Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Oklahoma! (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Oklahoma! (1955)

In director Fred Zinnemann's wildly-acclaimed first musical - it was the most expensive film ever made to that time, with an exorbitant budget of $7 million dollars. It was an unusual film choice for Zinnemann, who was better known for the classic western High Noon (1952) and the wartime drama From Here to Eternity (1953). The film was his first color picture, and his first film in the widescreen format. However, it had somber and dark undertones, also unusual for a musical, due to its themes of jealousy and unfulfilled sexual desire between rivals in a troublesome love triangle, bold sexual innuendo, and violence.

The ambitious RKO screen musical release (with start-up Magna Theatre Corporation) was adapted from the 1943 Broadway show musical that was based upon Lynn Riggs' 1931 folk play, Green Grow the Lilacs. It was shot on location (mostly in Arizona) in the new 70-mm. wide-screen (CinemaScope) technicolor process called Todd-AO and with stereo sound - and heralded in its publicity as: "A motion picture as big as all outdoors." Its Oscar-winning Best Score (with many memorable standards from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in their first collaboration together) also featured Agnes De Mille's choreography, and uniquely integrated its characters, plot and songs. Notably, it was the first of nine Broadway shows that were created by the successful musical duo. [Note: The film was remade for TV in 1999 starring Hugh Jackman, Josefina Gabrielle, and Maureen Lipman.]

  • the setting for the frontier-themed musical film was the Oklahoma Territory in the early 1900s shortly before Oklahoma statehood (in late 1907); the main story was about the developing romances between two cowboys with their sweethearts - with complications involving rival suitors disrupting both relationships
  • in the film's opening, fun-loving and mischievous cowboy Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae) was courting and secretly in love with Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones in her film debut), a sweet farmgirl - the niece of Aunt Eller Murphy (Charlotte Greenwood); Curly was on horseback in the outdoors singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" as he rode to Laurey's farm in Claremore through cornfields ("Oh, what a beautiful morning Oh, what a beautiful day I got a beautiful feeling Everything's goin' my way")

Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae) Singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"

Curly Singing "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top" to Laurey
  • during the well-known and spritely "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top" ("Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry / When I take you out in my surrey / When I take you out in my surrey with the fringe on top!") - Curly was attempting to entice Laurey to ride with him to the town's box-social in his new "surrey," but then admitted after the song was over that he had falsely claimed he owned one: ("I made the whole thing up out of my head")
  • to spite and make the over-confident Curly jealous because of his slow display of interest in her: ("'cause Curly's too fresh and too bigheaded"), and to play hard-to-get, Laury refused Curly's invitation to the town's fund-raising, Saturday night box-social dance at Skidmore Ranch (At a box-social, women's picnic baskets were auctioned to finance a new schoolhouse) - and instead decided to be escorted by Aunt Eller's disturbed, rough, frightening and brutish farm-hand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger); Curly had no choice but to attend the social-benefit with Laurey's wise, earthy matchmaker Aunt Eller
  • at the same time, roving, dim-witted but good-natured cowboy Will Parker (Gene Nelson) arrived at the nearby Claremore train station; he was returning from Kansas City (from a state fair and rodeo); he sang and danced with an ensemble about all the modern-day marvels in the song "Kansas City" ("Everything's up to date in Kansas City...Everything's like a dream in Kansas City")

