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Oliver!
Oliver! (1968 movie poster).jpg
British theatrical release poster
Directed by Carol Reed
Produced by John Woolf
Screenplay by Vernon Harris
Starring Ron Moody
Oliver Reed
Harry Secombe
Shani Wallis
Mark Lester
Jack Wild
Music by Lionel Bart (music and lyrics)
John Green (music score)
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Editing by Ralph Kemplen
Studio Romulus Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) 26 September 1968 (1968-09-26)
Running time 153 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $10 million
Money made $77.4 million

Oliver! is a 1968 British musical drama film directed by Carol Reed, written by Vernon Harris, and based on the 1960 stage musical of the same name. Both the film and play are based on Charles Dickens's 1838 novel Oliver Twist. The film includes such musical numbers as "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long as He Needs Me", "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two", and "Where Is Love?". Filmed at Shepperton Film Studio in Surrey, it was a Romulus Films production and was distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures.

At the 41st Academy Awards for 1968, Oliver! was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture, Best Director for Reed, and an Honorary Award for choreographer Onna White. At the 26th Golden Globe Awards, the film won two Golden Globes: for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for Ron Moody.

The British Film Institute ranked Oliver! the 77th greatest British film of the 20th century. In 2017, a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 69th best British film ever.

Synopsis

Act 1

At a workhouse in Dunstable, England, the governors hold a sumptuous banquet while the orphans are served their daily gruel and dream of enjoying ("Food, Glorious Food"). Forced by some of the other boys, who draw lots, where the tangled one falls on Oliver, Oliver approaches Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, and asks for more to eat. Enraged, Bumble takes Oliver to the governors for punishment ("Oliver!"). Paraded in the street to be sold to the highest bidder ("Boy for Sale"), Oliver is purchased by an undertaker. When his apprentice insults Oliver's dead mother, Oliver attacks him and is thrown by the undertakers into a coffin, until Mr. Bumble arrives to explain to them that Oliver should have been fed gruel instead of meat. Mr. Bumble grabs Oliver out of the casket and throws him into the cellar. Alone in the dark, surrounded by empty coffins, Oliver wonders ("Where Is Love?") before escaping through a window grate.

After a week on the road, Oliver reaches London. He meets the Artful Dodger, who takes him under his wing ("Consider Yourself"). Dodger brings Oliver to a hideout for young pickpockets led by Fagin, who instructs the gang in the art of stealing, declaring that ("You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two") to get by. Fagin later meets with Bill Sikes, a burglar. Sikes's girlfriend, Nancy, ponders her life ("It's a Fine Life"). When Fagin returns to his den, he opens up a secret wall where the box of valuables are kept, talking to an owl, until Oliver wakes up, startling Fagin, who falsely explains to Oliver that his treasures were for his old age.

In the morning, Nancy and her friend Bet arrive at the hideout to collect Sikes's money. The boys mock Oliver for his manners, which Nancy finds charming. Dodger attempts to be just as gentlemanly ("I'd Do Anything"). Fagin sends the boys out for the day, entrusting Oliver to Dodger ("Be Back Soon"). Dodger steals a wallet from Mr. Brownlow, but Oliver is apprehended instead. Fearing Oliver will lead the police to the gang, Fagin and Sikes send Nancy to court. Oliver is too terrified to speak, but before the verdict is finalized, a witness named Mr. Jessop, the owner of the bookseller, arrives and proclaims Oliver's innocence. Brownlow takes Oliver in, while Sikes and Fagin send Dodger to follow them, to Nancy's displeasure.

Act 2

Oliver wakes up in Mr. Brownlow's house, and happily watches from his balcony the merchants and inhabitants of Bloomsbury Square singing about this particular morning being so beautiful ("Who Will Buy"). Meanwhile, Fagin and Bill decide to abduct Oliver and bring him back to the den with Nancy's help. Nancy, who has come to care for Oliver, at first refuses to help, but Bill physically abuses her, forcing her into obedience. In spite of this, Nancy still loves Bill, and believes he loves her too ("As Long as He Needs Me").

