Annie Oakley (film)

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Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley (poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Stevens
Produced by Cliff Reid
Screenplay by
Story by
Starring
Music by Alberto Colombo
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt
Edited by Jack Hively
Production
company
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release dates
  • November 15, 1935 (1935-11-15) (US)
Running time 90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $354,000[1]
Box office $620,000[1]

Annie Oakley is a 1935 American biographical film directed by George Stevens and starring Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Melvyn Douglas, and Moroni Olsen. The film is based on the life of Annie Oakley.

Plot[edit]

In late 1800s Ohio, a young woman from the backwoods, Annie Oakley (Stanwyck) delivers six dozen quail she has shot to the owner of the general store. He sends them to the MacIvor hotel in Cincinnati, where the mayor is holding a large banquet in honor of Toby Walker (Foster), the "greatest shot in the whole world". Walker is particular about what he eats–the hotel owner (James MacIvor, played by Andy Clyde) bought Oakley's quail because she shoots the quail cleanly through the head, leaving no buckshot elsewhere.

At the banquet, Jeff Hogarth (Melvyn Douglas) signs Walker to a contract making him part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. MacIvor challenges Walker to a shooting contest to take place the next morning. MacIvor arranges for "Andy" Oakley to compete against Walker, only to be shocked when she shows up. He tries unsuccessfully to call the whole thing off. The scheduled match ends in a tie, so they proceed to sudden death. The two sharpshooters continue hitting their targets. Following a comment from Oakley's mother (Margaret Armstrong) Oakley deliberately misses her next shot. Walker is a gracious, though unsuspecting winner; Hogarth knows exactly what happened.

Title card to Annie Oakley

When the Oakleys return home, Annie promises to pay back all those who bet on her. Hogarth follows and tells Annie that he never bet the money she gave to him. He also invites her to join the Wild West Show. Oakley, having developed a crush on Walker, accepts. Hogarth introduces her to Buffalo Bill (Moroni Olsen) and the other members of the show.

When Walker overhears Buffalo Bill telling Hogarth that he might have to fire Oakley because she lacks showmanship, he teaches her some 'fancy shootin' and tricks.

At the first show, Chief Sitting Bull (Chief Thunderbird) is in the audience with Iron Eyes Cody as his translator. Ned Buntline (an uncredited Dick Elliott), Buffalo Bill's publicist, tries to sign him up for the show, but the chief is bored with the acts until he sees Annie shoot five targets thrown in the air. He is so impressed, he changes his mind and joins the show.

A romance blossoms between Oakley and Walker, despite Hogarth's attempts to win Oakley's affections for himself. They also become good friends with Sitting Bull.

One day, a man with a grudge tries to shoot Sitting Bull. Walker grabs the man's gun just as it goes off, saving his friend's life. However, his eyes are affected by the closeness of the shot. While Oakley's fortunes rise, Walker's decline. He hides his injury, but ends up shooting Oakley in the hand and is dismissed from the show. However, Oakley cannot forget him. After a triumphant tour of Europe, the show next plays New York City, Walker's home town. When Walker attends the show, Sitting Bull spots him and reunites the loving couple.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was the first Western for both Stevens and Stanwyck.[2] While based on the real life of Annie Oakley, it took some liberties with the details:[3]

Rather than focusing on her career, the 1935 production centered on the love story between Annie and "Toby Walker," the film's stand-in for Oakley's husband Frank Butler. In the film, Oakley throws the couple's famous Thanksgiving Day shooting match so that Walker won't lose his job, a point that may have resonated with the film's Depression-era audiences. Oakley also spends much of the film pining away for Walker—they are separated while she tours in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show, but fortuitously reunited by Sitting Bull just in time for a happy ending. In this first Hollywood version of Oakley's life, the facts of the Butlers' long and happy marriage are pushed to the side, and Frank Butler's deliberate ceding of the spotlight to his wife is ignored.

Reception[edit]

The film was released less than 10 years after the death of the real-life Oakley.[3] It made a profit of $48,000.[1]

Andre Sennwald of The New York Times called the film a "gaudy and pungent motion picture, smacking healthily of that obscure commodity known as tanbark"; Sennwald rave about the performances:[4]

Barbara Stanwyck is splendid in the title rôle; this is her most striking performance in a long time. Preston Foster plays persuasively, too, in the unrealized Toby Walker rôle, and Moroni Olsen is excellently bluff as Buffalo Bill. Chief Thunderbird, though, is the star of the picture. One scene, by the way, ought to give you a start. That is when the Kaiser, then only a Prince, gallantly, holds a cigarette in his mouth for Annie to shoot at. What might have been the course of history, you find yourself wondering, if Annie had missed.

Decades later, Pauline Kael called Stanwyck "consistently fresh and believable" and said Stevens "makes some of the points about race he made later in Giant... but here they're lighter and better. They seem to grow casually out of the American material; the movie feels almost improvised."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
  2. ^ a b Landazuri, Margarita. "Annie Oakley (1935) - Article". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
  3. ^ a b "Annie Oakley on Stage and Screen". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved 2012-05-29. While honoring Oakley's strong spirit, the film altered her real story in a number of telling ways. Rather than focusing on her career, the 1935 production centered on the love story between Annie and "Toby Walker," the film's stand-in for Oakley's husband Frank Butler. In the film, Oakley throws the couple's famous Thanksgiving Day shooting match so that Walker won't lose his job, a point that may have resonated with the film's Depression-era audiences. Oakley also spends much of the film pining away for Walker—they are separated while she tours in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show, but fortuitously reunited by Sitting Bull just in time for a happy ending. In this first Hollywood version of Oakley's life, the facts of the Butlers' long and happy marriage are pushed to the side, and Frank Butler's deliberate ceding of the spotlight to his wife is ignored. 
  4. ^ Sennwald, Andre (December 24, 1935). "Barbara Stanwyck, Not to Mention Chief Thunderbird, in "Annie Oakley," at the Astor Theatre". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 

External links[edit]