Oliver! (film)

Oliver! (film)

Theatrical release poster by Howard Terpning
Directed by Carol Reed
Produced by John Woolf
Written by Vernon Harris
Story by Charles Dickens (Novel)
Lionel Bart (Musical)
Starring Mark Lester
Ron Moody
Shani Wallis
Oliver Reed
Jack Wild
Music by Johnny Green
Eric Rogers
Onna White
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Editing by Ralph Kemplen
Studio Romulus Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) 26 September 1968 (UK) and December 11, 1968 (USA)
Running time 153 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $10 million
Box office $16,800,000

Oliver! is a 1968 British 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 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" and "Where Is Love?".

The film version was a Romulus Films production and was distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures. It was filmed in Shepperton Film Studio in Surrey.

At the 41st Academy Awards in 1969, Oliver! , which had earlier been nominated for eleven Academy Awards, won six, including Awards for Best Picture, and Best Director for Carol Reed.[1] At the 26th Golden Globe Awards the film won two Golden Globes for Best Film - Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor - Musical or Comedy for Ron Moody.[1]



Clockwise from left: Mark Lester as Oliver, Ron Moody as Fagin and Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger.

The film used mostly young unknowns: Ron Moody (Fagin), Mark Lester (Oliver), Shani Wallis (Nancy) and Jack Wild as The Artful Dodger , but also had some 'big names' (Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes, Harry Secombe as Mr Bumble, British classical stage actor Joseph O'Conor as Mr. Brownlow, and Hugh Griffith, an Oscar winner for Ben-Hur, as the Magistrate; Secombe, however, was hardly known in the United States, and Reed had just begun to make a big name for himself). Ron Moody recreated his London stage performance, after Peter Sellers, Dick Van Dyke and Peter O'Toole reportedly turned down the role. Elizabeth Taylor turned down the role of Nancy as well.

The screenplay was adapted from both Lionel Bart's play and Dickens's novel. The screenplay was written by Vernon Harris, and the film was 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 scenes which expanded the role of Bill Sikes, making him closer to the Sikes of the original Dickens novel. In the stage version, he did not even make his entrance until the second act. The songs that Sikes sang in the stage version were omitted.

The beginning section of Dickens's novel, in which Oliver is born in the workhouse, was never filmed, although there is evidence that it was supposed to have been. Still photos of this section exist in an "Oliver" novelization for children, published in 1968.

In this same Oliver! storybook, Nancy has a final moment in which, after being fatally beaten by Bill Sikes, she gasps out her dying words to Mr. Brownlow, but there is nothing to indicate that this was actually filmed, so it may have been dramatic license on the part of the authors of the storybook. However, when Brownlow runs down the steps of London Bridge toward Nancy, she is clearly still alive - her feet are seen to be moving. The film, rather than following through on this, then cuts away to a scene showing Sikes trying to kill his bull terrier for fear that the dog may lead the police to him, and when the film returns again to Brownlow, Nancy has already died.

Shooting at Shepperton Studios, England, began on 23 June 1967.[2]



Oliver! received extremely favourable reviews. It was hailed by Pauline Kael in her 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 musical numbers emerge from the story with a grace that has been rarely seen since the musicals of René Clair."[3]


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.

Mark Lester's singing voice in Oliver! (1968) was dubbed by Kathe Green, the daughter of Johnny Green, the musical director on the film. She was brought in when it was found that Lester couldn't sing, although this was not made public until 1988 during an interview with Johnny Green on the 20th anniversary of the film (he stated that Mark Lester was "tone deaf and arrhythmic"). He originally had two boys set to dub his singing but during post production it was felt that their voices did not match Mark's look, so they used Johnny's daughter instead.


1968 Academy Awards[4]

Oliver! was the only G-rated film to receive an Academy Award for Best Picture (though some pre-1968 Best Picture winners were rated G when re-released to theaters after 1968); the following year saw the 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 (PG-13) 34 years later.

1968 Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Winner)
  • Best Director - Carol Reed (Nomination)
  • Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy - Ron Moody (Winner)
  • Best Supporting Actor - Hugh Griffith (Nomination)


External links

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