the harder they fall and you guys were spot on with this one!

    Gloria Grahame is just beyond wonderful with all the stuff she did in the movies. When I figured out she was the same one who was in Greatest Show on Earth, Bad and the Beautiful and she had my heart. Love all the Gloria Info, Bill!

    Maybe the dream sequence made more sense on stage. I agree, when I was a kid I couldn’t figure out why it was a different Curly and Laurie. But was the guy who played Curly in the dream on a soap opera in the 80′s? He looks so familiar.

    MT 10:53 AM, LOVE the ‘Oklahomo’ lyrics and I can just hear a room full of them singing it!

    BrianB

  • Sewhat?

    After laughing like a hyena over your recaps, I actually teared up listening to ( OK, singing along with. Ok, TWICE.) “Oklahoma”. I am such a sap.

    I saw a touring company of “Oklahoma” in San Francisco when I was a very young child. I was always really creeped out by ‘Jud’ and the whole Agnes DeMille does the Bates Motel thing. Now I understand why it frightened and confused me. It never made any sense in the first place !

    Bill, I always enjoy the inside insights you provide. Thanks.

  • Bill

    brianb – I just hit the IMDB, Dream Curly was played by James Mitchel who is Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children.

  • Adrienne Zurub

    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! I did a sing-along! This is precious, especially since today is my Birthday! Thanks for the laughter and recap.
    You guys are off the hook!

    Adrienne,
    author of ‘Notes From the MotherShip~Naked Invisibles.’

  • Anonymous

    “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!”

    OMG – I almost fell out of my chair. This was hilarious. Thanks gayboys!

  • Lisette

    Cat Fights- The scariest fight I ever saw was between 2 latinas in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. They cleared all the guys for rows and rows!

    Bill- You hve the BEST! freakin’ trivia!

  • Anonymous

    This is one of my favorites, warts and all.

    As a pit orchestra musician, pre-tape recorded "orchestras," R&H were always my favorties, because there were always several dance pieces which were great to play.

    As with most movies musicals, some of the translation suffers on the screen. In this film, the dream sequence is way overlong. But in the original production, it was revolutionary in its use of modern dance rather than tap or strictly chorus line style.

    Love the cast. On TMC, there is a small short with Steiger talking about this film that’s a must see. It was great to see Charlotte Greenwood get a chance to show off her signature leg move, as weird as it is.

    And Jones and McCrea are great, though they really shine even more in Carousel, my absolute favorite R&H play (though I have issues with the movie).

    Thanks as always for your enjoyable and original critiques.

  • Mike

    What other state can brag R&H wrote it's state song? Great songs, OK story, I agree that the dream ballet is overlong and obtuse. The dance hall girls/drag queens look straight out of "the unsinkable Molly Brown" which is on your agenda in the future
    (I hope)

  • Anonymous

    Anon at 1:31 here again –

    Read Bill’s post after I wrote mine and apologize for the error about Charlotte Greenwood. I’ll probably spend the rest of the afternoon trying to remember what film I was thinking of.

  • Bill

    Anon at 1:31 – I remember Charlotte doing those kicks in Betty Grable movies like Moon Over Miami, Down Argentine Way (both with Don Ameche) and Spingtime in the Rockies.

    If she did them in Oklahoma, I don’t recall them, but she might possibly have done them at the barn dance thing (with the Famrer and the Cowman song)

  • macasism

    This show has the best songs, doesn’t it? Cain’t Say No, Poor Jud is Dead, OWABM, dude it doesn’t get better.

    The other thing I love about this one is that it was Shirley Jones’ first movie. Her voice is so pure. By the time she made Music Man (you boys gotta do it), the voice coaches had their way with her and she lost something…but here her voice is like liquid virginity.

  • macasism

    And in case any of you are in any doubt about Ms. Jones’ singing artistry, check out this You Tube. You will laugh your ass off as Pam Dawber tries to sing selections from today’s musical. John Schneider actually has a nice voice, but Curly is supposed to be a tenor, I think.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vLssXG9vM8

  • thombeau

    YAY! Oh what a beautiful morning, indeed!

    Of course, it’s all about Annie and Eller. And those tarts in the dream sequence.

    Can’t wait for Sweet Charity!

  • potty mouth princess

    “If this film was set a hundred years later, this would all be taking place in a roadhouse parking lot and the girls would be wearing glittery t-shirts with fringe that said things like “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!”

    That already sounds like an episode of Flava of Love or ANTM. hee

    Thanks for brightening up an otherwise shitty day.

