Monday, January 29, 2007

Annie Gets Her Gun Again

Watched Annie Get Your Gun on DVD last night....it was the first time I'd seen it since the movie came out around 1950. (When I was a little lad.) One of the reasons it's been invisible, apparently, is that the film has been the subject of some dispute between Irving Berlin's estate and the film company.
It's a great DVD transfer: the colour is excellent, and the copy is very clean. The music has survived untainted, from the sensuous songs, The girl that I marry, and, They say that falling in love is wonderful, to the full-on-vocal-argument: Anything you can do I can do better, which is performed with such energy you wonder the two of them make it right through. The two of them being Betty Hutton (a replacement for Judy Garland, who took ill) and Howard Keel (who looks as though he was never ill). Hutton is full in your face - well, mostly in Keel's face - but you still wish that they'd made the movie when Ethel Merman was young enough to still do the part on screen. What a loss not to have a record of her performance in the part. You can't quite imagine her hopping around the stage with a rifle swinging, but nevertheless....
The music is what holds the piece together: the storyline is pretty thin, although the cast do their utmost to make sure we don't notice. But the male chauvinism of Frank Butler (I was almost going to write Rhett Butler) is never addressed; in fact, he's given leeway to maintain his arrogant male attitude because Annie lets him in the end, in order that they get together. You don't imagine it would be much of a marriage though; eventually she'd sock him one because he was so thick-skinned. Even Keel can't do much with a character who one minute is all gooey-eyed over Hutton and the next mostly gooey-eyed over himself.
And then there are the Indians. Shuffled around the background of the movie until Chief Sitting Bull makes an appearance, and even then mostly treated as bullet fodder. Sitting Bull at least is given some wisdom stuff to spout, and pulls the end of the story together, but his Sioux tribe are a pretty odd lot when they get a-dancing...! Supposedly Busby Berkeley was due to direct at one point; it's probably just as well he didn't. Whoever did the choreography wasn't much into Indian dancing, I suspect. These guys are a bunch of clowns without being funny.
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