What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a movie for the whole family. Grade-school kids will love the fun songs and general goofiness. Older kids will enjoy the glossed-up true story, even if musicals aren't their thing. Families who watch this film may want to use it as a way to encourage their kids to explore the history of the West by reading books and watching other historical fiction.
What's the story?
Who's got the stuff that made the Wild West wild? Why, Colonel Buffalo Bill, of course! And at his famous Wild West Show, unrefined young Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) accepts the challenge of handsome sharpshooter Frank Butler (Howard Keel) and wins. Next thing she knows, she's all purtied up and touring with the show. In this film adaptation of the Broadway musical, Annie and Frank have eyes for each other, but their competitive spirits get in romance's way, especially after Annie's picture replaces his on the banner. Will Annie sacrifice her pride and her reputation to win back Frank's heart? That's love for you.
Is it any good?
There's something to be said for a bit of healthy competition, but director George Sidney heaps on more than you might be bargaining for in this slow but entertaining 1950 musical about the rise to fame of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Annie's so determined to make her beau proud that their love turns to bitter rivalry, as evidenced by the song "Anything You Can Do," in which the two exhaust themselves trying to one-up each other. It's presented as comedy, but there's an underlying message there for kids about knowing when to give in.
Parents may also want to discuss Annie's profound sacrifice at the end of the movie. The conclusion may not have ruffled many feathers half a century ago, but by modern standards Annie's compromise feels like a copout. Still, it's pleasing to watch her evolve from a dirty, illiterate bumpkin into a world-renowned star. Betty Hutton, who replaced Judy Garland partway into the shoot, makes the transformation believable, even if she and costar Howard Keel fail to summon up any real chemistry. If nothing else, the two make a swell excuse for some good old Irving Berlin tunes, including "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun."
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the choices available to women in the Wild West, compared to today. Parents may want to discuss Annie's profound sacrifice at the end of the movie. Should there have been a compromise?