What do I have in common with two Academy Award winning actresses, Celeste Holm and Gloria Graham?
The three of us have all played Ado Annie in the musical “Oklahoma.”
I open tonight and will perform the role this weekend and next weekend at the Kings Mountain Little Theater in North Carolina.
Though I love films, I’ve never considered being an actor. But my love for musicals is what brought me to the stage.
As I’ve mentioned in the past I’ve seen 467 movie musicals, ranging from Busby Berkeley kaleidoscope Warner Brothers films to candy-colored MGM extravaganzas.
Last summer while I was working and living in Elkin, NC, the local theater group began holding auditions for “Annie Get Your Gun.” I felt ridiculous trying out, since I had never performed in a play before, but visions of Betty Hutton singing in the movie version of the musical drove me to try out.
Similarly, the same visions struck me this winter when I found out auditions were being held for “Oklahoma,” but these included Shirley Jones, Gordon MacRea, Gloria Grahame and Gene Nelson.
“Oklahoma” originated on Broadway in 1943 with actress Holm as Ado Annie. Holm tried out for the role so she could do her part during World War II.
“There was a need for entertainers in Army camps and hospitals,” Holm said. “The only way you could do that was if you were singing in something.”
Holm later went on to Hollywood to star with Bette Davis in “All About Eve” (1950) and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film “Gentlemen’s Agreement” (1947).
When “Oklahoma” was made into a film in 1955, sexy actress Gloria Grahame was cast as Ado Annie. But Grahame wasn’t the first pick for the role.
Grahame won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952).
Betty Hutton, who was Annie Oakley in the film “Annie Get You Gun,” was approached to play “the girl who cain’t say no” but she declined.
She turned down “Oklahoma” to do the TV spectacular “Satins and Spurs,” which flopped. She later regretted turning down the role when she saw Rogers and Hammerstein were personally overseeing the film.
Hutton would have been perfect for the comedic role in the “Oklahoma” and I think it would have jumpstarted her failing career.
The trouble with Grahame is that she was constantly trying to make the role too sexy rather than cute and funny, according to IMDB. To remedy this, two comedic dancing girls were added to the film.
Grahame was also very tone deaf so her music had to be edited together, according to IMDB.
Blond bombshell Mamie Van Doren was also interested in the role of Ado Annie. Others who auditioned for roles included Robert Stack, Piper Laurie, Lee Marvin, Vic Damone, Dale Robertson and Joan Evans were all screen tested for various roles.
Sadly, the movie “Oklahoma” also wasn’t filmed in the state of Oklahoma but in Arizona.
Though this is my second play, I don’t think the play bug has bit me. I simply do it because of my love of classic films.
What have classic films driven you to do in your daily life?
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