Musical 52

Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015!

OLIVER! (1968)

I read the Great Illustrated Classics version of Oliver Twist as a kid, and I definitely liked parts of it! Well, turns out there’s a movie version where everyone sings! Hit me!

I feel like I can skip this part! We’re all familiar with what is arguably the most famous book by Charles Darwin or whatever his name is!

Please Sir Fart Fart Fart

You know, the kid with the bowl!

I’ll admit, even the Wishbone version of this orphan’s struggle for a better life made me sleepy at times, and that had a dog! Still, this may be the perfect bit of literature to turn into a musical! The basic story of Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) finding his way out of poverty features fun settings and some mild action here and there, so the movie expands those elements into lavish song-and-dance numbers to get us through the boring bits! Genius!

Fuck Reading

Way better than dumb old reading!

It can be hard to adapt a tale that everybody already knows, but there’s definitely enough whimsy in this production to tide you over even if you’re familiar with every plot twist! Nope, I refuse to make a “twist” pun!

Those Eyes

Don’t give me those “please, sir” eyes! No puns!

I don’t like judging child actors! Mark Lester is fairly nondescript, but I suppose that lets you pretend you’re the protagonist in a Frodo “Neo” Skywalker sort of way, so it works for the movie!

Put yourself inside this small boy! Wait! Forget I said that!

Oliver’s pickpocketing peer the Artful Dodger, played by Jack Wild, is a little Cockney shit! He’s the epitome of everything you could want in a Dickensian street urchin; plucky, adorable, scrappy, grubby, and with an accent that will make your ears bleed!

“Oy, guvnah, up the apples, bloody ‘ell!”

Ron Moody’s performance as Fagin, the leader of the pickpocket boys, is pretty damn delightful! He’s cheerful and slapsticky while still maintaining an air of shadiness, sort of like that one uncle of yours!

You know the one!

Shani Wallis plays the sweet and wonderful prostitute Nancy! She’s very nice! So nice that’s it’s only kind of weird that all the little boys are deeply in love with her!

Adding “in a motherly way” confuses my feelings even more!

Oliver Reed is Bill Sikes, a fellow thief who seems angry at Fagin all the time! Reed’s performance is oftentimes quiet and stoic, building up to unexpected outbursts of the crazed rage underneath!

Don’t fuck with this guy!

Also noteworthy, despite having a smaller role, is Harry Secombe as Mister Bumble, the dumpy guy in charge of overseeing the orphans at the workhouse that sometimes responds to them in a funny, high-pitched voice!

The way he says “MOOOOOOORE” is a real hoot!

There are a lot of songs in this two-and-a-half-hour musical, but thankfully, they’re really catchy and most of them have some great choreography to boot!

Right off the bat we get “Food, Glorious Food” in which our workhouse orphans fantasize about a delicious meal that isn’t shitty gruel! It’s a strong opening with hopeful music and impressive cinematography, but the best part is the synchronized eating!

“Everybody purge, then come back for Take 28!”

Immediately afterward is the titular “Oliver!” in which Mister Bumble really wants us to remember this kid’s name, so he repeats it forever!

Not literally! Harry Secombe died in 2001!

When they decide to get rid of O-Li-Ver, Bumble brings him through the streets singing “Boy For Sale,” which is a bit on the slow side, but it does showcase Harry Secombe’s wonderfully operatic voice!

“Half off with coupooooonnnnn!”

Aww, poor Oliver just wants love, but he can’t find it! This leads him to sing “Where Is Love?” which is unfortunately not a Haddaway follow-up, but rather this film’s equivalent of “Cheer Up, Charlie” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!

Cheer Up Ollie

Which is to say weepy and suitable for fast-forwarding!

After three tunes without any dancing, “Consider Yourself” brings the footwork in droves! Artful Dodger welcomes Oliver to London and the streets erupt with every profession you can think of shaking their groove things! This sequence just goes and goes and goes and no amount of screencaps can do the massive group choreography justice!


Since I’ve already seen Newsies, here’s the only image
of dancing newsies you’ll ever find on this blog!

In contrast to the scale of the previous song is “Pick a Pocket or Two,” in which Fagin explains how he acquires his trinkets with plenty of good old-fashioned clowning around! The physical comedy in this scene is superb and the tune will definitely get stuck in your head!


Despite this picture, there are no lyrics about a horse giving birth!

There’s nothing I love more than singing whores! “It’s a Fine Life” is a delightfully saucy ditty about the joys of the sex industry! You tell ‘em, Nancy!

This movie and Pretty Woman seem entirely accurate!

That Nancy is just so sweet! Which explains why the orphan boys will go to great lengths to kiss her! Nancy tests them on which feats they’d be willing to perform for her in “I’ll Do Anything,” and we can all agree that this isn’t weird at all!


I don’t think Dodger knows her baseline standard is cash!

Fagin sends the kids off to pickpocket in “Be Back Soon,” which is sort of a less fun version of “Pick a Pocket or Two” but still okay!


And “Who Will Buy?” is a less fun version of “Consider Yourself,” because they kinda blew most of the best songs in the first half!

Oh, look, more professions! But in the nice part of town!

“As Long As He Needs Me” is Nancy’s loving ode to Bill Sikes, her huge asshole of a boyfriend! Aww!


Tears of joy!

Fagin has an entertaining musical monologue in “Reviewing the Situation,” in which he carefully considers whether or not he is a big jerk! Every time you think he’s decided, that chorus comes back around!



And the last non-reprise tune is “Oom-Pah-Pah,” a nonsense drinking song that’s undoubtedly very shpadoinkle, but at least it has a reason to exist since it’s a diversion to help Oliver escape!


Whoa, normally you have to pay to see her oom-pah-pah!

Alright, “I’ll Do Anything,” I’m calling you out! You start off listing nice things a lad could do to woo a lady, but by the end, you are totally just throwing out easy-to-rhyme-with garbage like this!


“Paint your face bright blue!”

I expected the film that won Best Picture for 1968 might be stuffy and serious, but I was surprised at just how much fun it is! If you want a classic story, varied and engaging performances, and big beautiful songs and dances, you can’t go wrong with Oliver! The exclamation point is a bit much, though.

Paint Your Wagon (1969)

This is Bill’s thirty-ninth week of the experiment. Check up on his sanity in his third quarterly report.