  • Dova1965

    “As we like to sing in Chicago.
    You’re doin fine you’re a homo
    You’re a homo you’re gay” (sing it to the title song, it works then imagine 300 gay men bellowing it at the top of their lungs every Sunday afternoon during showtunes)”

    Amen, girl! It’s the reason I end up that particular bar every year on Pride Sunday… showtunes!

    And I was going to mention that Dream Curly from the ballet was Palmer Cortlandt from “All My Children,” but someone else beat me to the punch! (He’s gay, by the way. James Mitchell, I mean.)

  • twc

    Guys, I was offline for a week so I got to read two of your movie recaps back to back. Complete and total fabulosity.

    As a complete musical-theater junkie who has managed to raise two more musical-theater junkies (who are now both over age 18), your Musical Mondays have become required family reading.

    Regarding “The Harvey Girls,” Netflix has it listed on their site and says the DVD came out in 2002. I would buy it for you and send it to you to thank you for your amazing recaps. Email me ([email protected]) with your address if you want a present from a true fan.

  • Kerry

    This film is all about Ado Annie for me! Gloria Grahame is sublime in this role – so funny! And I totally agree on the weird-o dream ballet sequence. When I watched this movie over and over at say 12 or 13 years of age, I would ALWAYS fast forward through that crap.

    I’m surprised you didn’t comment on any of Will’s songs like “Kansis City” with all the lasso dancing or one of my favorite scenes: his duet with Ado Annie, “All Er Nuthin.” How cute were they???

  • Anonymous

    I never realized that all these musicals have such bizarro plots! Oklahoma is a favorite for the music, but the whole thing with Jud still gives me the creeps.

    I did enjoy the London production Trevor Nunn did with Hugh Jackman as Curly (before Hugh hit it big in film). We managed to get same day, half price seats and sat in the front row. Hugh came down and did one scene sitting on the edge of the stage – so close we could have reached out and touched his leg! Missed opportunity there.

    The weird plot points don’t seem so obvious on stage, but you aren’t able to sing along either. I guess that’s the tradeoff.

  • Kerry

    Sorry “Kansas City” – I hate when I find a typo in my own posts!

  • Ms. Feasance

    Your comment about the witchcraft Aunt Eller was practicing led me to recall this, from the Oklahoma! Wikipedia entry:
    “In the opening scene, few people realise that the actress who plays Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood) was too physically weak to lift the pole in the butter churn. To overcome this, the crew concealed midget Oliver Whitman in the churn and he raised and dropped the pole as Greenwood rested her hands on it. He is however, as with so many stunt artists, uncredited.”
    Passions, anyone?

  • Anonymous

    No “The Farmer and the Cowman”… what’s up with that?

    Thanx for startin’ our Mondays with a bang!

    – desertwind

  • Mike

    did you watch the cinemascope version or Todd-a-O? They shot both at the same time, but re-staged the muical numbers for the latter

  • Kelly

    Thank you both for giving me a reason each week to look forward to Monday!

  • chicksinger

    Ditto to what everyone before me wrote, esp. regarding the “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!” portion.

    Will you ever do a comparative analysis between the movie and the recent revival with Hugh Jackman? That’s the only version I’ve watched all the way through, and even that was problematic for me. But he is awful fun to watch, and I was scared when I realized that they didn’t hire a Dream Laurey, just one Laurey for all that singin’ and actin’ and dancin’ en pointe. Real triple threats are scary.

    And “Charity” is just the biggest piece of cheesy cheese ever put on Broadway. We did it in college, and gradually we realized we were saying, “This is so cheesy” about every number and every scene. Cheese, pure and simple. I do kinda wish I’d ponied up to see La Ringwald in her recent tour. A triple threat she is not.

  • littlekarnak

    “Meanwhile, Laurey’s all upset about the whole thing and decides to sit out on the porch and take a hit off something she bought off of peddler-man Ali. We’re pretty sure it was crystal meth…”

    Thanks for clearing that up! I have always loved Oklahoma but that bizarro ballet always kind of gave me the creeps. Love Shirley Jones and as good as she is in this movie I think she was even better in Elmer Gantry; no singing but absolutely slut-tastic!

  • Anonymous

    Oh boys, how could you skip Kansas City and All ‘r Nothin’?

    Will and Annie are such a perfect couple.

  • Anonymous

    when are you doing music man, or sound of music, or the king and i, or kiss me kate, or mary poppins (its a musical…even if it is for kids.)

  • KingRoper

    Oh, come on… no mention of ‘All or Nuthin’? Ado Annie’s songs are the only reason to watch this flick!

