1955. RKO Pictures/20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Color, Aspect Ratio 2.20 : 1, 145 minutes, Not Rated
Release Date: October 11, 1955
Oklahoma! is available at Amazon.com on DVD and VHS.
Movie Synopsis: Following the farmers and the cowboys of Oklahoma just prior to statehood, Oklahoma! weaves story, song, and dance into a mosaic of lightness against darkness and everything else in between.
Cast: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Charlotte Greenwood, Eddie Albert, James Whitmore, Rod Steiger, James Mitchell, Bambi Linn
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Thoughts on the Movie:
I love this movie so much, it practically makes me swoon! For a classic musical film, it has everything: the best music (Rogers and Hammerstein), great singing (Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones), great acting (Rod Steiger and others), great dancing (Gene Nelson and the whole shebang)... you name it, and Oklahoma! has it at its best. I was introduced to this wonderful film as a child, and over the decades, I have watched it too many times to count. The songs in this movie are so clever, and so much fun, theyre off the richter scale. I get to singing Everythings up to date in Kansas City, theyve gone about as fer as they can go... and theres no stopping me. And The Surrey with the Fringe on Top and I Cant Say No are, without a doubt, two of the best songs ever written for a musical. Heck, theyre all mind-boggingly good.
I think the key to the popularity of Oklahoma! (and believe me, its popular) is the magical, yet odd, mix of the high class music sung in the low class countrified voices. Its just so dang charming. And, of course, I can use the term low class to describe Okies, cause Im one of em. But, the truth is, I dont think the fact that I was born and bred in Oklahoma amounts to much when it comes to my admiration of this film. Its just plain wonderful, and anybody with a lick of sense knows it. O-k-l-a-h-o-m-a, Oklahoma! ~Jean
Nogales, Arizona (see Map)
Oklahoma! was shot on location in and around Nogales, Arizona, because in 1955, the state of Oklahoma was so heavily farmed and developed, few suitable areas could be found that resembled the highly-rural and undeveloped Oklahoma of the turn of the century in which the musical is set.
Right: The beautiful San Rafael Valley near Nogales, Arizona, was the major location for the filming of the classic 1950s musical, Oklahoma!
About Nogales, Arizona:
Nogales, Arizona (population 21,765, elevation 3,865 feet; 31° 21 14 N, 110° 56 21 W) is located 60 miles due south of Tucson on I-19 right on the border of Mexico. Nogales is a popular port of entry on the international border between the U.S. and Mexico. It is the county seat of Santa Cruz County. Both Nogales, Arizona, and its sister city, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, are named for walnut trees that were at one time plentiful here. Today, the area is known for unique shopping, historical artifacts, and cultural opportunities. In fact, over 60% of Nogales sales tax comes from Mexican shoppers crossing the border on a daily basis. Nogales is home to one of the largest cooperative manufacturing clusters, or maquiladora, which enable American manufacturing plants located on both sides of the border to take advantage of favorable wages, low operating costs, and excellent transportation and distribution networks.
Nogales was established by Jacob and Isaac Isaacson, who built a trading post at the border in 1880. Two years later, in 1882, came the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the first rail connection between the United States and Mexico. Nogales was also known as Isaacson for a short time. The U.S. Postal Service opened the Isaacson Post Office, but renamed it Nogales in 1883. The town was incorporated in 1893.
Right: Horses graze in the lush fields of the San Rafael Valley near Nogales, Arizona, which was once the location site for the popular musical, Oklahoma!
As stated above, Nogales, Arizona, borders the city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, and is Arizonas largest international border town. The southern terminus of Interstate 19 is located in Nogales at the U.S./Mexico border, and the highway continues south into Mexico as Mexico Federal Highway 15.
The county of Santa Cruz and the city of Nogales have 200 properties listed in the National Register of Historic Sites, including Tumacacori National Monument and Tubac Presidio, established by the Spanish in 1752, on an Indian village site. Others include the Old Tubac Schoolhouse, Old Nogales City Hall, Santa Cruz County Courthouse, and the Patagonia Railroad Depot. The Patgonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary, 19 miles east, attracts worldwide visitors to see its diverse bird life. It is also host to ghost towns and mining camps, curio shops, first-class restaurants, and night clubs.
Architectural buffs will have a heyday in Nogales. Of course, theres the predominant Sonoran Style. But there is also some fine examples of Queen Anne Cottage, Second Empire, Spanish Colonial, Pueblo Revival, Mediterranean Style, and Bungalow Style... all within the downtown area. For this reason alone, youll want to bring your walking shoes.
Right: Curly (Gordon MacRae) and Laurey (Shirley Jones) in a scene from the beloved musical Oklahoma!