Will Parker Singing "Kansas City" at the Train Station

Annie Carnes Singing: "I Cain't Say No"
  • Will was hoping to reunite with naive "Ado" Annie Carnes (Gloria Grahame), Laurey's clueless, promiscuous best friend; Will had plans to marry Annie, now that he had $50 dollars cash in his pocket - required by her father for marriage; but Will was unaware that during his absence, Annie had become seriously involved with manipulative, smooth-talking Persian Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert), a womanizing traveling salesman/peddler (who sold exotic items from a wagon including garters, bloomers, cutlery, complexion creams, Egyptian elixirs, etc.)
  • Laurey was seen skinny-dipping in a waterhole when Annie and Hakim rode by, and Laurey warned her about Will's recent arrival in town: ("What you doing with that peddler-man? Will Parker gets back today"); Annie realized she was in trouble for two-timing Will and sang "I Cain't Say No" about how she couldn't control her sexual impulses: ("I'm just a girl who cain't say no I'm in a terrible fix I always say come on, let's go Just when I oughta say nix...I cain't be prissy and quaint I ain't the type that can faint How can I be what I ain't"); Will arrived to greet Annie and bluntly told her in front of Ali Hakim: "I'm gonna marry her"
  • all the couples who were attending the box-social stopped at Aunt Eller's farmhouse, so the girls could "freshen up" and the horses could be watered; during preparations to attend the social, Laurey sang about how her life wasn't centered around any one man: "Many a New Day": ("Many a new day will dawn before I do Many a new face will please my eye Many a new love will find me Never have I once looked back to sigh Over the romance behind me"); Laurey's Chorus that joined her was composed of all the attractive and competitive females primping and preening in their undergarments
  • just before the social, Annie announced to Ali: "I got to marry Will" - and he responded: "My heart is busted in two"; but then after her shotgun-toting, protective father Andrew Carnes (James Whitmore) arrived, he disallowed Will from marrying her because Will had spent his $50 cash on presents for her; Annie blurted out to Ali: "You've got me!" when her father approved her shotgun engagement to the peddler after hearing that the two admitted to having sex near a haystack in the moonlight (Annie purred: "He said I's like a Persian kitten, 'cause they is the cats with the soft, round tails")
  • in the farm's peach orchard, the film's main romantic love ballad "People Will Say We're in Love" was sung by Laurey with Curly about how all the gossips expected them to go to the box-social together because they were "stuck" on each other": ("Don't sigh And gaze at me Your sighs Are so like mine Your eyes Mustn't glow like mine People will say we're in love")

Romantic Duet Between Curly and Laurey: "People Will Say We're in Love"

"Laurey's Dream Ballet" - Opening Part of the Dream Dance
  • meanwhile, Jud was in his dirty, wooden smokehouse shack on the farm property, expressing his ultimate dissatisfaction with the "stark naked" pinups he had displayed on the wall; he yelled out to Curly that he was adamant about having Laurey all to himself: ("Laurey promised to go to the party with me, and she better not change her mind"), and then told Ali: "I want me a real woman. I'm tired of all these pictures of women...."
  • Laurey was experiencing a period of distress and conflict between her two suitors (the warm-hearted, socially-approved Curly and the menacing Jud); she utilized a bottle of Ali's smelling salts elixir in order to induce a dream - to find answers to her romantic hopes; during the expressionistic, ground-breaking, red-hued and dialogueless "Laurey's Dream Ballet" ("Laurey Makes Up Her Mind", an avant-garde interpretive dance fantasy, alternate characters represented Laurey, Jud, and Curly; in her sexual nightmare, she dreamt that she was in a marriage ceremony and was about to marry Curly when Jud appeared and attacked Curly and began choking him to death; Laurey begged Jud to stop by promising to go with him; the dream ended during a violent and dark tornado-storm with Laurey hoisted into the air and carried off by Jud
  • Laurey (seated in a rocking chair on the porch) awoke from the disturbing dream with the real Jud and his shadow towering over her and ordering: "It's time to go to the party"; on the way to the box-social in an open buggy, Laurey refused Jud's forceful advances for a kiss, whipped the horses to race off, and then once the buggy came to a halt, she pushed Jud from the buggy and proceeded to the festivities by herself (and arrived as it was turning dark)
  • at the box-social, a dispute instigated by Annie's dad broke out between the farmers ("dirt-scratchers" who built fences on range-land) and the cattle-ranch cowboys, described by the song "The Farmer and the Cowman": ("Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends One man likes to push a plow The other likes to chase a cow But that's no reason why they can't be friends Territory folks should stick together Territory folks should all be pals Cowboys dance with the farmers' daughters Farmers dance with the ranchers' gals")
  • the auction for the ladies' hampers supervised by Aunt Eller began as Laurey arrived late with her basket; meanwhile, Will was able to restore his relationship with Annie (and propose to her) by selling his bag of presents to an eager Ali to earn the $50 dollars that Annie's father required; to save Will from spending all his money on bidding for Annie's hamper and forfeiting his opportunity to marry Annie, Ali overbid him with a $51 dollar bid