The next morning at Mr. Brownlow's house in Bloomsbury, Mr. Brownlow sends Oliver to return some books, with a five-pound note, to the booksellers. Before he departs, Oliver notices a portrait painting of a beautiful young lady. Mr Brownlow notes Oliver's similar looks to the lady, his niece who disappeared years ago. He begins to suspect he may be Oliver's great-uncle.

As Oliver stops to enjoy a puppet show with other children, Nancy and Bill appear and grab Oliver. They bring him back to Fagin's den where Sikes quarrels and demands from Fagin to have the five-pound note for all of the trouble he went through to kidnap Oliver, while Fagin keeps the books. After Oliver slaps Sikes, Sikes is about to hit him with a belt, until Nancy saves Oliver from a beating from Sikes after the boy tries to flee. Nancy remorsefully reviews their life, but Bill maintains that any living is better than none. Fagin tries to act as an intermediary, suggesting to Sikes to calmly sit and talk things out, however Sikes takes Fagin by the scruff of his neck, warning him that if anyone led the authorities to their hideout, Sikes would kill Fagin. At this instant, Fagin declares Sikes to be a violent man. Left alone, Fagin wonders what his life might be like if he became an honest man ("Reviewing the Situation"); however, after thinking of various excuses, he elects to remain a thief.

Bumble and Corney pay a visit to Brownlow after he begins searching for Oliver's origin. They present a locket belonging to Oliver's mother, who arrived at the workhouse penniless and died during childbirth. Brownlow recognizes the locket as his niece's and throws the two out, enraged that they chose to keep the trinket and information to themselves until they could collect a reward for it. Meanwhile, in an attempt to introduce Oliver to a life of crime, Sikes forces Oliver to take part in a house robbery. The robbery fails when Oliver accidentally awakens the occupants, but he and Sikes get away. While Sikes and Oliver are gone, Nancy, fearful for Oliver's life, goes to Brownlow, confessing her part in Oliver's kidnapping. However, she refuses to state the name of Fagin or Bill Sikes for her own protection. She promises to return him to Brownlow at midnight at London Bridge. She then goes to the tavern. When Sikes and Oliver appear, Sikes orders his dog Bullseye to guard the boy. Nancy starts up a lively drinking song ("Oom-Pah-Pah"), hoping that the noise will distract Sikes. Bullseye, however, alerts Sikes, who gives chase.

As Oliver and Nancy share a farewell embrace at London Bridge, Sikes catches up and grabs both of them and throws Oliver aside. Nancy then tries to pull Sikes away, angering him. He then drags her behind the staircase of London Bridge and bludgeons her to death. He then takes off with Oliver, but Bullseye returns to the scene of Nancy's murder and alerts the police. The dog leads Brownlow and an angry mob to Fagin's hideout. Sikes arrives at Fagin's den and demands money, revealing that he killed Nancy. Upon seeing the approaching mob, Fagin and the boys flee. Sikes runs off with Oliver, using him as a hostage. During the evacuation, Fagin loses his prized possessions, which sink into mud. Sikes attempts to flee to an adjacent roof but is shot dead in the process by the police. Fagin makes up his mind to change his ways for good. Just as he is about to walk away a reformed character, Dodger appears with a wallet he stole earlier. They dance off into the sunrise together, happily determined to live out the rest of their days as thieves while Oliver returns to his Mr. Brownlow's home for good.

