Jerome Kern, Dorothy and Herbert Fields and Ethel Merman fitted Annie Oakley in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN to Merman's own persona and performance style
Last Edit: Marlo*Manners 07:31 pm EDT 09/26/21
Posted by: Marlo*Manners 07:16 pm EDT 09/26/21
In reply to: re: Ethel Merman, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, 1967 TV Version -- Another Opinion - JohnDunlop 02:58 pm EDT 09/25/21

Merman had a persona - brassy, good humored, direct, salt of the earth, no nonsense, honest and able to laugh at herself - that she honed in 30's musicals that were designed for and around her. "Annie Get Your Gun" is a book show concerning a real historical character but Dorothy and Herbert Fields wrote Annie Oakley in the musical to accommodate Merman's performing persona. So the 1946 silent film clips show a brassy, salty, direct and unpretentious "broad" who probably came off more urban and sophisticated than the historical Annie Oakley, a backwoods girl should have. But what we see is all Ethel Merman and at the same time Annie within the context of the show - and Broadway audiences went to an Ethel Merman show to see Ethel Merman. Mary Martin softened the character and made it fit her plucky but heartfelt persona.

The surviving footage of Judy Garland shows a tired, worn out performer with no real take on the character and unable to stretch herself to fit another persona or use her persona to illuminate the character. She is not "to the manner born" but exhausted and pathetic and in bad shape. Judy looks wan and in over her head and unfortunately she had to be replaced.

Interestingly, Betty Hutton who took over the movie from Garland was another brash comedic performer with a high energy manic style and brassy belt that she applied to her Annie Oakley making the character into Betty Hutton rather than a facsimile of the historical Annie. Hutton was a big success and the film made lots of money for the studio. I find Hutton all over the place - sometimes the broad mugging can be off-putting but then she can be girlish and vulnerable about Frank and turn on a dime. Lots of that performance is wonderful and touching and some of it is unbearably cartoonish. Hutton needed a stronger director.

Marlo Manners (Lady Barrington)

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