Friday, March 09, 2007

Revisit: Annie Get Your Gun

An MGM release 1950

Directed by
George Sidney

Writing credits:
Dorothy Fields (book)
Herbert Fields (book)
Sidney Sheldon

The story of the great sharpshooter, Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton), who rises to fame while dealing with her love/professional rival, Frank Butler (Howard Keel).

A musical plauged with production problems from the get-go, Annie Get Your Gun went through three directors and two lead actors before settling on a final cast and crew. Original director Busby Berkeley was also replaced, first by Charles Walters and finally by George Sidney; likewise, Annie was originally supposed to feature the reunion of Wizard of Oz stars Judy Garland and Frank Morgan before Morgan passed away and Judy was fired for poor health.

Normally I'd say Garland's presence would make any musical better, but thank god she dropped out of this one. I couldn't find it online, but if you rent the Annie DVD, there is lots of deleted footage from her scrapped performance and you could tell she was all hopped up on something - jittery, unfocused, really poor stuff. Plus she doesn't fit the role of Annie whatsoever.

Betty Hutton, on the other hand, was made for the part. Easily the most underrated, unseen talent of her time, Hutton had more punch and pep in her pinky finger than most stars today have in their whole lives. She really threw herself into every performance, using complete physicality to put on a fantastic, energized show. Every part of her body is accented, particularly her face, which alone was capable of literally hundreds of expressions. She had this wonderful, wacky spirit, and could throw her voice better than most singers to boot! Check out this clip of her and Fred Astaire from Let's Dance...

See? Hutton was a ball of energy waiting to explode; she was, as Bob Hope once put, a vitamin pill with legs. Unfortunately, Hutton's road to stardom wasn't an easy one, and she quit the business early. Recently, she did an interview with TCM host Robert Osborne that is worth checking out. But I highly suggest you to go out and see Annie Get Your Gun, if anything to pay tribute to this forgotten legend of song.

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