Theatrical release poster by Howard Terpning
|Directed by||Carol Reed|
|Produced by||John Woolf|
|Screenplay by||Vernon Harris|
|Story by||Lionel Bart (Oliver!)|
|Based on||Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens
|Music by||Johnny Green
|Editing by||Ralph Kemplen|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||153 minutes|
Oliver! is a 1968 British musical drama film directed by Carol Reed and based on the stage musical Oliver!, with book, music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart. The screenplay was written by Vernon Harris.
Both the film and play are based on Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist. The film includes several musical numbers, including "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long as He Needs Me", "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" and "Where Is Love?".
At the 41st Academy Awards in 1969, Oliver!, which had earlier been nominated for eleven Academy Awards, won six, including Awards for Best Picture, and Best Director for Carol Reed. At the 26th Golden Globe Awards the film won two Golden Globes for Best Film - Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor - Musical or Comedy for Ron Moody.
Act 1 
A workhouse in Dunstable, England is visited by the wealthy governors who fund it. At the same time a sumptuous banquet is held for them, the orphan boys who work there are being served their daily gruel. They dream of enjoying the same "Food, Glorious Food" as their masters. While eating, some boys draw straws to see who will ask for more to eat, and the job falls to a boy named Oliver Twist. He goes up to Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney, who run the workhouse and serve the gruel, and quietly asks, "Please, sir, I want some more." Mr. Bumble is enraged and Oliver is taken to the governors to see what to do with him ("Oliver!"). A decision is made to have Oliver sold into service. Mr. Bumble parades Oliver through the snow trying to sell him to the highest bidder ("Boy for Sale"). Oliver is eventually sold to an undertaker named Mr. Sowerberry, who intends to use him as a mourner for children's funerals. After his first funeral, Noah Claypole, Sowerberry's apprentice, insults Oliver's mother to get a rise out of him. Oliver attacks Noah and Mrs. Sowerberry forces him into a coffin while Noah fetches Mr. Bumble. Oliver is too angry to be intimidated by Mr. Bumble and Bumble places the blame on not keeping Oliver on a diet of gruel. Oliver is thrown into the cellar as further punishment. Alone in the dark with a roomful of empty coffins, Oliver tearfully wonders "Where is Love?". While clutching the window grate, Oliver pushes it open and escapes to London.
After a week on the road, Oliver reaches London, where he plans to seek his fortune. Shortly after arriving, he crosses paths with the Artful Dodger, a young thief who decides to take Oliver under his wing ("Consider Yourself"). Dodger leads Oliver to his home, a hideout for a group of young pickpockets run by the criminal Fagin. Oliver naively believes the handkerchiefs and wallets they've stolen are "made" by them and Fagin and the boys play along for their amusement. He then helps the boys practice their stealing while reiterating his belief that "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" to get by. Once the boys go to sleep, Fagin sneaks off to meet Bill Sikes, a dangerous thief with whom he does business. Sikes' girlfriend, Nancy, waits for him at the pub and sings of her contentment with the life she shares with the reprobates of London while covering up her own broken dreams of the life she wishes she had with Sikes ("It's a Fine Life").
Back at the hideout, Oliver witnesses Fagin counting his hidden treasures and taking a little more than his fair share from Sikes' loot. While initially furious that he's been discovered, Fagin halfheartedly admits that he's keeping his "pretty things" for comfort in his old age. Nancy and her best friend Bet arrive in the morning to collect some money from Fagin on behalf of Sikes, and meet Oliver. The boys mock Oliver for his politeness towards Nancy, which she finds charming. Dodger attempts to be just as gentlemanly towards Nancy and the boys and Fagin join in the fun ("I'd Do Anything"). Fagin sends the boys out for the day and Oliver asks to go with Dodger, which he agrees to ("Be Back Soon"). While on the job, however, Oliver witnesses what Dodger really does and is blamed for Dodger's theft of a wallet belonging to a gentleman named Mr. Brownlow. Oliver is chased by the police, and despite Dodger's best efforts to stall them, is caught. Afraid that Oliver will tell the police all about them, Fagin and Sikes send Nancy to court to watch what he does. Oliver is too terrified to say anything, but before the magistrate can finalize the verdict, a bookseller who witnessed the act arrives to prove Oliver's innocence. As Mr. Brownlow takes in Oliver, Sikes and Fagin send Dodger to follow them.