Lodging & Dining:
Hacienda Corona de Guevavi Bed & Breakfast. 348 South River Road, Nogales, Arizona
This small, romantic, inn is nestled along the banks of the Santa Cruz River in the historic border town of Nogales. As a guest at Hacienda Corona, you can relax and enjoy swimming, hiking, birding, stargazing and exploring. There are many other diversions to enjoy just minutes away in this spectacular high Sonoran desert setting.
Las Vigas Steak Ranch. 180 West Loma Street, Nogales, Arizona
Enjoy great mesquite grilled steaks and wonderful salsa with tortillas at this Old West style saloon, frequented by locals. They offer traditional Sonoran-style Mexican food in the setting of the border town of Nogales.
Oklahoma! was the first Todd-AO production and the first of three such productions to be shot twice, first at 24 fps (to produce the general release version in 35 mm) and finally at 30 fps (to produce the roadshow version in 70 mm). The 35 mm version is presented in CinemaScope; the 70 mm version is presented in Todd-AO.
Right: Gordon MacRae in a majestic CinemaScope scene for the song Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.
The general release version, shot in CinemaScope, is the one that played in most theaters throughout the United States. This version was not released until late 1956, after the first-run Todd-AO version had played New York for more than a year, and after the film versions of two other Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein stage musicals, Carousel and The King and I, had already been released. Other locations used for Oklahoma! include: Amado, Elgin, and San Rafael Valley, Arizona.
Oklahoma! won Oscars for Best MusicScoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound Recording.
Oklahoma! was nominated for the Oscar for Best CinematographyColor and Best Film Editing.
Sonya Levien and William Ludwig were nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.
Right: The talented Gene Nelson played Will in the movie version of Oklahoma! He got to perform one of the best song and dance numbers of the show, Kansas City.
Oklahoma! was based on the play, Green Grow the Lilacs, by Lynn Riggs, a part-Cherokee playwright born in Oklahoma.
The original Broadway production of Oklahoma! opened at the St. James Theater in New York City on May 31, 1943, and ran for 2,212 performances, setting a record for a musical.
The musical that this film is based on was originally entitled Away We Go! The title was changed to Oklahoma! after the popularity of that song with the plays initial audiences. It was the first Broadway musical in which every single song had a direct relation to the plot, and in which there were none that were simply musical interludes.
Oklahoma! marked the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, who were awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1944 in recognition of their achievement.
The soundtrack album for Oklahoma! became one of the most successful movie albums ever released; even more successful than the 1943 original Broadway cast album of Oklahoma!, although the Broadway production was the biggest stage hit of its time, and for many years after. The film soundtrack album continues to be a popular seller even to this day.
The song, Kansas City, was edited for the movie by the censors. Will sang it, I could swear that she was padded from her shoulders to her heel. And then she started dancing and her dancing made me feel, that every single thing she had was absolutely real. In the original play script it was, I could swear that she was padded from her shoulders to her heels. And later in the second act, when she began to peel. She proved that everything she had was absolutely real.
The song, Lonely Room (sung by Jud), was omitted from the film. In the song, Jud explains his bitter resentments and deep frustrations. Possibly this was considered too strong for 1955 filmgoers.
Although James Mitchell and Bambi Linn danced the parts of Curly and Laurey in the Dream Ballet, Rod Steiger did his own dancing in that sequence, because there was no one who looked enough like him from the back. Despite his initial uncertainties, and after considerable coaching from choreographer Agnes de Mille, Steiger actually did a credible job, later calling it one of the biggest challenges he ever had.
Right: Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae in a promotional photo for the hit musical, Oklahoma!
Finding corn as high as an elephants eye proved to be quite a challenge. Since filming was to take place out of season, no tall cornfields were to be found anywhere. The job was given to the University of Arizona Agricultural Department, who planted each stalk in individual containers and held their breath. With rain and good luck, the corn grew to a height of 16 feet.
The world premiere of Oklahoma! in New York City was preceded by a parade of fringed surreys, led by then-Oklahoma Governor Raymond Gary, which made its way from the St. James Theater (where the stage version of Oklahoma! had opened 12 years earlier) to the Rivoli Theater for the film premiere. There, standing atop a carpet of transplanted Oklahoma soil, Governor Gary helped raise the Oklahoma state flag from the theater staff, and officially proclaimed the Rivoli to be Oklahoma Territory.
The 1970 American TV premiere of Oklahoma! was on CBS and hosted by the cast of the networks popular series, Family Affair: Brian Keith, Sebastian Cabot, Anissa Jones, Johnnie Whitaker, and Cathy Garver. Staying in character, the wrap-arounds involved the fictional Davis family viewing and commenting on the film.
In 2007, Oklahoma! was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
Character Quote: Oh, I thought you were somebody. ~Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones)