Oliver! (1968)

153 mins | Melodrama | 11 December 1968

Director:

Carol Reed

Writer:

Vernon Harris

Producer:

John Woolf

Cinematographer:

Oswald Morris

Editor:

Ralph Kemplen

Production Designer:

John Box
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HISTORY

Oliver!, Lionel Bart’s musical based on Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist, premiered in London, England, on 30 Jun 1960. By Nov 1965, the show had become London’s longest-running musical, according to the 24 Nov 1965 Var. The Broadway version debuted at the Imperial Theatre on 6 Jan 1963, and was an instant success, already profitable by opening night, as noted in a 27 Feb 1963 Var article. The following year, an 18 Jun 1964 DV item stated that Columbia Pictures was interested in producing a film adaptation starring Peter Sellers as “Fagin,” but film rights were subject to pending litigation. An article in the 5 Jul 1964 NYT stated that, while Columbia and Sellers’s Brookfield Productions were negotiating with Donald Albery, whose Donmar Productions was behind the stage production, British producers John and James Woolf’s Romulus Films, Ltd. had made a second offer. Albery claimed his deal with Columbia included a clause that allowed him ten days to consider better offers. However, Peter Sellers and his producing partner, John Bryan, argued that Romulus did not have the financing or distribution arrangements to honor its bid. Furthermore, Sellers and Lionel Bart threatened to abandon the project if Romulus won rights.
       A 27 Oct 1964 DV news brief indicated that Romulus had officially acquired the rights, and announced that Bryan Forbes would direct. Partial funding was expected to come from the Eady Levy, a tax on British box-office sales that supported local filmmaking. The 28 Nov 1964 LAT noted Bart’s continued involvement, despite earlier reports that he would not work with Romulus. Bart ... More Less

