Celebrate OKLAHOMA!… More Than Just A Movie

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Celebrate OKLAHOMA!…More Than Just A Movie

By Bud Elder

As part of a statewide effort to bring homegrown pride and cultural identity to thousands of Oklahoma students, Academy Award winning actress Shirley Jones and former Oklahoma governor George Nigh presented highlights from the newly restored, Todd AO print of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” at the Oklahoma City Community College theater on Thursday, August 28 beginning at 7:00 p.m.

According to civic booster Lee Allan Smith, one of the event’s supporters, the thought of bringing “Oklahoma!” back to local communities was generated by a group of Oklahoma City businessmen who want all Oklahomans, not just those from metropolitan areas, to experience their legendary namesake musical production.

“Rodgers and Hammerstein perhaps said it best when they wrote “The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends” – that’s the way it should always be between Oklahoma City and the rest of our fair state,” Smith said.

Former Governor George Nigh and Shirley Jones were on hand to host and help celebrate this landmark event.

As a UNEXPECTED SURPRISE to Governor Nigh and Shirley Jones special Oklahoma recognition awards were presented by Lee Allan Smith, Blake Wade, and Barry Switzer for being 2 of the all time great ambassadors representing the State of Oklahoma.

“While most students and new Oklahoma citizens may have a glancing familiarity with “Oklahoma!,” perhaps it’s time to renew some state pride by demonstrating once again that this work of art is truly our state’s calling card all over the world,” said Nigh, who, as a young state legislator led the charge, in 1953, to make the musical’s title number the official Oklahoma State Song.

According to Nigh, the plan is to use the event as a springboard of a statewide tour that would bring a day of “Oklahoma!” into individual communities and school districts, complete with the restored film, special events and background information regarding the musical.

Jones, whose place in American culture is intact with her Oscar winning performance in the film “Elmer Gantry,” as well as lead performances in “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel” and “The Music Man” is thrilled that her role as Laurey Williams is being re introduced in new splendor.

“This print of ‘Oklahoma!’ was shown in the coveted ‘Opening Night’ spot at the recent Turner Classic Movie Film Festival and was greeted with roaring applause and celebration,” Jones said. “I’m so thrilled to be a part of this statewide celebration that will remind those in the Sooner State just how important to world culture this musical is and can be.”

Jones also shares insight on the new print. In 1955 I was a very young girl right of high school and only 19 years old when the movie was made in Nogales, Arizona. It was very exciting to be cast in the movie along with Gordan MacRae, Gene Nelson, Rod Stieger, and a wonderful cast of very talented actors. You know, Oklahoma! was the first independent movie film musical really made and MGM had always done the musical films before that. Recently I turned 80 and have many fond memories of Oklahoma!.

“When ‘Oklahoma!’ was filmed, the actors had to do two ‘takes,’ one for the regular widescreen film and one for the then newly created Todd AO process, which was the version exclusively shown in Roadshow engagements of the film,” she said. “Audiences today, who have most likely never seen this alternate version will marvel at its restoration,” he said. “With soaring vistas, larger than life characters and those wonderful, precious songs, this is an “Oklahoma!” for a new age and it’s time our natives embrace, once again, this masterwork.”

Additional screenings of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” were held at 1:00 p.m. at OCCC on Saturday through Monday, August 30-September 1.

Roy Williams, President of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce said:
“This movie instills pride in all Oklahomans – it is a ‘uniter’ not a ‘divider’ and represents all Oklahomans in communities across the state. The OKC Chamber wants to be involved in not only the Oklahoma City Community College premiere, but also the 2015 tour to cities all across the state.”

Jim Couch, city manager of Oklahoma City said – “The city of Oklahoma City is very happy to be a part of this event and 2015 tour as it represents many of our core values and core history Many of us remember the musical and movie from the time we were growing up in Oklahoma, but there is a whole new generation now, out here, of Oklahomans who have never seen the movie.”

Bob Blackburn, executive director, Oklahoma Historical Society added “The movie ‘Oklahoma!’ is an ageless film for best known for its unique blending of the arts, i.e. a stage play, music, and dance. Critics and people all over the world love this musical and movie because of this creative blending.”

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