Cast & Crew
J. Carrol Naish
When champion sharpshooter Frank Butler, his personal manager Charlie Davenport and Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West troupe of headliners arrive in Cincinnati to put on a show, the town breaks out in celebration. The arrival of the troupe brings joy to everyone except Foster Wilson, a persnickety hotel owner who will be housing the troupe. Wilson later joins in the celebration, however, when Annie Oakley, a bedraggled sharp shooting tomboy, and her ragtag gang of children check into the hotel. Impressed by Annie's shooting abilities, Wilson quickly arranges a match between her and Frank, whom he calls a "swollen-headed stiff." Annie falls instantly in love with Frank, and the show gets underway when Buffalo Bill introduces the two sharpshooters. The crowd heckles Annie, believing that she is no match for Frank, but to everyone's astonishment, she outdraws her opponent and wins the contest. Angered by the defeat, Frank refuses to accept Buffalo Bill's suggestion that Annie join the touring show as his assistant. Annie eventually persuades Frank to let her join, and the two sharpshooters become a successful team. After shedding her country clothes and making herself more attractive, Annie tries to impress Frank by learning how to read. While a romance blossoms between Frank and Annie, Buffalo Bill grows increasingly concerned that his show is losing money and appeal. Realizing that his troubles stem from his competitor, Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill decides to spice up the show by giving Annie top billing. Annie does well in a solo performance, but her success prompts Frank to doubt his star status and long for the days when Annie was a "sweet, simple little girl." After the show, Annie is introduced to Sitting Bull, an Indian chief who decides to adopt Annie as his daughter and finance the show. Following her induction into Chief Sitting Bull's tribe, Annie receives a farewell letter from Frank, who believes that Annie has lost interest in him. A short time later, Buffalo Bill takes his cowboy and Indian show to Europe, where Annie and Chief Sitting Bull become an instant sensation. Frank, meanwhile, joins Pawnee Bill's troupe. Despite the show's critical success in Europe, Buffalo Bill continues to lose money. When Buffalo Bill realizes that his star is lovesick, he decides to pack up the show and return home. In New York, Annie learns that Frank is now consorting with debutantes, and she is certain that he will reject her. Buffalo Bill tries to rescue his show by negotiating a merger with Pawnee Bill and by selling Annie's valuable medals. Annie and Frank eventually reconcile, but when Frank sees all her awards, he becomes jealous of her success and they argue over who is the better shooter. Annie and Frank decide to settle their argument in a shooting match, but before the match, Chief Sitting Bull, hoping to forge a permanent reconciliation between the two sweethearts, persuades Annie to deliberately lose. The strategy works, and Frank, with his pride restored, finally proposes marriage to Annie.
J. Carrol Naish
James H. Harrison
Mary Ellen Gleason
Mary Jane French
W. P. Wilkerson
John War Eagle
Dorothy Sky Eagle
Lee Tung Foo
William "bill" Hall
Mae Clarke Langdon
A. Norwood Fenton
A. Arnold Gillespie
James E. Newcom
Jack Nickolaus Jr.
Richard A. Pefferle
Edwin B. Willis
Best Music Original Dramatic Score
Best Art Direction
Annie Get Your Gun
The original stage musical had been written as a vehicle for Ethel Merman, but there was little question of her reprising the role on screen. She had made a foray into the movies in the '30s, and most executives felt that her out-sized personality just didn't play well on camera. On stage, however, she was strong enough to keep the show running for years, and initially songwriter Irving Berlin balked at selling film rights while the musical was still filling theatres. But the most recent film on which he'd worked, Blue Skies (1946), though popular at the box office, was only getting mixed reviews. Wanting to re-establish his Hollywood career, he finally gave in to MGM producer Arthur Freed, who paid the then record sum of $650,000 for screen rights. Although Judy Canova and Doris Day were considered to play Annie Oakley, and Betty Hutton campaigned for the role, Freed had bought the property for MGM's top singing star, Judy Garland. Hutton was heartbroken and shared her feelings with Esquire magazine: "It's the biggest disappointment I've known. It's been my whole life, and right now it isn't worth that. I thought a really big picture success would be the greatest thing in the world. But it's a rat race. No matter how good you are in one film the next has got to be better. You've got to keep topping yourself or you're dead."