Act 2 
Oliver has been living in the residence of wealthy Mr. Brownlow for several weeks now. From the balcony he watches the merchants and other folk of London sell their wares. ("Who Will Buy?") Sikes has been keeping an eye on Oliver, firmly believing he may tell on them. He and Fagin are determined to get him back and employ Nancy to help them as Oliver trusts her more than he does the others. Nancy refuses as she wants Oliver to have a life free of thievery, but Sikes cruelly hits her. As Nancy reluctantly follows Sikes, she sings of her unwavering love for him despite his ways ("As Long As He Needs Me"). The next day, Mr. Brownlow entrusts Oliver with some books and money to be delivered to the bookshop. As he leaves, Brownlow notices a striking resemblance between Oliver and a portrait of his long-lost niece Emily. While walking through the streets of London, Oliver is sidetracked by Nancy and is eventually kidnapped by Sikes and taken back to the hideout. Sikes and Nancy argue but she leaves as he starts to get violent in front of the boys again. Fagin begins reconsidering his life as a thief and weighs all his options, but decides to keep to his old ways by "Reviewing the Situation".
Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney pay a visit to Mr. Brownlow after he begins searching for Oliver's origin. They present a locket belonging to Oliver's mother, who arrived at the workhouse penniless and died in childbirth. Mr. Brownlow recognizes the locket as his niece's and throws the two out, enraged that they selfishly chose to keep the trinket and information to themselves until they could collect a reward for it. Meanwhile, in an attempt to introduce Oliver to a life of crime, Sikes forces Oliver to take part in a house robbery. The robbery fails when Oliver accidentally awakens the occupants, but he and Sikes get away. While Sikes and Oliver are gone, Nancy, fearful that Sikes will kill Oliver, goes to Brownlow, confessing her part in Oliver's kidnapping and promising to return him to Mr. Brownlow the next evening at London Bridge; however, she insists that Brownlow come alone; her loyalty to Sikes prevents her from turning him over to the police. Then she goes to her job at the tavern. When Sikes and Oliver show up safely there, Sikes orders his dog Bullseye to guard the boy. Nancy starts up a lively drinking song, hoping that the noise will distract Sikes ("Oom-Pah-Pah"). Bullseye, however, alerts him and he secretly follows Nancy and Oliver despite Fagin's pleas not to hurt Nancy.
As Oliver and Nancy share a farewell embrace at London Bridge, Sikes catches up, grabs Nancy, and bludgeons her to death, mistakenly believing that she betrayed him after all. He then kidnaps Oliver, but Bullseye returns to the scene of the crime after Sikes tries to murder him as well to prevent detection. The dog leads Brownlow and an angry mob to the thieves' hideout. Sikes uses Oliver as a hostage to escape unscathed. Fagin loses his grip on his box of treasures while running and they sink deep into the mud. Sikes forces Oliver to loop a rope around a rooftop plank so that Sikes can escape, but Sikes is shot dead by the police as he tries to swing across from one rooftop to another. Oliver is reunited with Mr. Brownlow and Fagin makes up his mind to change his ways for good. Just as he is about to walk away a reformed character, Dodger appears from nowhere with a wallet he stole earlier. They dance off into the sunrise together, happily determined to live out the rest of their days as thieves ("Reviewing the Situation (reprise)") while Oliver returns home for good ("Finale: Where is Love?/Consider Yourself").
