Sprightly songfest that, surprisingly, captivated audiences wanting musicals with dancing. There is little dancing throughout, but the tunes became instant standards and the large sets, armies of extras, and Wild West motif offset the missing choreography. In a glove-fitting role, Hutton
blasts her way on and off screen as the sharpshooting Annie Oakley Mozie (1860-1926), a homely girl from the Ozarks who becomes queen of Buffalo Bill's renowned Wild West Show, pitting her talents against marksman Frank Butler (Keel). She loves Keel, but her ability to best him keeps driving him
away. Finally Sitting Bull (Naish) gives her worthwhile advice before she faces off against Keel one more time. "You miss, you win," the Indian chief tells her, and he's right.
Keel is excellent as the smug star of the show; Naish is likewise top-notch as a shrewd Sitting Bull; Calhern superb as a noble but slippery Buffalo Bill; Arnold solid as his show biz rival; and Wynn his usual truculent self. Standout numbers include "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" sung by Hutton and
siblings, "My Defenses Are Down" boomed by Keel, "I'm an Indian Too" with Hutton and a horde of leaping, lunging Indians, and the fantastic finale with hundreds of cowboys and Indians, "There's No Business Like Show Business."
MGM execs struggled to find the perfect Annie Oakley, first considering Judy Canova, Betty Garrett, and Doris Day before opting for Judy Garland, who was reportedly fired because of incessant tantrums. Hutton was finally brought in to save the day, which she did with typically unbridled
enthusiasm, giving one of her most suitable performances, even though she proved to be no Ethel Merman, who originated the role in the smash Broadway production, when it came to singing the finale. Although the choice of director was similarly muddled by MGM moguls, passing from Busby Berkeley to
Charles Walters and finally to George Sidney, the extremely lavish result went on to win the Oscar for Best Score in a Musical, as well as nominations for cinematography, art direction and editing.
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