|"Everything's Up To Date in Kansas City", Part II
|This poignant scene
the hero-worship sub-plot
that is carried
throughout the film.
Will heads for his horse
for a friendly nuzzle
while Liz wistfully
longs to touch, but doesn't,
her oblivious hero . . .
|. . . and in frustration,
gives the poor horse
one of her patented
for getting all of Will's attention.
(It is rumored that the horse
went blind soon after.)
|Professionalism at its best - a minor accident taken in stride
|This scene is from the Cinemascope version
and shows how it was supposed to work -
Will breaks through the box with both feet -
and keeps his equilibrium,
while Liz passively watches in astonishment.
|This shot is from the blurry
which required a complete re-shoot
of almost every scene.
Here, only one of Will's feet breaks through
and he nearly tumbles. Liz's quick reflex
catches him and both finish the scene
as if it was supposed to happen that way.
Zinneman wisely ran with it.
|Lucky Will gets an armful
If you watch this scene
in slow-motion, you'll catch Liz's
flawless sense of timing.
Without missing a beat
she goes from dancing
in the background
to a dash for Will's
and meets her partner
in perfect coordination.
Note also her
"By God, this is GREAT!"
a trademark she exhibits
in every routine.
|Another slo-mo moment.
Just before Liz jumps,
she hops up and down like an
excited little girl . . .
. . . and follows it up with a
into this cowboy's arms.
(I'd give body parts
to have been in this guy's shoes.)
Is she really that excited and
(it's the same in both versions)
or is it just damned good acting?
Another hint of Liz's professionalism. The two girls usually mirrored each others' dance steps
throughout the film, but Liz, in my opinion, added a little ad lib of her own. While Jane bolts
for the railcar, Liz pauses and does a little toe-heel-toe flourish before boarding herself.
Little seldom-noticed nuggets like these make watching the dance routines in slo-mo or
freeze-frame a delight.
UPDATE: 04-08-08: I asked Liz about this little flourish and she said that Agnes de Mille was
such a perfectionist that she left NOTHING to chance. Every dance routine was was
choreographed down to the last step. So, not only here, but in that cute opening "Ragtime"
scene where Liz did a tentative little first step, everything was carefully staged.
"Wait for it, WAIT FOR IT!" the old drill sergeant used to bark at his recruits as they leaned
forward in anticipation of the "Forward March" command. No need for that discipline here.
After Will hoists both girls aboard, they pause in perfect unison until he's in position and then
resume their dancing. The timing exhibited in these routines is a marvel to behold -- but only
slo-mo catches them. One writer said, "Timing is instinctive, but its refinement is a matter of
concentrated application; God is in the details." These girls surely defined that dictum.
UPDATE 03-21-08: A cute anecdote from Liz about this routine. Years later, when her son
was four years old, the movie ran on TV. "Come here, son, your mommy is on TV." said
her husband. The kid came in and intently watched the entire routine. "Well, what do you
think?" asks dad. The kid thought a moment and then asked, "Where did they get the
train?" (Where is a Smiley when you need one?)
UPDATE 07-05-08: I asked Liz about this routine and she said Zinneman told her to "look
scared - you ARE jumping off a moving train." She thought it was a lot of fun and had to
put on an act, as she had complete confidence in "Maurice" (not mentioned in IMDb's
usually definitive page on "Oklahoma!"). She said that he would have put himself under the
train before he'd let anything happen to her.
This movie was her first experience with Hollywood and the unions. The timing had to be
set up just right for the take because of the trains movement and the engineer had to get it
down pat. Liz and Jane thought nothing about the jump until the shop steward yelled
"Hold it! We have to make an 'adjustment' ". After a short palaver with the big boys, he
came back and said, "You get an extra $250 for jumping off the train." Jane, who had been
in Hollywood a while said, "Cool, I forgot about 'adjustments' ".
The pair did that scene seven times, racking up $250 with each jump. Liz said she was
happy with that as she didn't know where her next job would come from and had a 1951
Ford to pay off .
For railfans, data on the engine is HERE. For a detailed look at the sites of the "Kansas
City" routine, as well as further info on the railroad, click HERE.