Because MGM couldn't release a film version of Annie Get Your Gun until the musical had completed its Broadway run, production was delayed until 1949. By then, however, Garland's personal problems had grown to the point where she was barely functioning. She was severely addicted to pills -- both uppers and downers -- and even went through a series of shock treatments to try to break her dependency before shooting started. At first, she was on her best behavior. But Freed had assigned Busby Berkeley to direct the film, and Garland still had scars from her work with him as a young woman, when her problems with pills began. The more he shouted on the set, the sicker she got. To make matters worse, co-star Howard Keel broke his ankle on the second day of shooting in an accident caused partly by Berkeley's insistence that he ride his horse faster over a slick studio floor. As a result, Garland was the only principal available for shooting while Keel recovered. As the pressure wore on her she developed insomnia, lost weight and even started losing her hair. When she looked at each day's rushes, she knew she wasn't getting the role right, which made her even more insecure. Eventually, Freed fired Berkeley and replaced him with Charles Walters, who had directed Garland successfully in Easter Parade (1948). By that time, however, her spirit was broken. Try as she might, she couldn't conquer her personal demons and get to the set on time. Finally, the studio fired her, an unprecedented action to take against a star of her caliber. Garland went to a mental hospital, and the production was put on hold until they could find a replacement.
The studio's first choice was Betty Garrett, who had performed as a comic second lead in MGM's musicals. But her contract had expired and her agent made the mistake of asking for too much money. Freed briefly considered studio player June Allyson, but then reached a deal to borrow Hutton from her home studio, Paramount, for $150,000 and an option to use her in a second film. Hutton's dreams had come true, though she made the mistake of telling the press that she had prayed for this break, a statement that did little to endear her to the film's crew.
By the time shooting resumed, other changes had also been made. The original choice for Buffalo Bill, Frank Morgan, had died in his sleep, so Louis Calhern took over the role. The children cast as Annie Oakley's siblings (MGM had considered using Garland's three-year-old daughter, Liza Minnelli, then decided she was too young) were now too old for the film. And as a result of studio politics George Sidney had replaced Walters as director. Walters only found out about that by reading it in Hedda Hopper's gossip column.
Hutton was determined to work hard on this role, following Sidney's advice: "You have to be directed on this picture; you are playing a character. You are not playing the girl from Vincent Lopez's band [where Hutton had gotten her first big break]." But though some appreciated her hard work, most of the crew treated her coldly, almost as if they were blaming her for Garland's firing. When Garland visited the set after her hospital stay, Hutton greeted her with a bouncy "Hiya, Judy," only to be answered with a string of profanities. Hutton would later say this was the beginning of the end for her in Hollywood, citing this harsh treatment at MGM as the reason she lost interest in the movies.
With a new star and director in place, Annie Get Your Gun actually came in ahead of its revised schedule. The budget had risen to $3.7 million (almost half of that spent before Garland was fired), but that was more than matched by the film's box office success. With $8 million in U.S. receipts (counting a 1956 re-issue) and an equal figure internationally, the picture was Freed's most successful. At the time, he planned to re-team Keel and Hutton in Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962), a stage musical the studio had bought in the '30s. By the time Hutton was available, however, her career had fallen apart.
Despite her box office success in Annie Get Your Gun, Hutton got only mixed reviews, with critics comparing her performance unfavorably to Ethel Merman's. Years later, Pauline Kael would suggest a new take on her performance: "Betty Hutton's all-out comic desperation is very appealing; she seems emotionally naked and even strident, but in a way that works for her..." (Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies. Re-evaluation of her work would be put off for years when a dispute between the Irving Berlin estate and MGM kept the film out of circulation from 1973 until 2000. By then a new stage version starring first Bernadette Peters and then daytime diva Susan Lucci and country-western star Reba McEntire, had brought the musical saga of Annie Oakley to new generations of audiences.
Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: George Sidney
Screenplay: Sidney Sheldon, based on the musical play by Herbert and Dorothy Fields and Irving Berlin
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse
Music: Irving Berlin, Adolph Deutsch
Cast: Betty Hutton (Annie Oakley), Howard Keel (Frank Butler), Louis Calhern (Buffalo Bill), J. Carrol Naish (Chief Sitting Bull), Edward Arnold (Pawnee Bill), Keenan Wynn (Charlie Davenport), Benay Venuta (Dolly Tate), Clinton Sundberg (Foster Wilson).
by Frank Miller
Annie Get Your Gun
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Annie Get Your Gun - ANNIE GET YOUR GUN - New 35mm Print
"You cain't get a man with a gun," belts Betty Hutton, and starts proving it right off, when, as sharpshootin' backwoods gal Annie Oakley, she bests Howard Keel's chagrined Frank Butler, erstwhile marksman star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. They're obviously meant for each other, but Keel's got definite ideas about "The Girl That I Marry," while Hutton is certain that "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better." Those hits just keep coming in Irving Berlin's celebrated score: "Doin' What Comes Naturally," "They Say It's Wonderful," "I'm an Indian, Too" (dropped from the recent Broadway revival as un-p.c.), "I Got the Sun in the Morning," and topped by that guaranteed show-stopper "There's No Business Like Show Business."
As produced by the legendary Arthur Freed (who paid a record $800,000 for the rights), MGM's ANNIE was the most faithful Broadway-to-screen adaptation to date. But for a film so joyous, its history is remarkably checkered: the picture's first Annie, Judy Garland, was fired after shooting a few numbers; original director Busby Berkeley was axed as well, and his replacement Charles Walters found out that he was being replaced - by musicals whiz George Sidney - only after hearing Hedda Hopper announce it on the radio; and the original Buffalo Bill, Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz), died suddenly of a heart attack and was replaced by Louis Calhern. Despite a seemingly jinxed production, ANNIE still became one of the studio's all-time musical blockbusters and, while Garland's fans were disappointed, the high-octane Hutton (here as vivacious as her Trudy Kockenlocker in Preston Sturges's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek) hits "the high watermark of her career" (Clive Hirschhorn). Pauline Kael wrote that her performance "didn't get the praise it deserved." Long held up in legal limbo, this is ANNIE's first theatrical presentation since 1973 - in a lustrous new 35mm print which, made with modern preservation and printing techniques from the original 3-strip Technicolor camera negative, is close to - or better than - those seen in the original release.
Annie Get Your Gun - ANNIE GET YOUR GUN - New 35mm Print
'Garland, Judy' , originally cast as Annie, was taken ill during early filming and production was halted until Betty Hutton finished Let's Dance (1950) and was called in to replace her.
Director Busby Berkeley was also replaced, first by Charles Walters and finally by George Sidney.
Charles Walters did not know that he had been fired and replaced by George Sidney until he heard gossip columnist Hedda Hopper announce it on the radio.
Frank Morgan (I), in the role of Buffalo Bill, died suddenly and his scenes had to be re-shot with his replacement Louis Calhern.
Howard Keel broke his leg during filming when a horse fell on it.
As depicted in the film, Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Anne Oakley Moses in 1860, was a markswoman who first toured circus and vaudeville circuits, and from 1885 to 1902 was a star attraction in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Her husband, Frank E. Butler, was a noted marksman who toured with her. For more biographical information on Buffalo Bill Cody, please see the entry below for Buffalo Bill. The stage musical Annie Get Your Gun was first performed on Broadway on May 16, 1946, directed by Joshua Logan and starring Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton.
Contemporary sources add the following information about the production: In late February 1947, M-G-M purchased the film rights to the Broadway show for a record $650,000, and immediately cast Judy Garland in the title role. Bing Crosby was considered to co-star with Garland in April 1948. Rehearsals on the film began in early October 1948, and Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli, who was three years old at the time, was set to portray Annie Oakley's young sister. Production on the film initially began on April 4, 1949, with Busby Berkeley directing and Al Jennings assisting. Harry Stradling was the film's photographer. In early May, Berkeley was replaced by fellow dance director Charles Walters. Although a May 4, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Berkeley asked to be removed from the film "after a difference of opinion with Freed," a modern source notes that producer Arthur Freed removed Berkeley from the picture because he thought Berkeley was directing the film in the manner of a stage play. In mid-May, according to a Los Angeles Times article, studio executives suspended Garland for repeated failures to report to the set. The article also noted that studio executives in the East were "particularly irked by the temperament of stars under the strained economic circumstances" of the time, and that the footage that had already been shot for the film (at a cost of $1,250,000) might have to be scrapped. M-G-M shut down production on the film while searching for a replacement for Garland and re-writing parts of the script.
