US, 1981, 128 minutes, Colour.
Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Geoffrey Holder, Edward Herrmann.
Directed by John Huston.
Annie was a very popular Broadway musical and throughout the world. The music was written by Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie, Golden Boy, Applause) and featured the popular song "Tomorrow". The story came from the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, a hopeful character from Depression times.
The film, directed by John Huston (Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Man Who Would Be King, etc) is a lavish Ray Stark production. While it is delightfully enjoyable, it also seems very top-heavy. Aileen Quinn (a rough-edged Shirley Temple) is excellent as Annie and is able to hold the screen even against Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks. Ann Reinking (from All That Jazz) is an excellent lanky singer-dancer. Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters are villain and villainess. Edward Herrmann (who had portrayed Roosevelt in Franklin and Eleanor on television) has a guest role as the President and offers the song "Tomorrow" as the symbol of the New Deal. But Carol Burnett makes every attempt to steal the film with her caricature ferocious Miss Hannigan, who is in charge of the Hudson Street Home for Girls. It is a strong performance, perhaps too strong for the film.
Nothing has been spared for sets, choreography and dance routine editing. The film, with its orphans, is reminiscent of Oliver. The songs include "Tomorrow", "Sandy", "It's the Hard Knock Life", "Maybe", "Dumb Dog", "I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here", "Little Girls", 'We Got Annie", "Let's Go To The Movies", "Sign", "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile", "Easy Street", "Finale: I Don't Need Anything But You".
1. The popularity of the Broadway musical? The tradition of the comic strip? The adaptation of comic strip and musical to lavish film? The incorporation of ingredients from the '30s, the '70s to the '80s?
2. The film in the big-budgeted musical tradition: a piece of Americana, characters and stereotypes, social issues dressed up in song and dance, choreography, music, lyrics? Stars, big budget? How well do all these ingredients combine? Most critics said 'top heavy and out of proportion', how true is this?
3. The comic strip background and simplicities transferred to colour Panavision? What has been gained? What lost? The '80s look at '30s situations and relevant to world recession of the early '80s?Poverty, oppression, dreams, business? Roosevelt and the New Deal? The lyrics and hope of "Tomorrow"?
4. The songs and their staging: the songs with the orphans in the home, Miss Hannigan's songs, the Warbucks household and "We Got Annie", Radio City Music Hall and "Let's Go To The Movies", Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters with their sinister songs, Roosevelt, Annie and "Tomorrow", the soliloquies by Carol Burnett, the finale with the tap-dancing singing of Daddy Warbucks and Annie with the enormous circus party in the background?
5. Audience presuppositions about orphans and orphanages in the '30s? Annie as the latter-day Oliver? Their plight, hard work, being forced to slave in the middle of the night, not enough food etc.? Their having to say "We love you" to Miss Hannibal? Rebellion? The laundry, Annie and her niceness to the other girls? Escape attempts and being returned by the police to the orphanage? Miss Hannibal and her drinking, rules, punishment? The cuteness of the girls? The elaborate song and dance routines of the "Hard- Knock Life"? Annie's escape, the exhilaration of her walking through New York and the lavish detail of the street scenes? Helping the little dog and making Sandy a friend? Her punching the boys? The policeman taking her back? The creation of the atmosphere of the film?
6. Aileen Quinn's vigour and style as Annie? Screen presence? Red hair and freckles? Pluck? Niceness to the other girls, her escape, her quest for her parents, her locket? Friendship with Sandy? The punishment? The arrival of Grace and her taking advantage of the situation to get out of the orphanage? Her arrival at the War bucks mansion and her reactions? Wow and Leaping Lizards? The songs and choreography for Annie's establishment in the mansion ? meals, her room, bed? Her friendship with Grace? The lessons - even to martial arts and her kicking Daddy War bucks? The staff liking her? The meeting with Warbucks and his reserve, not wanting a girl, etc.? Her winning him over, Sandy saving his life? The "Let's Go To The Movies" with its irony ? Camille (several years before it was made) screening at Radio City Music Hall? The song and dance routines ? Annie asleep, Daddy Warbucks puzzled, Grace crying at Garbo and Robert Taylor emoting? The importance of the household keeping Annie : 'We Got Annie"? Annie and her search for her parents. the locket? Daddy Warbucks searching for the parents? The humour of the radio show and his appeal to the parents? The visit to Roosevelt and Annie's singing "Tomorrow"? Rooster and Lily coming to get her? The collusion with Miss Hannigan? Her escape by saying that she "got to go"? The chase over the bridge, Rooster and his attempts to get her? Punjab and the happy ending? A musical comedy character ? symbolising innocence and energy American style?
7. Miss Hannigan and her drinking, slatternly style, flirting with the laundry man and later with Warbucks, her clothes, undressing. the bath and the gin? Rooster as her brother and her being like him? Her disdain of Lily and Lily's stealing from her? The interview with Grace and her reluctance to let Annie go? Her resenting Annie's success? Rooster's disguise and her not recognising it? His plan? The singing? Her part in Annie's abduction? Her repenting? Her arrival at the circus party? Carol Burnett's television range of crazy characters and her adapting these to Miss Hannigan?
8. Rooster and his suave smoothness as a cheap crook? Lily as dumb? Visit to Miss Hannigan, stealing, Rooster getting the money from her? The interview with Daddy Warbucks and his suspicions? Their taking Annie, the final chase? Rooster pursuing Annie on the bridge?
9. Albert Finney's style as Daddy Warbucks ? American millionaire of the '30s? The collage of his busyness ? phone calls etc.? His image improvement and wanting an orphan? The enormous mansion? The statues, sending back the Mona Lisa, etc.? His treatment of Annie as an adult? His warming to her and their scenes together, including the karate kick? Grace and her love for Warbucks. her devotion to him, an attractive secretary? The going to the movies? The gift for Annie and her not accepting it because of her own locket? His wanting to adopt Annie? The comic ineptitude of his radio broadcast? The visit to Roosevelt? The interviewing of the potential parents? His reaction to Annie's abduction? Leaping Lizards! His happiness in getting Annie back ? and the final song and dance routine? Warbucks as personifying the American dream ? his story: Liverpool. migrant. first million. etc.? The film's wry satire on self-preoccupied millionaires?
10. Grace as the attractive heroine, interview with Miss Hannigan, song and dance routines., devotion? The characters on the staff: Punjab and his magic and devotion, the chauffeur. the servants?
11. Roosevelt and his linage and the film capitalising on this? The New Deal and optimism? "Tomorrow"? Eleanor Roosevelt's presence? Their coming in at the end?
12. Themes of affluence and dreams, hopes. encouragement in Depression?