Never before available on home video and unseen on television since 1973, the 1950 production of Annie Get Your Gun
has achieved somewhat legendary status, most notably for who would inherit the role Ethel Merman had made famous on Broadway in 1946
. MGM originally cast Judy Garland, but her ongoing drug and alcohol problems led to her being fired and replaced by Betty Hutton. Fortunately, the bright and brassy Hutton sparkles in this highly fictionalized story of Annie Oakley, the sharpshooter who wins fame in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and wins the heart of fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler (Howard Keel). Dashing baritone Keel was beginning his career as one of MGM's favorite leading men in the 1950s (including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
and Kiss Me, Kate
). Together they make gold of the many Irving Berlin hits
--"Doin' What Comes Naturally," "Anything You Can Do," "They Say It's Wonderful," "I Got the Sun in the Morning," and the classic anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business."
Annie Get Your Gun is unquestionably a product of the 1950s. Keel's relentless chauvinism and Hutton's constant fawning over him grow tiresome (though she does stand up to him in a battle of the sexes), and the Indians wear full headdresses and face paint, say "Ugh," and destroy modern conveniences. (In the name of political correctness, the 1999 Broadway revival starring Bernadette Peters removed "I'm an Indian Too" and received its own share of criticism from purists.) Quibbles aside, the excellent cast and immortal score make Annie Get Your Gun a classic musical. It's great to have it back. --David Horiuchi
Included on this video release, and of prime interest to many fans, are two scenes originally filmed by Judy Garland before she was replaced by Betty Hutton. By unfortunate coincidence, those two are the least flattering, with "Doin' What Comes Naturally" portraying Garland as a backwoods hick and "I'm an Indian Too" (filmed on a set strikingly different from what was used in the final Hutton version) showing her in Indian face paint. Garland is warm and likable in the first number, without the broad physical comedy Hutton would use. "I'm an Indian Too," however, is disappointing. A lackluster Garland goes through the motions and is noticeably flat on one note. Clearly, at the time Hutton was the right choice.
In another outtake, Betty Hutton sings "Let's Go West Again," a song cut from the original Broadway production. Irving Berlin convinced the film producers to include it, but it was cut during final editing. The 50th anniversary release also features an all-new digital picture and audio transfer from restored elements, an all-new celebrity introduction by soap opera star Susan Lucci (who temporarily replaced Bernadette Peters in the Broadway revival), the original theatrical trailer, and a limited-edition mini lobby card reprint. --David Horiuchi