When Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s first musical opened in 1943, rival producer Mike Todd cast the verdict, “No girls, no gags, no chance.” It went on to become the most influential show in Broadway history before touring for a decade. Unfortunately, Hollywood had copied most of its innovations by 1955, when Fox was allowed to produce this adaptation.
So while the score remains outstanding, with Hammerstein’s cosily direct lyrics complemented by Rodgers’ daring blend of operetta and folk, the film has a reverence that curtails its exuberance. Moreover, the performances are similarly underwhelming, with the exception of Gloria Grahame’s Ado Annie. But despite its flaws, the combination of musical magic and nostalgia make this a classic.