254. Oliver!


Movie: Oliver!

Release Date: September 26, 1968

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, Harry Secombe, Shani Wallis, Mark Lester, Jack Wild.

Tag Lines: “More of a Masterpiece Than a Musical!”

“The big bright musical for absolutely everyone…in Magnificent 70mm.”

“Much Much More Than a Musical!”

Relevance: Growing up, I never liked my name. Oddly enough you can read a little bit about that by checking out my reflections of ‘The War of the Roses.’ (see 274. The War of the Roses) I was picked on constantly for it. All I heard growing up was “Where’s Kukla and Fran?” “You related to Oliver North?” “Hey, it’s Oliver Twist,” “Do you want some more?” It was very annoying. Why couldn’t I have been named Mike or John? But my least favorite had to have been “Please sir I want some more?” Because of that I never read Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” and tried to avoid ‘Oliver!’ as long as I could.

Enter my mom. I am not exactly sure when I first watched the movie but I had to have been less than ten years old when I did. The movie played once in awhile on television. My mom was a huge fan of musicals and when it played, of course we watched it. She was queen of the TV. There was no questioning it and honestly we really didn’t have a choice. This was long before the age of a hundred plus channels and also before my family had HBO. So propped up in our usual positions on our couch, my family watched ‘Oliver!’

Now the movie is over two and a half hours, but with it being on regular television, there were also commercials. So it was actually a four to five hour commitment. That is a lot to ask for a child under ten years of age. So that first time through, no surprise, I fell asleep. I remembered a few songs and thought they were okay, but I never really had a desire to watch the movie again.

My freshman year of high school, the musical that they were producing was of all things, ‘Oliver!’ I was now conflicted. I despised the fact that my name was printed on posters for upcoming auditions all over the school. My name was also said every day during the morning announcements. Every time it was said, heads in my homeroom turned and stared at me. All I wanted to do was blend in and here I was sticking out. I just sank in my chair. On the other hand, at fourteen I was starting to catch the theater bug and really wanted to be a part of the production. But I was painfully shy, self conscience and my self-esteem was very lacking. So I skipped auditions. I compromised though. I played flute in the school orchestra and when they asked for students to play in the pit for the show, I jumped at the opportunity.

To prep for the show, our first rehearsal was to watch the movie. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about watching it again, but I decided I would just concentrate on the music. But from the first musical notes and those first few scenes, I became enchanted by what I was watching. The singing, dancing, costumes, sets and performances impressed me so much. I sat in my chair in my high school auditorium wide-eyed and jealous. I wanted so badly to now be in the show. But it was too late. The show went on and I played my flute for the performances. I had a great time and even though I wanted to eventually be in a production, I played in the pit for the next two years. It wasn’t until my Senior year in high school did I get enough courage to audition for a role on stage. That however is a different story for a different time, but one that will be shared later this year right here.

When my family finally got HBO I would try to catch some of ‘Oliver!’ every time it was on. I eventually bought the VHS and watched it a few times right through my college years. I then upgraded to DVD and it has been in my movie collection for a majority of my life. Now that I have outgrown my hatred for my name, I can’t help but smile when someone refers to me as Oliver Twist. I usually just respond by saying, “I want some more.”

Today’s Thoughts: There are some mornings you just don’t want to get out of bed. Everyone has those days. And they are absolutely okay. Today was one of those days for me. It’s not like I can really go anywhere due to the pandemic quarantine, but most days I shower, get dressed and do as much work around the house and yard as I can. But with the wind howling and snow falling outside (welcome to April in upstate New York), I decided to pull the covers up, turn on my DVD of ‘Oliver’ and “consider myself at home” for at least two and a half hours.

I adore this movie and loved reacquainting myself with it today. I probably haven’t watched it in at least twenty years which made it a little extra special. Hearing those songs again brought me right back to my childhood and placed a grin on my face from ear to ear. It is a darker musical for sure, but there is also a lot of joy throughout. “Consider Yourself,” “Who Will Buy” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” have to be some of the most dazzling musical numbers caught on film. It is no wonder the Academy honored the choreographer, Onna White, with an honorary award. With dazzling costumes and sets to support it, the dancing is breathtaking to watch.

‘Oliver’ is definitely an “old school” musical, but if you are a fan, it is one of the best. And I am definitely a fan of this genre. There are twenty-four musicals on my list of most influential movies of all time. This is the fifth one so far. You can check out 333. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 325. Les Miserables, 315. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and 290. Yentl for the first four. However ‘Oliver!,’ not a sentiment I always shared, is by far the best named musical of all time.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Carol Reed (winner), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, John Box, Terence Marsh, Vernon Dixon, Ken Muggleston (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Shepperton Studios (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation), Johnny Green (winner), Honorary Academy Award for Outstanding Choreography Achievement, Onna White (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ron Moody (nomination), Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Jack Wild (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Vernon Harris (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Oswald Morris (nomination), Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Phyllis Dalton (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Ralph Kemplen (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor – Comedy or Musical, Ron Moody (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director, Carol Reed (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, Hugh Griffith (nomination), Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Male, Jack Wild (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Carol Reed (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing, Ralph Kemplen (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Art Direction, John Box (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Phyllis Dalton (nomination), BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, Jack Wild (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound Track, John Cox, Bob Jones (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Carol Reed (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Carol Reed (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, DVD Availability.


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