Annie Get Your Gun — Directed by George Sidney. Backstage Musical. A country bumpkinette sharpshooter wins fame, fortune, and the man of her dreams. 107 minutes Color 1950.
* * * * *
It was written for Ethel Merman who in a theatre sang and acted everything directly out to the audience, and the director has wisely staged Betty Hutton’s numbers exactly the same, smack dab at the camera. But for a quite different reason, which is that the whole movie is a cartoon, and no one is more cartoonish than Hutton. She wants to burst out of the frame. She acts and sings always at the limits of her technique, which of the coast-to-coast variety. She punches out every song and locks her elbows to deliver the blow. She is The Great Frenetic. But she is really rather endearing in the role. Irving Berlin in his greatest score wrote the words and music, and Herbert and Dorothy Fields wrote the book, all of it in competitive response to Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s Americana musicals State Fair, Carousel, and Oklahoma! Competitive except in the matter of the treatment of natives; the Indians here are the most cartoonish of all. Ugh! But never mind, so is everyone else. Howard Keel is stalwart, affectionate, sexy, and true, and very much worth watching as Frank Butler, Annie’ rival deadeye, and his rich baritone caresses the songs warmly. We also have Louis Calhern as Buffalo Bill, and he’s an actor of incomparable suavity of bearing and always a treat to see. Benay Venuta played Dolly Tate on the stage with Merman and does so here, to good advantage. The film is haunted by the ghost of Judy Garland who began the film incurably depressed and facing Busby Berkeley who had always been mean to her and who was stupidly assigned to direct her. Moreover her work stupidly began with the film’s sole and exhausting production number, “I’m An Indian Too” (after Berkely and Garland were fired, completely restaged for Hutton’s looney bin of frenzy). We have the footage of Garland’s version; she is, of course, far more talented than Hutton, but by this time she was an irretrievable addict, and this ended her career. But Hutton is fine and the entertainment value of the material has not faded, particularly since no attempt is made to begin with to approximate any reality but Show Business which as the film warns us in a truism which nowadays extends to all areas of private, political, public and spiritual life, there is no business like.