Annie Get Your Gun, 1950, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Starring Betty Hutton, Howard Keel. Directed by George Sidney. Technicolor, 107 minutes.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show has come to town, and as part of its promotion to local folks they hold their standard sharpshooting contest. In it, the show’s star, Frank Butler (Howard Keel) goes up against the town’s star sharpshooter.
The local hotel owner, Foster Wilson, isn’t pleased with the whole idea until he sees Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) shoot the decorative bird off of Butler’s assistant’s hat. He believes she can beat Butler, and indeed she does. What’s more, she’s immediately smitten with her rival, despite his profession that the woman he’ll marry will “wear satin…and smell of cologne.”
Buffalo Bill is impressed with Annie’s skill and invites her to join his show, and her infatuation with Frank Butler leads her to do so. Soon he, too, is falling in love with her. But the way to love in the wild west is fraught with peril.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, the screenplay was written by the prolific Sidney Sheldon. The movie features some of Irving Berlin’s most memorable songs, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do.” Both of these tunes have been performed countless times, the latter including a particularly memorable performance by Ethel Merman and Miss Piggy in a first-season episode of the The Muppet Show. Merman, who played Annie in the Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun, made “There’s No Business Like Show Business” one of her signature tunes.
Originally Judy Garland was to play Annie, but a month into rehearsal she was forced to bow out due to exhaustion. MGM considered Betty Garrett for the role, and Ginger Rogers lobbied hard to play Annie, but eventually the part was given to Hutton. Years later she recalled that she was treated coldly by the rest of the cast and studio executives, to the point where she wasn’t invited to the New York premiere.
Annie Get Your Gun is fun fare, with a strong score supported by a fine screenplay. The story is loosely based on the life of the real Annie Oakley, who did, in fact, marry Frank Butler. The two reportedly remained in love throughout their marriage, to the point that Butler refused to eat when she died at the age of 66 and passed away eighteen days later.