Cast

  • Ron Moody as Fagin
  • Shani Wallis as Nancy
  • Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes
  • Harry Secombe as Bumble
  • Mark Lester as Oliver (singing voice Kathe Green)
  • Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger
  • Hugh Griffith as Magistrate
  • Joseph O'Conor as Mr. Brownlow
  • Peggy Mount as Mrs. Bumble
  • Leonard Rossiter as Sowerberry
  • Hylda Baker as Mrs. Sowerberry
  • Kenneth Cranham as Noah Claypole
  • Megs Jenkins as Mrs. Bedwin
  • Sheila White as Bet
  • James Hayter as Mr. Jessop

Musical numbers

  • 1 "Overture"
  • 2 "Main Title"
  • 3 "Food, Glorious Food"/"Oliver!" – Orphans/Mr. Bumble/Widow Corney
  • 4 "Oliver, Oliver!" – Mr. Bumble/Orphans
  • 5 "Boy for Sale" – Mr. Bumble
  • 6 "Where Is Love?" – Oliver
  • 7 "Consider Yourself" – Dodger/City of London
  • 8 "Pick a Pocket or Two" – Fagin/Pickpockets
  • 9 "It's a Fine Life" – Nancy/The Crippled Crowd
  • 10 "I'd Do Anything" – Dodger/Pickpockets
  • 11 "Be Back Soon" – Fagin/Pickpockets
  • 12 "Entr'acte"
  • 13 "Who Will Buy?" – City of London/Oliver
  • 14 "As Long as He Needs Me" – Nancy
  • 15 "Reviewing the Situation" – Fagin
  • 16 "Oom-Pah-Pah" – Nancy/The Three Cripples Crowd
  • 17 "Reviewing the Situation" (reprise) – Fagin/Dodger
  • 18 "Finale" ("Where Is Love?"/"Consider Yourself") – Ensemble

Preservation

The Academy Film Archive preserved Oliver! in 1998.

Awards and nominations

Oliver!, along with Columbia Pictures' other Best Picture nominee Funny Girl, secured a combined total of 19 Academy Award nominations, the most nominations for musicals from one studio in a year.

Oliver! was the last G-rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was the last movie musical to win the award, until Chicago in 2002 (there have been other musicals nominated such as Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, All That Jazz, Beauty and the Beast and Moulin Rouge!). Oliver! also had the distinction of being the last British film to win Best Picture until Chariots of Fire in 1981.

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Picture John Woolf Won
Best Director Carol Reed Won
Best Actor Ron Moody Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jack Wild Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Vernon Harris Nominated
Best Art Direction John Box, Terence Marsh, Vernon Dixon and Ken Muggleston Won
Best Cinematography Oswald Morris Nominated
Best Costume Design Phyllis Dalton Nominated
Best Film Editing Ralph Kemplen Nominated
Best Score of a Musical Picture – Original or Adaptation Johnny Green Won
Best Sound Buster Ambler, John Cox, Jim Groom, Bob Jones and Tony Dawe Won
Honorary Academy Award Onna White Won
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Ralph Kemplen Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Carol Reed Nominated
Best Direction Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ron Moody Nominated
Best Costume Design Phyllis Dalton Nominated
Best Editing Ralph Kemplen Nominated
Best Production Design John Box Nominated
Best Sound John Cox and Bob Jones Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Jack Wild Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Carol Reed Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Oliver! Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Ron Moody Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Hugh Griffith Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Carol Reed Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer – Male Jack Wild Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Musical Oliver! Won
Top Male New Face Mark Lester Nominated
Ron Moody Nominated
Top Female New Face Shani Wallis Nominated
Moscow International Film Festival Special Prize Carol Reed Won
Best Actor Ron Moody Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films Oliver! Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Carol Reed Nominated
Sant Jordi Awards Best Performance in a Foreign Film Ron Moody Won

Home video

Commencing in the US in 1998, Oliver! has been released worldwide on DVD by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment and its successor Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The US DVD has the film, complete with its original overture and entr'acte music, spread across two sides of a double-sided disc, separated at the intermission. Everywhere else, it was issued on a single-sided disc. Since 2013, it has been released on Blu-ray in several countries by Sony, with the US having an additional limited edition release by Twilight Time.

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