A May 13, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Betty Garrett was a "hot contender" for the role. Modern sources note that Judy Canova and Doris Day were considered as possible replacements, and that June Allyson and Ginger Rogers expressed interest in playing the role. According to records of the M-G-M legal department, as reproduced in a modern source, a $100,000 contract was drawn up on June 21, 1949 for the loan-out of Paramount actress Betty Hutton. Previously-shot footage of the film was discarded, and production on the film resumed on October 10, 1949 with George Sidney directing and George Rhein assisting. Charles Rosher replaced cameraman Harry Stradling, and James E. Newcom replaced editor Albert Akst. Actor Louis Calhern replaced Frank Morgan, who was originally cast in the role of "Buffalo Bill" but who died on September 18, 1949. Geraldine Wall, originally cast in the role of "Dolly Tate," was replaced by Benay Venuta, although a September 30, 1949 Daily Variety news item noted that Marjorie Reynolds was also considered for the role. An April 11, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item included Evelyn Finley and Napoleon Whiting in the cast, but their participation in the completed film is doubtful. Daily Variety news items include Vance Henry and trick riders Sharon and Shirley Lucas in the cast, but their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. Production on the film was completed on December 16, 1949, ahead of schedule, and $61,000 over the $3,707,000 budget. A shooting match sequence was cut from the final film following a January 29, 1950 preview in Long Beach, CA.
According to information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, M-G-M was warned by the Breen Office in late March 1949 that the "Secretary of the Interior has gotten very Indian-minded and will raise hell about your showing the Indians lousing up the train in Annie Get Your Gun." It is not known whether any changes were made regarding the portrayal of Native Americans in the script following the recommendations of the Breen Office. In a May 1950 Los Angeles Daily News column, screenwriter Sidney Sheldon noted that several changes in the adaptation of the story from stage to screen were "unavoidable." Among the changes noted by Sheldon were the cutting of some of Annie's "earthy" lines, the elimination of a romantic subplot involving an ingenue, the combining of some of the stage version's minor characters and the elimination of two Irving Berlin songs ("Moonshine Lullaby" and "I Got Lost in His Arms"). Unused film footage featuring Garland singing "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" and "I'm an Indian Too" was shown publicly for the first time in Paris in October 1991. The two numbers, and also an outtake of Betty Hutton singing "Let's Go West Again," were included as added content on the DVD release of the film. A modern source reported that the latter musical number, which was cut from the original Broadway production, was filmed at Irving Berlin's request, but then cut during final editing. In 1978, according to modern sources, Berlin, who retained the music rights, refused to allow the picture to be shown commercially.
Annie Get Your Gun marked the American screen debut of actor Howard Keel (1919-2004), who had previously appeared in a small, non-singing role in the 1948 British film The Small Voice. Annie Get Your Gun grossed more than eight million dollars following its May 1950 release and its 1956-57 re-release, and received an Academy Award for Best Musical Direction. The film was also nominated for Best Color Cinematography, Best Color Art Direction and Best Editing. The Annie Oakley story was featured in the non-musical 1935 RKO film Annie Oakley, directed by George Stevens and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Foster (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0131). Oakley's exploits were also portrayed in an ABC television series, which starred Gail Davis and ran from 1953-57. In 1957, Mary Martin and John Raitt appeared in a television adaptation of the musical, and on March 19, 1967, the NBC television network aired a second version of the musical starring Ethel Merman and Bruce Yarnell, who also played the leads in the 1966 Broadway revival. Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat starred in a 1999 Broadway revival, which ran for over 1,000 performances.