    Oklahoma! has always bored me (the state as well as the show) – I just can’t care about who gets to take the cocktease to the picnic. Yes, I know how it moved the musical forward, but still…zzzzzzzzz.

    Looking forward to your views on Sweet Charity – as it was Fosse’s first film, it’s rough at times, but I’d rather bad Fosse than good anyone else! And if chicksinger thinks it’s the ‘cheesiest cheese ever’, she obviously hasn’t been to the theatre in a while!

  • Anonymous

    Bill said…

    brianb – I just hit the IMDB, Dream Curly was played by James Mitchel who is Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children.

    Is he still on that show? Wow!
    Now that’s the way you wring the juice out of a career!

  • Dova1965

    “Is he still on that show? Wow!
    Now that’s the way you wring the juice out of a career!”

    I have watched “All My Children” since 1975, and I remember when Palmer first showed up, circa 1979. Yes, he’s still on the show (he’s in his mid-80′s, I believe). Although I heard he is retiring sometime this year.

    He got too soft, anyway. One of his earliest schemes– preventing his daughter from having eye surgery in the hopes that she’d go blind and leave her true love out of guilt? I mean, how evil can you get? (It didn’t work– she ended up getting the surgery.)

    But I digress…. sorry.

  • Muse of Ire

    The first time I saw this movie, I was as high as a Japanese box kite, and I assumed all the weirdness came from that. (Especially the “poor Jud” number!) But no. Saw it again straight (no pun intended) and it was just as bizarre. Thanks for corroborating my feelings!

  • Linda Merrill

    I love the dance sequence and think it only really works with Dream Laurey, Curley and Jud – for one because it took trained dancers to perform it. It was meant to be weird, as it was an acceptable way to show Laurey’s deep fears of sex and intimacy. How else would you explain her waffling between Curley and Jud.

    Loved the Hugh Jackman performance!

    Thanks, Boys!

  • kathryn

    chicksinger, I had no idea that Hugh Jackman was in a revival of this, but talk about serendipity – I honestly cannot remember what I was actually searching for, but look what I found online today –

    http://www.veoh.com/videos/e175382TdQMPKpy

    Video of HJ himself singing “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” in concert in 1991. CRAZY. I had no idea he could sing!

  • Jenn

    GREAT recap guys, you did the Okies proud….kudos!!! Only song from a musical every straight guy raised in Oklahoma knows word-for-word!

    “If this film was set a hundred years later, this would all be taking place in a roadhouse parking lot and the girls would be wearing glittery t-shirts with fringe that said things like “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!” while wielding broken beer bottles. Also, everyone would have less teeth.”
    –Oh jeez, I used to work at a bank in east Tulsa–and I SWEAR we had people coming in dressed like that ALL THE TIME, with 13 teeth and a white trash attitude to boot!!

    –An interesting note…evenings, I worked at a ladies apparel store in Tulsa–we had a major “take 25% off everything already reduced 60%” sale, and who should walk in and shop with the frenzy but Shirley Jones!! She can plow through those racks with the best of them! Throwing elbows!!!!

  • Tina

    Didn’t James Mitchell play the choreographer in The Bandwagon ? I believe he also did the Sword Dance in the original Broadway production of “Brigadoon”.

    I saw the Hugh Jackman version of OKLAHOMA! when it was on PBS a while back. I’m not a big fan of his singing, but man, he was perfect for the part. Too bad he couldn’t have been in the New York revival.

    Didn’t Jud have a knife hidden somewhere and that’s why he died?

  • ProfP

    THANK YOU! I can hardly wait until each Monday to read “Musical Monday”. In fact, I have shared your site with a friend from New Zealand (they are currently on Season 2 of PR, so it is perfect!)

    ANYWAY…. please consider this ‘gem’ for Musical Monday. It has more fodder than you can IMAGINE!

    Two Tickets To Broadway (1951)

    A small-town girl finds love on the road to Broadway stardom. Cast: Janet Leigh, Tony Martin, Gloria DeHaven, Ann Miller, Eddie Bracken and BOB (not Bing) Crosby! Dir: James V. Kern. C-106 mins,

  • Aisuru Rieko

    mike said "What other state can brag R&H wrote it's state song?"

    yeah, been an Oklahoman my whole life, and this song… it can be the most stirring thing ever when sung properly, or it can die painfully in the air (kinda like the national anthem). usually its amazing though, its really an honor for us. As a state, i think we have the best anthem in “Oklahoma”.