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Oliver! (1968)

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  • Oliver! (1968)

    Oliver! was one of the first films I saw as a very small boy. Marvelous.

    I saw it again a few years ago, and found that it was even better than I had remembered - very unusual. Carroll Reed is, I think, the most under rated great director of any nation. He combined solid craftsmanship with imaginative understanding; he directs this large-scale, complex musical and balances the tragedy with the musical numbers and many diverse characters and a complicated plot, a very difficult accomplishment.

    The "Who Will Buy?" sequence builds and builds until it is genuinely moving, not just entertaining. It was only after reading about the making of the film that I realized that it as filmed on a set; I had assumed it was location filming.

    The design of the film, the performances, the beautiful musical score - all come together into a whole. There are now weak parts. I don't usually care for musicals, but this is one of the very few exceptions.

    I will note here that it was the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1968. It was also a great success at the box office at a time when many of the post-Sound of Music musicals were losing millions.


  • #2
    It's certainly my favourite musical. In fact, when I ran it during my projectionist days at the Plaza, Fenton, I was so impressed with the eight minutes long "Who Will Buy?" sequence that one day that week, I arrived there very early, laced up that part, which was the first reel after the Intermission, struck up the arc, opened the curtains, set the film going and went down into the darkened auditorium and sat on the front row and gazed in awe as the scene unfolded before me across the Plaza's 36 feet wide CinemaScope screen. It was pure magic and I've never forgotten the absolute wonder of it. After being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director a number of times, for classics such as "The Fallen Idol", Carol finally got his Oscar for "Oliver!", along with the film's five other Oscar's, including Best Picture. It was very successful at the Box Office and big hit all over the world.

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    • #3
      I agree with all that... but have to acknowledge that it was a very successful stage show created by Lionel Bart. The differences between the story/script of "Oliver!" and the novel "Oliver Twist" are fascinating in their own right. The hummability of the songs and the infectious enthusiasm of the choreography are very powerful ingredients that the director managed to blend together with the amazing performances. Ron Moody and Oliver Reed are mesmerising.

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      • #4
        I have assumed all those massed jolly Londoners singing "Who Will Buy" and dancing with such infectious enthusiasm inspired that Yorkshire Catholic family singing and dancing in the Monty Python's "Every Sperm Is Sacred" in 1983.

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        • #5
          and here is Mark Lester (in person) outside the Leicester Square Theatre in London; sometime after 'Oliver' had commenced its 1969 EIGHTEEN month run there, promoting for the newspapers its continuing success
          http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/910/photos/125191

          http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/910/photos/64876
          Last edited by Rick C; 14th May 2017, 04:16 AM.

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          • #6
            Great photo of Mark Lester, Rick. I've never seen that one before. He looks like he's telling the man: "As soon as they see who I am at the pay box, they'll let me in for nothing!" So sad that what was, in Mark's day, the Leicester Square Theatre, has now been demolished.

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            • #7
              Interesting to see how Reed modified and adapted the score and song list from the stage version to the film version. There are songs missing from the film, that were never recorded as far as I know. Bill Sykes has a whole introduction song that outlines his villainy and his relationships with Fagin and Nancy. Oliver Reed just kills everyone by staying silent. Only the dog, Bullseye gets a greeting.

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              • #8
                If you watch the BBC's Taboo series you can see a fitting tribute to Reeds Bill Sykes in Tom Hardys performance, yes I know this is a bit cheeky but I challenge anyone not to have noticed.

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                • #9
                  When I first saw Oliver!, I was a child younger than Mark Lester in the film. My family had the Soundtrack album and I got to know all the songs (but then, many people have spent a lifetime humming those tunes after just a single listen).

                  But there was one song that I simply couldn't bear. When Oliver is locked up in the basement of the Undertakers' where he has been "sold" as an apprentice, he sings "Where is Love?" about the mother he never knew. It is a schmaltzy, romantic ballad that is a little too sacharine for many people, but I just couldn't bear to hear it. SOmething about it bothered me so much. A few years ago my son was auditioning at his school for the role of Oliver and he had to learn this song. I had to listen to it more carefully than I've ever wanted to, and learned to love it as I never thought I would. As usual with Lionel Bart compositions, it is deceptively simple, very catchy and stays in your head afterwards. There are a few odd moments where the tune goes up when you might have assumed it would go down, and this is where many singers find they've lost their way. So I learned to respect the tune and appreciate the subtleties.

