Musical Monday: Darlings, it’s Oklahoma!
O, what a beautiful morning to rip this glorious film to shreds! Darlings, it’s Oklahoma! Where the men are men, the women are manipulative, and the entire damn territory can’t seem to make up their minds about who they want to sleep with.
Our film starts here, with babe-alicious GordonMacRae as not-at-all-gay cowboy Curly singing his impressive lungs out about…well, we’ll let Curly take it from here:
Honestly, one of the best Rodgers and Hammerstein songs of all time. Beautiful melody and memorable lyrics that are made even more effective by the fact that they’re sung by a total manly man.
After he gets that out of his system, Curly meets up with local cocktease Laurey and her Aunt Eller, who appears to be practicing some form of prairie witchcraft. Curly likes to think that Laurey’s his best gal, but Laurey doesn’t like anyone making assumptions about her so she plays hard to get, even though she’s clearly moist for him.
He’s working overtime here and for a minute, it looks like she’s melting, but then he loses his membership in the Lothario club by admitting he made the whole thing up and there is no surrey, no fringe, and no chicks or ducks or geese in any danger of being run over.
She petulantly stomps off into the house and announces “Ah’m a-gunna go to the dance with th’ ugliest man ah can find!” and agrees to go with hired hand Jud, outrageously overplayed by Rod Steiger. Curly rides off to beat up his pillow and masturbate furiously.
Later we meet peddler man Ali – who is laughably supposed to be Persian and is laughably miscast with Eddie Albert in the role – along with local dimwitted slut Ado Annie, hilariously portrayed by Gloria Grahame.
Laurey’s all “Hey, aren’t you promised to Will, who’s coming in from Kansas City today?” and Annie’s all “Look, I’m a whore and I can’t deal with your patriarchal bullshit, Mrs. Partridge. Some of us like to say yes every once in a while.”
Seriously, “I’m Just a Girl Who Cain’t Say No” is a fantastically bawdy song for the period and Grahame can’t sing to save her life, but that only makes it better.
The rest of the townsfolk arrive at Aunt Eller’s farm to get ready for the party and Curly shows up with his rebound, Gertie. We know they’re not meant to be together because she’s not as pretty as Shirley Jones. The womenfolk all head into the house to freshen up.
Which of course means dancing around in their underwear as Laurey tries to convince her lesbian friends that she’s totally over Curly.
To prove it, she goes outside and beats the shit out of Gertie. We’re starting to like Laurey a little more. If this film was set a hundred years later, this would all be taking place in a roadhouse parking lot and the girls would be wearing glittery t-shirts with fringe that said things like “As Long as I Got a Face, You Got a Place to Sit!” while wielding broken beer bottles. Also, everyone would have less teeth.
Curly pulls them apart and sings a little about how people might say they’re in love. In Oklahoma, when people are in love, they press their faces together and look off into the distance while one or both of them sings their lungs out.
Unfortunately, the little cocktease won’t change her mind about going with Jud and once again, Curly stomps off.
There is a LOT of stomping off in this film.
Curly heads down to Jud’s shack and – get this – tries to convince him to kill himself because his life is so worthless. What the hell? What kind of passive-aggressive bullshit is this? The ladies certainly aren’t afraid to throw down, you two pussies. For god’s sake, you’re supposed to be manly men, not sorority girls. Hit each other!
Much has been made over the years of the famous “dream ballet” sequence choreographed by Agnes DeMille and we’re going to have to go out on a limb here and declare that it’s not the work of genius that many have claimed.
Oh sure, it’s visually stunning, but it’s way too long and the choreography in many places is just plain bizarre – to the point that whatever they were trying to accomplish with this piece is obscured by its weirdness. We know it has to do with the whole triangle between Laurey, Curly and Jud and we know that she’s more terrified of Jud than attracted to him, but we don’t understand what the hell the conflict is. You have two guys. You’re hot for one and scared shitless of the other one. What’s the damn problem, bitch?
Also, it’s just odd that the principles are not played by the actors, so we get a dancing Curly who clearly isn’t Gordon MacRae and a dancing Laurey who clearly isn’t Shirley Jones (in fact, the sequence goes to great lengths to actually highlight this) and we get an audience who clearly isn’t sure what the hell is going on in this film.
Aunt Eller establishes her white trash bona fides by getting drunk at the party and forcing men to dance with her at gunpoint. Poor thing probably wonders why she wound up with such a tight-assed niece.
Then Curly shows up and even though he sold off all his goods to prove his love for her and even though the other man in her life just threatened to kill her, this stinking bitch STILL plays hard to get. Girl needs to lay off the crystal.
These people are seriously weird.
The town gets together once again for Laurey and Curly’s wedding. Ali shows up with his new bride Gertie. Man, these people just bounce from partner to partner like they’re at a key party in 1974. Will is thrilled to hear it…
Manly men, my ass.
Anyway, Laurey and Curly finally tie the knot and we’re treated to the entire reason one should watch this film – the sublime title song, which is probably the best thing Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote. We’ll admit, little queens that we are, when the entire ensemble kicks in with the harmonizing, we get a little chill. It’s just that good.
Did everyone just forget about the sociopath that threatened to kill the bride? These people need to spend less time staring at the sky and more time paying a little attention to what’s going on on the ground.
So we’re thinking “Alright! Curly’s gonna beat Jud’s ass!” Instead we get the lamest, most anti-climactic fight in film history:
That’s it. Curly jumps off the haystack and lands on Jud, killing him. Lame.
All’s well that ends well and the couple ride off to their honeymoon – you guessed it – staring off into the distance and singing. It’s like the whole territory was on drugs.
Apparently, after you get married you don’t have to press your cheeks together anymore since you’re getting the real thing.
Next Week: Hey Big Spender! It’s Sweet Charity!