Books etc. /
For children 5 and under /
For children 5 and up /
For children 8 and up /
Learning to read /
For children 12 and up /
Sophisticated readers /
Fat books (Deep books for sophisticated but young readers) /
About educators educating /
Technical Books /
Gifted Education /
Books whose protagonists are gifted, intellectually /
All book reviews /
Search our reviews
Caution: This piece includes spoilers. If you don't want to learn much about the plot of
Annie Get Your Gun, please don't read on.
About 11 years ago, desperate for a distraction for my then-4 yr. old daughter, I sat her down in front of a TV, popped a tape of Carousel into the VCR and walked away. When I stopped by to check up on her 45 minutes later, I found her facing the screen, tears streaming down her face. It was then I should have realized that musicals' pretty costumes and music often disguise powerful messages.
Years later, I found myself in the video rental store on my birthday. The plan was to eat a festive dinner and watch a video of my choosing. "Old musicals are always safe," I thought, addled by the aging process. I brought home the 1950 screen adaptation of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel.
Annie Get Your Gun tells the story of Annie Oakley, best shot in the West, in music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Much-loved songs from the show include Doin' What Comes Natur'lly, The Girl That I Marry, I Got The Sun In The Morning, Anything You Can Do, and There's No Business Like Show Business.
Annie Oakley sings the theme of musical loud and clear in the brilliant lyrics of You Can't Get A Man With A Gun, which include:
... When I'm with a pistol
While Frank Butler, the man Annie aspires to wed, sings:
The girl that I marry will have to be
Which is why, several days later, I was not thrilled to observe my usually-retiring young one scale to the top of a pile of bags of manure outside our drug store and unabashedly belt out multiple choruses of There's no business like show business to the amazed and delighted stares of our fellow-patrons. "That's alright," I told myself, "these people have no idea that this song, which has no doubt delighted millions, is from a reactionary musical that delivers a negative message about the need for girls to scale back their ambitions and hide their talents in order to succeed in the world."
My feelings of failure as a parent worsened when my young daughter became infatuated with a CD of the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun starring Bernadette Peters. Not only is the message of the show in this very recent production unimproved -- and how could it be, it's deeply embedded in the book? -- but the performance by Peters is a real disappointment. Her hillybilly accent goes in and out and is embarrassingly influenced by Brooklynese.
Thank goodness my daughter was most interested in the funny competition song, Anything You Can Do, which Annie (at a point in the story where she is still mercifully unaware that a woman's place is second to the man's) sings with her rival/intended, Frank Butler:
Anything you can do,
A man's love is mighty
Anyone who rode in our car listened to this song over and over again until our local librarians finally compelled us to return the CD.
We're now on to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and Weird Al Yankovic. The music and lyrics aren't as fantastic, but at least the messages are slightly more positive, for girls at least.
The lessons I hope I've learned from this experience are:
--EmilyIf you're going to watch Annie Get Your Gun, get the DVD or VHS video of the 1950 movie. The CD of Bernadette Peter's performance is certainly interesting, but the Ethel Merman version's the one I recommend.