Annie Get Your Gun
17 May 1950
1951 Academy Awards (Oscars): Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture – Adolph Deutsch, Roger Edens; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color – Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse, Edwin B. Willis, Richard Pefferle (Nominated); Best Cinematography, Color – Charles Rosher (Nominated); Best Film Editing – James E. Newcom (Nominated)
Annie Get Your Gun is a Musical from the Golden Age of Musicals. It may be hard to understand this here in the 22nd Century or whateverthehell century we’re in, but people used to burst into song and dance at a moment’s notice. A guy would be walking down a street in New York, New York and he would just start singing “New York, New York.” Soon a full orchestra would be playing (although you might not see them) and everybody else on the street would be singing and dancing with him.
Or a guy would go out in the rain and start singing and dancing in the rain about how much in love he is. Or a gal would be washing her hair and start singing about how she’s not only washing her hair but also washing out her memory banks about some guy, who is probably singing and dancing somewhere else.
This sort of thing used to happen all the time. No kidding. Ask your parents or grandparents about it. But don’t believe what they tell you, they’re lying. Or senile.
It’s just one of the those things that changes over time, like smiling. Ever notice that nobody ever smiles in those old timey photographs?
That’s because the smile had not been invented yet. The smile as we know it is a reasonably new invention. It wasn’t until sometime in the mid 19th century that a French dude named Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (de Boulogne) discovered that contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle and the orbicularis oculi muscle at the same time produced what came to be known as le smile and that a smile is a curve that sets everything straight, increases your face value, and can occasionally be your umbrella.
Although the act of smiling quickly caught on in France, it was frowned on by the more pietistic leaders in the USA and UK. As The Most Reverend Thorsten Brinkoff Van Hannen said, “A smile on your face is the Devil’s doormat.” It wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s that people began to feel free to smile in public without fear of being thought of as “a demon possessed lip curler.” Around the late 60s and early 70s the smile began to become more socially acceptable due to a number of factors including the Beach Boys recording an album named SMiLE and Mary Tyler Moore turning the world on with hers.
So there it is, here in the 38th century we don’t sing and dance anymore, but we smile occasionally. Life goes on.
Annie Get Your Gun debuted on Broadway in 1946 with Ethel Merman as Annie Oakley. When they made the movie version in 1950 they passed up Merman for Judy Garland, who had to back out because of health problems. After that the part of Annie went to Betty Hutton, an adorable actress who sang and mugged her way through a lot of musicals and comedies in the 40s and 50s.
Now there really was an Annie Oakley and a Frank Butler and a “Buffalo Bill” Cody who really had a Wild West Show that toured the US and Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This show featured Oakley and Butler, but aside from that don’t base your historical treatise about Annie Oakley on a Broadway musical. Like any musical of this era, you just have to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.
In AGYG’s telling of events, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show comes to Cincinnati, Ohio just as a very scruffy Annie Oakley comes through town looking to sell some game that she’s caught. Frank Butler, the show’s marksman, challenges any man in town to a shooting match, and the local hotelier enters Oakley – who can “shoot the fuzz off a peach” – into the contest. After some initial hesitation about competing against a girl, the contest gets underway. Annie beats Frank and Buffalo Bill asks her to join the show. As it turns out, Annie cleans up pretty good and ends up looking like…well…Betty Hutton. She and Frank fall in love after a couple of songs, but there’s a complication. Annie can do trick shots that make Frank look like an amateur, that hurts his widdle male ego. How can our lovebirds stay together? No spoilers here, you’ll just have to see the movie.
Like I said, you don’t expect wine dark realism from a 1950s musical. It’s a pretty cleaned up depiction of the era as well, this ain’t Lonesome Dove or Deadwood. The main problem that modern viewers will have is with the depiction of Indians in the movie. In the beginning number Charlie Davenport sings that the cast of the show includes “500 Indians and 50 Squaws.” These are to provide background for the heroes of the show like Butler and Cody, they would hoop and holler and recreate stagecoach attacks and such, and just in the nick of time the stars of the show would save the day from the “very notable, cut your throatable Indians.”
In this movie, Indians are basically comic relief of the “ugh” and “how” variety, but Annie treats them with respect and Sitting Bull becomes a father figure to her. My feeling is that you have to take stereotypes and attitudes from this era for what they were, most white people at the time were ignorant at best about other cultures. We can look down our nose at them all we want, but our great grandchildren will probably do the same to art from our generation. Darn no respect whippersnappers!
Betty Hutton is great and puts a lot of energy and fun into the part, at one point she even mimics Howard Keel‘s baritone singing voice. Keenan Wynn was a favorite because he played a villain in so many Disney movies when I was a kid. Trivia question: What popular 70s and 80s TV show had both Keel and Wynn as regular characters (but not together, they appeared in different seasons)?
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
If you can ignore historical and political incorrectness, the movie is a typically breezy musical with a lot of songs that you’ll probably recognize. I’m giving it a…
Random Quote Whore Quote:
Annie Get Your Gun is a hornlike, necessarian, delichon of a movie! Betty Hutton is sure!!!