- Ron Moody as Fagin
- Mark Lester as Oliver
- Shani Wallis as Nancy
- Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes
- Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger
- Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble
- Peggy Mount as Widow Corney / Mrs. Bumble
- Leonard Rossiter as Mr. Sowerberry
- Hylda Baker as Mrs. Sowerberry
- Joseph O'Conor as Mr. Brownlow
- Sheila White as Bet
- Megs Jenkins as Mrs. Bedwin
- Hugh Griffith as the Magistrate
- Kenneth Cranham as Noah Claypole
- Wensley Pithey as Dr. Grimwigg
Charles Dickens as The Author
Musical numbers 
- Overture (heard before the film begins)
- Main Title (heard over the opening title sequence)
- "Food, Glorious Food"/"Oliver!"
- "Boy for Sale"
- "Where is Love?"
- "Consider Yourself"
- "Pick a Pocket or Two"
- "It's a Fine Life"
- "I'd Do Anything"
- "Be Back Soon"
- Entr'acte (heard during the film's intermission, just before the second half begins)
- "Who Will Buy?"
- "As Long As He Needs Me"
- "Reviewing the Situation"
- "Reviewing the Situation" (reprise)
- Finale ("Where is Love?"/"Consider Yourself")
- Exit Music
The words and music were written by Lionel Bart, and were supervised, arranged and conducted by John Green.
The pre-credits Overture as heard on the actual soundtrack of the film is not included on the soundtrack album. Instead, an abbreviated version of the Main Title is labelled "Overture". For the convenience of the original LP, the order of some of the songs was shuffled, but this was not corrected on the CD issue; instead, the film soundtrack CD is an exact duplicate of the LP - nothing on the CD has been expanded to its full-length, as on other CD soundtrack albums. The movie's soundtrack was originally issued in the US on Colgems Records; it was later reissued on compact disc on the RCA Records label.
Mark Lester's singing voice in Oliver! (1968) was dubbed by Kathe Green, the daughter of Johnny Green, the musical director on the film. She was brought in when it was found that Lester couldn't sing, although this was not made public until 1988 during an interview with Johnny Green on the 20th anniversary of the film (he stated that Mark Lester was "tone deaf and arrhythmic"). He originally had two boys (William Lloyd and another, unknown) who dubbed Lester's singing live during the original filming at Shepperton Studios, but during post production, it was felt that, in some of the musical numbers, their voices did not match Lester's look, so they used Green's daughter instead.
The film used mostly young unknowns, among them Ron Moody (Fagin), Mark Lester (Oliver), Shani Wallis (Nancy) and Jack Wild as The Artful Dodger, but also featured Hugh Griffith, an Oscar winner for Ben-Hur, in a cameo role as the Magistrate. Harry Secombe, who played Mr. Bumble, was well known in Britain but not in the United States, and Oliver Reed, who played Bill Sikes, had just begun to make a big name for himself. Ron Moody recreated his London stage performance, after Peter Sellers, Dick Van Dyke and Peter O'Toole reportedly turned down the role. Elizabeth Taylor turned down the role of Nancy as well. Julie Andrews was also considered. Director Reed also had Shirley Bassey in mind, but his choice was rejected by Hollywood studio bosses who felt that the public was not ready for a Black Nancy. Classical actor Joseph O'Conor, not well known in the U.S., played Mr. Brownlow.
The screenplay was adapted from both Lionel Bart's musical and Dickens's novel. The screenplay was written by Vernon Harris, and the film was directed by Sir Carol Reed, who was also Oliver Reed's uncle. A few of the songs from the stage production were not used in the movie, although they often make appearances in the incidental music. For example, the music of Sikes' song "My Name" can be heard when the character first appears, and several other times whenever he is about to commit some nefarious deed.
Comparisons to the source material 
The film was largely faithful to the stage musical, but included extended choreography sequences not found in the original show, and some additional scenes which expanded the role of Bill Sikes, making him closer to the Sikes of the original Dickens novel. In the stage version, he did not even make his entrance until the second act. The songs that Sikes sang in the stage version were omitted.