                  While looking online for information about the musical, I also made a discovery that helped me work out why I had spent so many years hating that song in the movie. Apparently, the singing voice for Mark Lester, is a girl. When I read that, it all started to make sense. I've always hated watching male child characters that are voiced by adult women actors. With a very few exceptions it always stood out to me and I hated it. Recent examples would include the "Horrid Henry" animated series. Exceptions would have to include Bart Simpson, who is voiced brilliantly by Nancy Cartwright. Generally the adult woman, pretending to be a boy, turned my ears inside out and made me want to scrape my brain with a scouring pad. Mind you, Mark Lester was absolutely brilliant at the lip-synching.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The song that frightened me as a child was "Molly Malone" of course I knew of it and had heard it many times as I live in Ireland. However it was only after watching The Premature burial with Vincent Price that it struck home, my father had brought us to see it while we were holidaying in the country. As we had a cottage with no electric and in was pitch black my older siblings sang this song while I was in terror. After that I heard it everywhere and would break out in a cold sweat even at school, if not singing then on the radio everywhere! Maybe because it was a rural cinema but they let anyone in and it was a treat? and the other thing was it never advertised it just showed what was available. I was about 7 yrs old and even the music fooled me, it was slowly built up and I would then hid my eyes then stop and I looked up only to see the shock scene! Great times.

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                    • #11
                      Assuming the melody is the same, I'm sure this Molly Malone song is the one sung by Rod Steiger on the build-up to another of his character's macabre murders in "No Way to Treat a Lady" (dir.Jack Smight, 1968). Parts of the film re-occur on Youtube from time to time.

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                      • #12
                        I ran THE PREMATURE BURIAL when it was a new release and after seeing that 'X' film and hearing Ronald Stein's haunting score, I could never hear 'Molly Malone' in the same light again and never without associating it with the film. They shouldn't have let you in to see an 'X' film at that age, though. It's no wonder you were terrified. It could be worse, though. You could have been suffering from catalepsy and been buried alive. Come to think of it, it's now over 54 years ago since I ran the film. They used to show it a lot on late night BBC 2, but I don't think they've run it for at least 30 years. Good job I have the DVD of it. All together now: "She wheels her wheel barrow, through streets broad and narrow, crying cockles and muscles, alive alive-o".

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                        • #13
                          Darren I hope you noticed my avatar I'm addicted to horror and sci-fi my collection runs in the thousands with magazines on the subject let alone books films autographs and toys. So yes I'm fully fledged a fan.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by darrenburnfan View Post
                            It's certainly my favourite musical. In fact, when I ran it during my projectionist days at the Plaza, Fenton, I was so impressed with the eight minutes long "Who Will Buy?" sequence that one day that week, I arrived there very early, laced up that part, which was the first reel after the Intermission, struck up the arc, opened the curtains, set the film going and went down into the darkened auditorium and sat on the front row and gazed in awe as the scene unfolded before me across the Plaza's 36 feet wide CinemaScope screen. It was pure magic and I've never forgotten the absolute wonder of it. After being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director a number of times, for classics such as "The Fallen Idol", Carol finally got his Oscar for "Oliver!", along with the film's five other Oscar's, including Best Picture. It was very successful at the Box Office and big hit all over the world.
                            What a good memory - I have never seen Oliver! on the full screen. And a 36 foot wide Cinemascope screen: that is the way films should be shown

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by StoneAgeMan View Post
                              I agree with all that... but have to acknowledge that it was a very successful stage show created by Lionel Bart. The differences between the story/script of "Oliver!" and the novel "Oliver Twist" are fascinating in their own right. The hummability of the songs and the infectious enthusiasm of the choreography are very powerful ingredients that the director managed to blend together with the amazing performances. Ron Moody and Oliver Reed are mesmerising.
                              Fair point. I should have mentioned Bart. His score has so many songs that have become standards. I recall hearing "Consider Yourself" on the album and remembering the lyrics and melody immediately.

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