Oliver!, Lionel Bart’s musical based on Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist, premiered in London, England, on 30 Jun 1960. By Nov 1965, the show had become London’s longest-running musical, according to the 24 Nov 1965 Var. The Broadway version debuted at the Imperial Theatre on 6 Jan 1963, and was an instant success, already profitable by opening night, as noted in a 27 Feb 1963 Var article. The following year, an 18 Jun 1964 DV item stated that Columbia Pictures was interested in producing a film adaptation starring Peter Sellers as “Fagin,” but film rights were subject to pending litigation. An article in the 5 Jul 1964 NYT stated that, while Columbia and Sellers’s Brookfield Productions were negotiating with Donald Albery, whose Donmar Productions was behind the stage production, British producers John and James Woolf’s Romulus Films, Ltd. had made a second offer. Albery claimed his deal with Columbia included a clause that allowed him ten days to consider better offers. However, Peter Sellers and his producing partner, John Bryan, argued that Romulus did not have the financing or distribution arrangements to honor its bid. Furthermore, Sellers and Lionel Bart threatened to abandon the project if Romulus won rights.
       A 27 Oct 1964 DV news brief indicated that Romulus had officially acquired the rights, and announced that Bryan Forbes would direct. Partial funding was expected to come from the Eady Levy, a tax on British box-office sales that supported local filmmaking. The 28 Nov 1964 LAT noted Bart’s continued involvement, despite earlier reports that he would not work with Romulus. Bart still hoped that Sellers would play Fagin, and that Barbra Streisand and Anne Bancroft would be considered for the role of “Nancy.” On 21 Jul 1965, Var announced that Romulus and Columbia would make the film together. No mention was made of Bryan Forbes or Sellers. In May 1966, producer James Woolf traveled to Los Angeles, CA, where he planned to discuss the project with British director Lewis Gilbert. However, prior to the meeting, the forty-six-year-old Woolf died of a heart attack in his room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, as reported in the 31 May 1966 NYT. In his absence, Woolf’s brother and partner, John, who typically involved himself more in Romulus’s television interests, took over the company’s film slate, according to the 25 Jan 1967 Var.
       Sir Carol Reed, who had previously vied with Romulus over film rights, was named director in the 19 Jan 1967 DV, which listed Shani Wallis in the role of Nancy. Wallis had reportedly caught the attention of Columbia chief Mike Frankovich in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS, 20 Jun 1948--6 Jun 1971). Nine-year-old Mark Lester, cast as “Oliver,” was chosen from over 2,000 applicants, according to a 6 Jan 1969 LAT brief.
       The picture, said to be “the most costly and ambitious musical made in Britain” to that time, was budgeted at $5 million, as stated in the 25 Jan 1967 Var. Production costs ultimately doubled, according to the 30 Sep 1968 DV review, which stated the final film cost $10 million.
       Romulus’s contract with Donmar stipulated that principal photography would not commence until eighteen months after the musical’s London run had ceased, “to permit extensive provincial tours” prior to theatrical release. Production charts in the 7 Jul and 8 Dec 1967 DV stated that filming began on 26 Jun 1967. A six-month shoot was scheduled to take place at Shepperton Studios, where a music recording theater was outfitted with reversible projectors and “three-track playoff heads feeding nine mixers” per the requests of John Green, a “Hollywood composer, conductor, orchestrator and musical director” recruited by Columbia to take over “musical chore[s],” according to the 9 Oct 1968 Var item. Green detailed all of his needs in a fifteen-page document titled “How to Organize a Musical Department for the Making of a Top Musical Feature.”
       Oliver! was set to be a “roadshow” release, with special reserved-seat engagements in a limited number of cities prior to general release, as noted in the 19 May 1967 DV. The picture, filmed in 35mm Panavision, was blown up to 70mm Panavision for roadshow presentations. The running time was cited in the DV review as 146 minutes, plus an overture of four minutes, intermission music lasting three minutes, and two minutes of play-out music. The film premiered in London in Sep 1968, according to the 27 Sep 1968 DV, and subsequently opened in New York City on 11 Dec 1968, and in Los Angeles on 21 Dec 1968, following a 20 Dec 1968 Los Angeles premiere event, with a screening at Loews Beverly Theater and after-party at the Crystal Room in Beverly Hills, as reported in the 23 Dec 1968 DV. Party favors at the Los Angeles premiere included Oliver! themed ashtrays, perfume, albums, and “centerpieces duplicating ‘Fagin’s’ fabled owl.”
       The picture hewed closely to the source material of Dickens’s novel and Bart’s musical, and was a critical and commercial success. It received six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Art Direction, Directing, Music (Score of a Musical Picture –original or adaptation), Sound, and an honorary award to Onna White for her outstanding choreography achievement. Academy Award nominations also went to Ron Moody for Best Actor, Jack Wild for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Oswald Morris for Cinematography, Phyllis Dalton for Costume Design, Ralph Kemplen for Editing, and Vernon Harris for Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium). Ron Moody won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and the film received five Golden Globe nominations in the categories of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, New Star of the Year (Jack Wild), Best Original Score – Motion Picture, Best Director – Motion Picture, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Hugh Griffith). The awards boosted already high box-office sales, as noted in the 7 May 1969 Var, and Mike Frankovich was expecting the cumulative gross to exceed $40 million.
       Only Lionel Bart received above-the-title billing , according to the DV review. Opening titles included sepia drawings by artist Graham Barkley.
       Previous adaptations of Oliver Twist included films released in 1906, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1912, 1916, 1922, and 1933 (see entries), and a 1948 British production directed by David Lean and starring Alec Guinness as Fagin. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Oct 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Mar 1967
p. 23.
Daily Variety
19 May 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1967
p. 9.
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
8 Dec 1967
p. 12.
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1968
p. 3, 14.
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1969
p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
11 Nov 1964
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
28 Nov 1964
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jan 1967
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
2 Dec 1968
Section F, p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1968
Section B, p. 1, 22.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jan 1969
Section G, p. 24.
New York Times
5 Jul 1964.
---
New York Times
31 May 1966
p. 43.
New York Times
12 Dec 1968
p. 62.
Variety
27 Feb 1963
p. 61.
Variety
21 Jul 1965
p. 13.
Variety
24 Nov 1965
p. 1.
Variety
25 Jan 1967
p. 23.
Variety
9 Oct 1968
p. 29.
Variety
7 May 1969
p. 30.
Variety
11 Jun 1969
p. 25.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
1st & 2nd asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Prod by & arr in assoc with
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus supv, arr, orch, choral arr & cond
Assoc mus supv & additional orch
Mus coordinator
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd ed
Music ed
Assoc music ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
Choreog
Choreog
Choreography, see note
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Chief hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod secy
Constr mgr
Casting
Prod buyer
Title backgrounds
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Oliver , book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart (London, 30 Jun 1960), which was based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens in Bentley's Miscellany (London, Feb 1837--Apr 1839).
SONGS
"Food, Glorious Food," "Oliver!" "Boy for Sale," "Where Is Love?" "Consider Yourself," "Pick a Pocket or Two," "I'd Do Anything," "Be Back Soon," "As Long as He Needs Me," "Who Will Buy?" "It's a Fine Life," "Reviewing the Situation" and "Oom-Pah-Pah," music and lyrics by Lionel Bart.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 December 1968
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 December 1968 at Loew's State One Theatre
Los Angeles opening: 21 December 1968 at Loew's Beverly Theater
Production Date:
26 June 1967--winter 1967/1968
Copyright Claimant:
Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1968
Copyright Number:
LP36464
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision, see note
Duration(in mins):
153
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

