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Like corn like picture. The charm of the play was in its note, however falsetto, of meadowy romp and dooryard homeliness. But the demand of the giant screen is for size and spectacle. The figure of Laurie, far away and touching as she sings Out of My Dreams ("and into your arms"), becomes on the screen a colossal closeup in which the heroine's left nostril alone is large enough to park a jeep in. The dances, too, come far too close for comfort. Though Agnes de Mille revised them for the camera, they now seem more like sophomore scrimmages than witty asides, and look as if they have been a little too thoroughly through de Mille.
But in spite of its age and the fact that its 145-minute mass is sometimes dragging, Oklahoma! hollers itself home as a handsome piece of entertainment. The plot, to begin with, is just about perfect for a musical: cowboy loves farmgirl, sinister farmhand menaces farmgirl, cowboy kills farmhand, cowboy weds farmgirl, everybody rides into sunset. It is as simple and innocent as a birthday cake, in which the songs are set as naturally as candlesand dazzling good songs they still are.
Pleasant, too, are the color, the costumes and the settings, and Fred (High Noon) Zinnemann's direction is light and sure. Hero Gordon MacRae acts with a winning warmth and naturalness, and shows a voice as clear and flexible as any in Hollywood. James Whitmore, Jay Flippen, Eddie Albert and Charlotte Greenwood are good in secondary roles, but the real stunner of the show is the heroine, a 21-year-old newcomer from Smithton, Pa. named Shirley Jones. She has a milky, springtime skin, a creamy figure, and a smile like melting butter. Her brook-clear soprano is the best voice in the picture. In her next movie, Carousel, she will also co-star with Gordon MacRae and if they don't watch out they may become the Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald of the '50s.
The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich; United Artists) is one of the wickedest instruments ever plunged into Hollywood's always bleeding heart. Furthermore, it is twisted a few times, slowly, just to emphasize the point. The assassin in the case is Clifford Odets, the brilliant playwright (Waiting for Lefty) who lived right and thought left in Hollywood during the '40s. The deed he does here was originally perpetrated as a Broadway play in 1949. As a movie, it is arousing consternation, indignation and malicious delight among some of Hollywood's best people.