A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Oklahoma! is the 1955 movie adaptation of the classic Rogers & Hammerstein musical. Those expecting harmless and wholesome 1950s entertainment may be shocked at the amount of sexual innuendo throughout the movie. For instance, a traveling salesman refers to his lover as his "Persian Kitty," because they have "soft round tails." A woman sings a number called "I Cain't Say No" about her inability to turn down the amorous advances of her male suitors. A farmhand keeps photos of nude women on his walls (nudity not shown, but pointed out by others), and when the salesman asks if he's interested buying more pictures, the farmhand says, in so many words, that he wants to be with a real woman as he's no longer satisfied by the pictures on his walls. A man returns from Kansas City with a kaleidoscope called the "Little Wonder" that shows photos of nude women when viewers look into it, but if they turn it too far, a switchblade pops out. Curly sings a song to Jud that basically encourages him to commit suicide. Jud spies on Laurey as she changes clothes and essentially stalks and harasses her. Fighting between farmers and cowboys. Rifle shots. The salesman, by the way, is stereotyped as a hard-bargaining Persian, and he's played by a white man (Eddie Albert) whose face is shaded dark.
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What's the story?
Most of this frontier musical takes place on the day of the box social, a party where women's picnic baskets are auctioned for charity. After spitefully refusing Curly's (Gordon MacRae) offer to escort her, Laurie (Shirley Jones in her movie debut) agrees to go to the dance with Aunt Eller's rough-edged farmhand Jud Fry. Of course, as much as Curly and Laurie protest in public, they secretly love each other. Unfortunately, Jud is both jealous and vengeful, and things escalate quickly. While this love triangle does momentarily turn violent, another bickering threesome keeps the movie light and comical. Ado Annie, a somewhat clueless girl who "cain't say no" (Gloria Grahame), can't decide if she should marry smooth-talking peddler Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert), who obviously has no interest in wedded bliss, or her well-intentioned cowboy fiance, Will Parker.
Is it any good?
Rodgers and Hammerstein's memorable tunes make OKLAHOMA! an eternally fresh and enjoyable musical classic. The opening scene, when cowboy Curly rides through cornfields singing "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin,'" sets the tone for this colorful, tuneful, and upbeat frontier movie.
There are a couple of drawn-out dance numbers that will tempt you to fast-forward: one as girls freshen up at Laurie's house on the way to the box social, and a later ballet dream sequence -- an obligatory, bizarre, feature of many 1950s musicals. But these scenes aren't enough to keep this from the short list of must-sees for families who enjoy musicals, or for kids just getting started on the classics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Jud's behavior and how he might have justified it. How do the others treat him? What are his reasons for fighting Curly? Why does Laurie change her mind about Curly? How does Ali Hakim treat women? Is the box social concept acceptable in today's society?
Were you surprised by the amount of sexual innuendo throughout the movie?
How does the movie employ stereotypical depictions of characters based on ethnicity or gender? How was this typical for the 1950s in particular?
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