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Oklahoma! in Todd-AO

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955 Date: 01.07.2008
It's like the adman's catch line says : "You're in the show with TODD-AO." And what a show "Oklahoma!" becomes on that expanse of screen at the Rivoli Theatre, New York, where the dual debut of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play and a new process of photography and projection took place last Monday night.

There's pure enchantment in almost every minute of the two hours and 25 minutes occupied in the telling of a romance that is brightened by some of the most tuneful music written for the theatre, lightened by earthy good humor and enlivened with the loveliest dances.

People will have to go to particular theatres to see this screen version of one of the greatest of the modern American music plays. But go they will. It will be worth it. And they'll love it.

The story this play has to tell is as simple as a recipe for corn pone. An Oklahoma cowboy and his farm girl sweet-heart tease each other rather than admit their love; a fright brings them together and an accident eliminates the only menace to their happiness.

On the stage this all took place with the make-believe backgrounds of theatre props. Here the backgrounds are for real and with the enhanced realism imparted by a method of photography and projection which reaches peaks of scenic scope which camera craft has so far attained. Voice and sound, like the action and scenery, are recorded on film. But in this department as well as the visual, the TODD-AO system provides a richness and range, a depth and solidity with its six-tracks of recording and reproduction.

The songs are as fresh and as gloriously infectious as ever, and Gordon MacRae as Curley and newcomer Shirley Jones as Laurey capture and project the full charm wrapped up in the Rodgers music and the Hammerstein lyrics. Under the sensitive direction of Fred Zinnemann, MacRae and Miss Jones, a lovely creature, portray character as well as sing superbly. The direction expresses its superiority in the characterizations by all other members of this judiciously chosen cast. Gloria Grahame seems the perfect choice for the role of Ado Annie, and the Will Parker of Gene Nelson is as breezy in characterization as it is in dance and comedy interludes. Eddie Albert turns in one of his neatest portrayals as Ali Hakim, and Rod Steiger makes lud a brooding, menacing but withal a pathetic figure. And so it goes through the entire company of this finely performed play, in which James Whitmore is Carnes, Barbara Lawrence is Gertie, Jay C. Flippen is Skidmore, Roy Barcroft is Marshal.

Allover again will people be humming the melodies and disk jockeys spinning platters with renditions of "People Will Say We're In Love," "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," Ado Annie's slyly boastful confession that she "Can't Be Good," and the rest of the "Oklahoma!" treasure chest of fetching tunes and lyrics. For this Rodgers and Hammerstein theatre hit is due to begin life anew in a panoramic pictorial form of a dramatically potent new medium of realistic reproduction of sight and sound.

The deep curvature of the Rivoli’s screen brings the show into the auditorium. While the horizontal planes bend upward or down-ward, depending on where you sit, the projection of characters and action into such intimacy with the spectator creates an experience that will cause wonderment and exhilarating emotional impact on the average theatre goer. And, surely, no new screen process could ask for a happier subject of its introduction than "Oklahoma!".
More in 70mm reading:

The Todd-AO Projector

Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955:
Oklahoma! in Todd-AO
Magna Theatres
Todd-AO Corporation
Philips Collaborated On Projector Design
Todd-AO Projection and Sound
Six track recording equipment
All-Purpose Sound Reproduction
Rodgers & Hammerstein II
Six track recording equipment

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Updated 07-01-23