During mealtime at a 19th-century English orphanage, 9-year-old Oliver Twist loses at a draw of straws and asks for a second helping of gruel. Shocked by the child's audacity, the workhouse proprietor, Mr. Bumble, sells him as an apprentice to Sowerberry, a miserly undertaker. Derisive remarks about his mother are made by Sowerberry's assistant, Noah Claypole, and Oliver runs away to London to make his fortune. There he meets the Artful Dodger, a slightly older boy who offers him friendship and lodging. Arriving at a dilapidated, abandoned building, Oliver is introduced to Fagin, a crafty old thief who trains homeless boys to be pickpockets. After demonstrating his many techniques, Fagin sends Oliver, accompanied by the Artful Dodger, out on the streets to test his newly-learned skills. Oliver is caught and arrested when the Dodger and another boy attempt to filch the wallet of wealthy and wellborn Mr. Brownlow, and the real culprits escape. At Oliver's trial, however, Mr. Brownlow is so touched by the boy's pleas of innocence that he brings him home to live at his house in Bloomsbury. Certain that Oliver will give information to the police, Bill Sikes, a villainous associate of Fagin's, orders his common-law wife, Nancy, to lure Oliver into a trap. Once the boy is retaken, however, and Nancy realizes that Sikes means to kill him, she contacts Mr. Brownlow and arranges to bring Oliver to London Bridge at midnight. But Sikes follows, seizes Oliver, and clubs Nancy to death. As Sikes desperately drags Oliver across the rooftops, his old dog leads the police and a rapidly gathering mob to Fagin's hideout. Forced to relinquish his hold on Oliver, Sikes tries to leap ... +


During mealtime at a 19th-century English orphanage, 9-year-old Oliver Twist loses at a draw of straws and asks for a second helping of gruel. Shocked by the child's audacity, the workhouse proprietor, Mr. Bumble, sells him as an apprentice to Sowerberry, a miserly undertaker. Derisive remarks about his mother are made by Sowerberry's assistant, Noah Claypole, and Oliver runs away to London to make his fortune. There he meets the Artful Dodger, a slightly older boy who offers him friendship and lodging. Arriving at a dilapidated, abandoned building, Oliver is introduced to Fagin, a crafty old thief who trains homeless boys to be pickpockets. After demonstrating his many techniques, Fagin sends Oliver, accompanied by the Artful Dodger, out on the streets to test his newly-learned skills. Oliver is caught and arrested when the Dodger and another boy attempt to filch the wallet of wealthy and wellborn Mr. Brownlow, and the real culprits escape. At Oliver's trial, however, Mr. Brownlow is so touched by the boy's pleas of innocence that he brings him home to live at his house in Bloomsbury. Certain that Oliver will give information to the police, Bill Sikes, a villainous associate of Fagin's, orders his common-law wife, Nancy, to lure Oliver into a trap. Once the boy is retaken, however, and Nancy realizes that Sikes means to kill him, she contacts Mr. Brownlow and arranges to bring Oliver to London Bridge at midnight. But Sikes follows, seizes Oliver, and clubs Nancy to death. As Sikes desperately drags Oliver across the rooftops, his old dog leads the police and a rapidly gathering mob to Fagin's hideout. Forced to relinquish his hold on Oliver, Sikes tries to leap to safety on a rope but is shot dead. With Oliver safe and sound, Mr. Brownlow--who has since learned that the little foundling is the long-lost son of his dead niece--joyously brings him back home to Bloomsbury. And Fagin, who dropped his life savings in a muddy stream while evading the police, joins with the Artful Dodger in setting off on their never-ending search for new and unpicked pockets. Musical numbers include : "Food, Glorious Food" (Oliver & Boys); "Oliver!" (Mr. Bumble, Widow Corney & Boys); "Boy for Sale" (Mr. Bumble); "Where Is Love?" (Oliver); "Consider Yourself" (Artful Dodger, Oliver & Ensemble); "Pick a Pocket or Two" (Fagin & Boys); "I'd Do Anything" (Artful Dodger, Nancy, Bet, Oliver, Fagin & Boys); "Be Back Soon" (Fagin & Boys); "As Long as He Needs Me" (Nancy); "Who Will Buy?" (Oliver & Ensemble); "It's a Fine Life" (Nancy, Bet & "The Three Cripples" Crowd); "Reviewing the Situation" (Fagin); "Oom-Pah-Pah" (Nancy & "The Three Cripples" Crowd); Finale--"Where Is Love?" "Consider Yourself" (Ensemble). +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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