Cinema: Bowwow! Says Sandy

  • Share
  • Read Later


Directed by John Huston

Screenplay by Carol Sobieski

There is a wonderful movie fighting to get out of this $50 million musical. Unfortunately for Producer Ray Stark, the movie is Camille, that transcendent Garbo weepie, which Daddy Warbucks takes his button-eyed orphan to see at a Radio City Music Hall advance screening. (Quite a bit in advance: Annie is set in 1933; Camille was released in 1937.) In an adroit 4½-minute condensation, the tragic story of Marguerite and Armand unfolds, brief and mesmerizingly beautiful. The clip also possesses an innocence, a sweetness of spirit, that this 1982 blockbuster never even tries to capture. For a production that means to bring children back to the movies, dragging their parents with them, Annie has a dark, dour, meanspirited tone—Oliver Twist as retold by Fagin.

The first anvil hint is dropped in the opening scene: in a dormitory of Miss Hannigan's Dickensian orphanage, the eldest of six orphans jumps from bed to bed—and one galumphing foot lands splat! on the forehead of a younger girl. It's no wonder that when Annie (Aileen Quinn) gets the chance to live with Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney), she promptly forgets her orphan camaraderie. But then the entire movie is a series of plot strands twisted, then discarded.

The stage Annie was a harmless, punchless confection with an O.K. score featuring that unavoidable pop hymn Tomorrow. Was this amiable amble down Mummery Lane worth the Tony awards, the five-year run on Broadway (still going strong), a record $9.5 million for the movie rights? On the evidence of this film, no. Instead of elfin simplicity, Director John Huston offers production numbers full of empty extravagance, a host of familiar characters (like Punjab and the Asp) with little to do—and a chorus of baby Mormans knowingly strutting their stuff, breaking the sound and charm barriers.

Leading the nymphet brigade is Aileen Quinn, 10, chosen over 9,000 other applicants for the title role. Quinn can crinkle her eyes, read her lines, sell a song, tap her toes just like a real live girl; but because she is all calculating show biz and no childlike naiveté, she impresses as a red-headed homuncula. Her elders don't fare much better. Albert Finney, who manages a scowl that comes out a secret smile, has the right moves but not the forbidding magnetism of the world's richest capitalist. Ann Reinking, a terrifically sensuous dancer, has little opportunity to display her talents as Warbucks' secretary. Only Carol Burnett shines, as the shabby dipso Hannigan. Navigating the orphanage at a permanent 40° tilt, like a sinking lighthouse, Burnett brings all her comic resourcefulness to a part no more demanding than those she played on her old TV show. In her hands, Miss Hannigan's malice is broad, precise, engaging, full of wicked-witch fun. The movie's malice is not.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2