Auction of Hampers Supervised by Aunt Eller

Bidding War Between Curly and Jud for Laurey's Basket-Hamper
  • a bidding war also broke out between Curly and Jud for Laurey's picnic hamper (described by Aunt Eller as "mighty tasty"); the basket was ultimately won by Curly for $53 dollars (who sold off his saddle for $10, his horse Blue for $25, and his gun for $18), besting all that Jud could muster up
  • after the bidding was over, Will proposed marriage to Annie, to be scheduled on August 15th (the first day she was kissed - by someone else!); Will cautioned Annie that she now had to tone down her frisky sexual promiscuity: "Now that you're engaged to me, you got to stop havin' fun...You'll have to be a little more standoffish" - and they sang: "All 'er Nothin'" together: ("With me it's all or nothin' Is it all or nothin' with you It can't be in between It can't be now and then No half-and-half romance will do I'm a one-woman man home-lovin' type All complete with slippers and pipe Take me like I am or leave me be If you can't give me, all give me nothin' And nothin's what you'll get from me")
  • shortly later, Ali gave his blessing to Annie to marry Will: ("He will make my Ado Annie happy") - and then ended up in a shotgun marriage to flirtatious red-headed Gertie Cummings (Barbara Lawrence) who had earlier shown an interest in Curly and caused jealousy in Laurey
  • Jud was angered by losing to Curly, and Laurey felt threatened by him: ("Are you trying to tell me if I don't allow you to slobber over me like a hog, why, you're gonna do something about it?"); she promptly fired him ("You ain't a hired hand for me no more"), but he retaliated: "You ain't never gonna get rid of me. Never"; Curly came to her rescue by promising to protect her at her farmhouse, and offered both a kiss and a marriage proposal for Laurey - that she gladly accepted

Curly and Laurey's Wedding

Curly and Celebrants Singing "Oklahoma" After the Wedding
  • by the film's conclusion weeks later, Curly (now a farmer) and Laurey were married at the farmhouse; the celebrants sang "Oklahoma!": ("Oklahoma Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet When the wind comes right behind the rain Oklahoma")
  • the joyous marital festivities in the evening were disrupted by Jud, who set fire to two haystacks (threatening Curly and Laurey's lives atop one of them), and drew a knife on Curly - similar to Laurey's fears in an earlier dream; when Curly jumped toward Jud from the top of the flaming haystack, Jud accidentally fell onto his own knife and was instantly killed

After the Wedding, Jud Set Two Haystacks on Fire, Endangering Laurey and Curly

Jud Was Accidentally Stabbed and Killed by His Own Knife When Curly Jumped on Him
  • the next morning, a brief makeshift trial held in the kitchen of Aunt Eller's farmhouse quickly declared Curly not guilty (for acting in self-defense), and Laurey and Curly departed with a large escorting contingent to the Claremore train station just in time for their honeymoon - riding in a fancy surrey

Curly with Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood)

Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones)

Jud Fry (Rod Steiger)

"Ado" Annie Carnes (Gloria Grahame)

Annie with Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert)

Ali Hakim's Peddler Wagon

Annie's Dad Andrew Carnes (James Whitmore)

Will Parker (Gene Nelson)

The Females' Picnic Baskets-Hampers For the Box-Social

Before the Box-Social, Laurey Sang: "Many a New Day"

The Gals in Their Underwear Primping and Preening - The Chorus for "Many a New Day"

Laurey's Induced Dream Due to Ali's Elixir

End of Dream - Curly Choked by Jud, and Laurey Was Carried Off by Jud

Laurey Grabbed by an Aggressive Jud on the Way to the Box-Social

The Box-Social Dance Before the Auction for Ladies' Hampers

Will's Proposal to Annie

Jud's Threat to Laurey Before He Was Fired: "You ain't never gonna get rid of me. Never"

A Kiss - and a Proposal From Curly to Laurey

The Married Couple Leaving for Their Honeymoon - Riding to the Train Station in a Surrey


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