Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
October 11
October 11, 1955
Oklahoma! opens

The musical Oklahoma! appeared on Broadway in 1943. Despite its phenomenal success, it took over 12 years to make it to the screen because Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were wary of Hollywood ruining their creation.  It wasn't until 1953 when the two were shown the new Todd-AO 70 MM process that believed the medium could capture their epic musical about American life. Indeed the film’s tagline was “Now a motion picture as big as all outdoors!” Indeed the two also pushed for the musical to be shoot outdoors on location (rather than on a soundstage as almost all musicals were at the time). The exteriors were mostly shot in Arizona, however, and not Oklahoma. Moreover, Rodgers and Hammerstein were able to maintain all of the original Broadway show except two, making the film over 21/2 hours long. Because of its length, and the need to shoot every scene twice (once for 70mm and once for 35mm), the film’s production went on for 107 days, and made it at $5 million one of the most expensive motion pictures of its time. But as expensive as it was, the cast was far from superstars. Although they’d auditioned such talents as Paul Newman and  James Dean, the director Fred Zinnemann chose Broadway performer Gordon MacRae for the lead, and a virtually unknown Shirley Jones for his love interest. At the film’s opening on October 11, New York experienced a bit of Oklahoma-mania, as that state’s governor rode to the premier leading a parade of surreys and planted an Oklahoma flag in the theater to claim it as part of the Oklahoma territory.


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