is a 1968 musical film
directed by Carol Reed
. The film is based on the stage musical Oliver!
, with book, music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart
. The screenplay was written by Vernon Harris.
Both the film and play are based on the famous Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. The musical includes several musical standards, including "Food Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long as He Needs Me", "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two", "Oom-Pah-Pah" and "Where is Love?".
The film version was a Romulus Films production and was distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures. Filmed in studio in London, Oliver! won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
The film used a mixture of young unknowns and 'big names': Ron Moody (Fagin), Oliver Reed (Bill Sikes), Harry Secombe (Mr Bumble), Mark Lester (Oliver), Jack Wild (Dodger), Shani Wallis (Nancy) and Joseph O'Conor as Mr. Brownlow. Ron Moody recreated his London stage performance, after both Peter Sellers and Peter O'Toole reportedly turned down the role. Moody was the only member of the original cast to reprise his stage role in the film.
The screenplay was adapted from both Lionel Bart's play and Dickens's novel by Vernon Harris, and directed by Sir Carol Reed, who was also Oliver Reed's uncle. A few of the songs from the stage production were not used in the movie, although they often make appearances in the incidental music. For example, the music of Sikes' song "My Name" can be heard when the character first appears, and several other times whenever he is about to commit some nefarious deed.
The film also included extended choreography sequences not found in the original show, and some additional dialogue scenes which expanded the role of Bill Sikes, who, in the stage version, did not even make his entrance until the second act. The songs that Sikes sang in the stage version were omitted.
Shooting at Shepperton Film Studios, England, began on June 23, 1967.
Differences between stage and film version
The film changed some aspects of the musical's plotline.
- Oliver's trial and exoneration after being arrested for stealing Brownlow's wallet were shown, with Nancy secretly attending it. (In the play, Nancy does not attend Oliver's trial, which takes place offstage - presumably between Acts I and II.) Nearly all of the dialogue in this sequence was taken directly from Dickens's novel. The magistrate Mr. Fang, who does not appear in the stage musical, was added to the film, identified simply as "The Magistrate" , and portrayed by Hugh Griffith in a cameo appearance. The magistrate, rather than being depicted viciously, as in Dickens's novel, was played with a humorous touch as a harsh but incompetent drunkard who is so hungover that he is scarcely aware of the goings-on inside the courtroom.
- Sikes was introduced into the story much earlier, and Oliver, rather than being unconscious while Sikes kills Nancy, is a helpless and terrified witness to her murder (which, in the film, was made unusually dramatic for what was supposed to be a family musical).
- The film contains a scene in which Sikes forces Oliver to help him burgle a house. The scene, not found in the original stage version, is basically taken from a similar episode in the Dickens novel; however, the outcome is slightly different.
- The song "Oom Pah Pah" was moved to a late spot in the second half of the film, rather than being placed at the beginning of the second half. It is sung by Nancy at the tavern in order to divert Bill Sikes's attention and get the tavern crowd dancing, so that she can use it as camouflage to sneak Oliver to London Bridge and back to Mr. Brownlow. The ruse, of course, fails - Bill's bull terrier, who had been guarding Oliver, begins to bark and alerts him. Bill secretly follows them and surprises them at the bridge.
- Sikes's final attempt to escape does not take place at London Bridge as in the stage version, but on the rooftops of London, as the crowd below watches while Sikes forces Oliver to balance himself on a dangerously thin wooden hoist and loop a rope around it so that he (Sikes) can swing from one rooftop to another. The idea of Sikes taking Oliver as a hostage over the rooftop was taken, not from Dickens's novel, but from David Lean's 1948 film version of Oliver Twist, although in the Lean film, Oliver tied the rope to a chimney, instead of looping it over a hoist. Lean was, according to one of his biographers, deeply hurt that a fellow director whom he regarded highly (Carol Reed) would borrow a significant plot development from him without acknowledging it in the film's credits (the credits for Oliver! merely say Screenplay by Vernon Harris freely adapted from Charles Dickens's "Oliver Twist"). In the Lean film, Sikes is wounded, and the pain causes him to lose his grip and accidentally hang himself; in Oliver!, when Sikes is shot, the rope is around his waist rather than his neck; the shot itself kills him, so he does not hang himself.
- The so-called "fourth wall" finale, in which all the characters sang a medley of three of the songs, was completely eliminated so as to not destroy the impact of the final scenes, although Fagin and the Artful Dodger are last seen humorously reprising "Reviewing the Situation" (with additional lyrics written for the film), and dancing off happily to continue their life of crime. The closing credits are seen against a replay of part of the "Consider Yourself" sequence, in which we see the chorus singing and dancing.
- Although Sikes clubs Nancy to death, as in the original London and Broadway productions of the show, he kills her offscreen. In the stage production, because of the set design, the actors are always in full view of the audience, so the beating had to be staged in a highly artificial way (with no blood). Later productions have changed it so that she is strangled, making the scene more realistic.
- The film adds a poignant moment at London Bridge, in which Oliver and Nancy share a farewell embrace just before Bill Sikes jumps out from hiding and tries to forcibly grab him. This is now retained in some stage productions of the musical.
received extremely favourable reviews. It was hailed by Pauline Kael
in her The New Yorker
review as being one of the few film versions of a stage musical that was superior to the original show, which she, according to her own review of the film, had walked out on.
The words and music were written by Lionel Bart, and were supervised, arranged and conducted by John Green.
The pre-credits Overture as heard on the actual soundtrack of the film is not included on the soundtrack album. Instead, an abbreviated version of the Main Title is labeled "Overture". For the convenience of the original LP, the order of some of the songs was shuffled, but this was not corrected on the CD issue; instead, the film soundtrack CD is an exact duplicate of the LP - nothing on the CD has been expanded to its full-length, as on other CD soundtrack albums. The movie's soundtrack was originally issued in the US on Colgems Records; it was later reissued on compact disc on the RCA Records label.
The film garnered 11 Academy Award
nominations and won 5:
It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Ron Moody), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Wild), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
A special Academy Award was awarded to Onna White for her elaborate choreography.
Oliver! was the first and only G-rated film to be honoured with an Academy Award for Best Picture (the following year saw the first and only X-rated film to win a Best Picture Oscar: Midnight Cowboy, which was re-rated R two years later). Oliver! was also the last musical to win the Best Picture Oscar until Chicago 34 years later.