The magistrate at Oliver's trial, who is played by Hugh Griffith, is called Mr. Fang in the Dickens novel, but simply known as "The Magistrate" in the film. He does not appear in the original stage version; Act I of the stage version ends immediately after Oliver is mistakenly arrested, and Act II begins after he has been exonerated. Oliver's mother was changed from being Mr. Brownlow's daughter to his niece. And as in the novel, Bet became Nancy's best friend instead of her sister.
Two of the songs sung by Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, whose roles are larger in the stage version than in the film, were omitted, as well as nearly all of the reprises of several of the show's other songs, giving the second half of the film a more serious, gloomy quality than Act II of the stage production had had, with the exception of the songs "Who Will Buy?" and the comical "Reviewing the Situation".
Additional notes 
The beginning section of Dickens's novel, in which Oliver is born in the workhouse, was never filmed, although there is evidence that it was supposed to have been. Still photos of this section exist in an Oliver! novelization for children, published in 1968.
In this same Oliver! storybook, Nancy has a final moment in which, after being fatally beaten by Bill Sikes, she gasps out her dying words to Mr. Brownlow, but there is nothing to indicate that this was actually filmed, so it may have been dramatic license on the part of the authors of the storybook. However, when Brownlow runs down the steps of London Bridge toward Nancy, she is clearly still alive - her feet are seen to be moving. The film, rather than following through on this, then cuts away to a scene showing Sikes trying to kill his bull terrier for fear that the dog may lead the police to him, and when the film returns again to Brownlow, Nancy has already died.
The film earned $10.5 million in rentals at the North American box office (US/ Canada rentals)and took $77,402,877 world wide. Oliver! received extremely favourable reviews. It was hailed by Pauline Kael in her New Yorker review as being one of the few film versions of a stage musical that was superior to the original show, which she suggested she had walked out on. "The musical numbers emerge from the story with a grace that has been rarely seen since the musicals of René Clair."
- Best Picture (Winner)
- Best Director - Carol Reed (Winner)
- Best Actor in a Leading Role - Ron Moody (Nomination)
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Jack Wild (Nomination)
- Best Adapted Screenplay (Nomination)
- Best Cinematography (Nomination)
- Best Adaptation Score (Winner)
- Best Art Direction (Winner)
- Best Sound (Winner)
- Best Costume Design (Nomination)
- Best Film Editing (Nomination)
- Special Academy Award for Choreography - Onna White (Winner)
Oliver! is the only G-rated film (since the development of the MPAA rating system in 1968) to receive an Academy Award for Best Picture (though some pre-1968 Best Picture winners were rated G when re-released to cinemas after 1968), as well as being the last family film to win the Academy Award for Best Director (Carol Reed) until Ang Lee won the award for his directorial work on Life of Pi, 44 years later. Oliver! was also the last musical to win the Best Picture Oscar until Chicago, 34 years later.
1968 Golden Globe Awards
- Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Winner)
- Best Director - Carol Reed (Nomination)
- Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy - Ron Moody (Winner)
- Best Supporting Actor - Hugh Griffith (Nomination)
- New Star of the Year - Actor - Jack Wild (Nomination)
- Special Prize - Carol Reed
- Best Actor - Ron Moody
- Oliver! at the Internet Movie Database
- I'd Do Anything
- Filming began on 23/06/67 Shepperton
- "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
- "Box Office Information for Oliver!". The Numbers. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Box Office and Business for Oliver!". IMDb. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Pauline Kael Going Steady, p.202
- "The 41st Academy Awards (1969) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "6th Moscow International Film Festival (1969)". MIFF. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
- Oliver! at the Internet Movie Database
- Oliver! at AllRovi
- Oliver! at the TCM Movie Database
- Oliver! at Rotten Tomatoes