A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Annie Get Your Gun is a 1950 musical about Annie Oakley. Viewed through the lens of the 21st century, the movie's depictions of Native Americans are extraordinarily dated at best and outright racist at worst -- Native Americans are depicted as ignorant savages who frivolously spend money on things like eclairs and speak broken English, and make Annie an honorary Native American during a cringeworthy song called "I'm an Indian, Too." Furthermore, the movie's resolution is extremely dated: Annie is told that if she wants to be with Frank, she must deliberately lose the climactic shooting contest so Frank's male ego isn't crushed, and he can go on being a man, and Annie can do more "feminine" duties. However, there are some classic Irving Berlin songs in this movie, such as "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Anything I Can Do (I Can Do Better)." Families who watch this film may want to use it to encourage their kids to explore the true history of the West by reading books and watching other historical fiction.
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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. 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 cop-out. 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."
Talk to your kids 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?
What stereotypes did you notice in the movie? How might it be different if it was made today? Do you think it could be made today?
How has Hollywood's depictions of Native Americans evolved over the decades? How has it reflected societal attitudes and assumptions?
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