The "Oliver!" Online Souvenir Book
~ Principal Crew Profiles ~
Many years ago, with his brother James, producer John Woolf began their own company, Romulus Films, with a hit, "Pandora and the flying Dutchman." It is a token of his progress. as well as of the untold changes that have come about on the world scene, That whereas "Pandora" is a British film, "Oliver!" is profoundly international, for without adding the highly developed talents of Hollywood and Broadway to those of his native England, no enterprise so ambitious could have ever come to fruition. "Oliver!" is far from being Woolf's first international effort. Besides the vastly successful "Moulin Rough" and "The African Queen," high on the company's credit list are "Room at the Top" as well as its sequel, "Life at the Top" - and "The L Shaped Room." But never before "Oliver!" had the British film industry ever attempted an undertaking so formidable in size, scope, and cost. John Woolf's other production credits following "Oliver!" included: "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) and "The Odessa File" (1974) among many others.
Distinctions have been showered on Carol Reed for many years, among them a Knighthood he received in 1952, but it was typical of Reed's innate modesty that although he was the only director (at the time) to have been so honoured, he never permitted his billing to carry the widely-coveted "Sir." But to filmgoers, the on-screen legend, "Directed by Carol Reed" has carried sufficient meaning. It is associated with a long list of memorable films. Reed's career has fallen naturally into three parts; each has added to his eminence. Before the war, he was famous for "Night Train," "The Stars Look Down" and "The Young Mr.Pitt." During the war, heading the British Army's film unit, he made the historic documentaries "The True Glory" and "The Way Ahead." After the conflict, he directed a series of suspense masterpieces, among them "Odd Man Out," "The Fallen Idol" and "The Third Man." In "The Fallen Idol" and other films he had demonstrated an unusual sensitiveness in the handling of child actors, Reed was thus, for many reasons, the one director whose past achievements seemed to point directly to "Oliver!" Post "Oliver!" Carol Reed directed "The Last Warrior" (1970) and "Follow Me!" (1972) these being his last works.
The four Oscars John Green has won as music director of such motion pictures as "West Side Story," "Easter Parade" and "An American in Paris" don't begin to tell the story of his far-ranging talent. A graduate of Harvard (in economics) he became attracted to song writing, and created perennial marvels like "Body and Soul," "I cover the Waterfront," "Out of Nowhere" and "Coquette." In the era of big dance bands, he led his own, soloing at the piano. He orchestrated the early Marx Brothers and Maurice Chevalier films, then moved on into broadcasting as music chief for CBS. After working on Broadway with close friend Richard Rodgers and in London with Jack Buchanan, Green became head of MGM's music department, in the glamorous heyday of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and Mario Lanza. Popular music is only one of his spheres of triumphs, Green has guest-conducted the United States leading symphony orchestra, and had long been commentator-conductor of symphonies for Youth of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has conducted for 20 seasons at the Hollywood Bowl. For 18 years, he directed the Academy Awards orchestra on "Oscar" night. A little known fact? John Green's daughter, Kathe, provided the singing voice of Mark Lester as Oliver. John's last movie as musical director was, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969) staring Jane Fonda.
In a realm where men were once predominate, Onna White, responsible for the choreography and staging of the musical sequences for "Oliver!", had carved out a place for herself so big that you just can't call it a "niche." Among her successes have been The Broadway and film hit "Bye Bye Bride." In "Bride" she collaborated with music director John Green, so their work together on "Oliver!" was by way of being a reunion. "Oliver!" presented Onna with a challenge of genuine magnitude. Not only did she "open up" the stage original to a new world of movement and dance, but her corps de ballet for some sequences had to consist of children - an innovation few choreographers have ever had to face. Disciplining 70 youngsters to sing, dance and march "Food Glorious Food" was a large order; producing, among the 15 boys of Fagin's gang, an air of seemingly effortless grace as they dance off to work to the tune of "Be Back Soon" was a true unforgettable achievement. Onna went on to choreograph; "The Great Waltz" (1972) and "Mame" (1974) starring the legendary Lucille Ball.
Nowhere is the lavishness with which "Oliver!" was made more in evidence than in its distinctive "look' ...the visual compact of a mighty contrast, between the lusty, fleshy colour tones of 19th century London's opulent society, and the more subdued hues in the life of its "workhouse poor." Re-creating this world of another day was entrusted by the producers to John Box, who had done no less in designing "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago," for both of which he received Academy Awards, not to mention "A Man for All Seasons," also a multiple-prize-winner. In each case - and now in "Oliver!" - he worked with only one aim: to realize in emotional terms the intent of writers, actors, film-makers. A trained Architect, Box builds his film "worlds" on the firmest of foundations, so that the "Oliver!" structures were designed not only to be spectacular and properly atmospheric, but to accommodate in safety and with ease the mass movement of the hundreds of performers who peopled them. They turned out to be the largest sets ever constructed in England at that time. Further projects included David Leans 1984 production of "A Passage to India" among others.
"Oliver!" is cinematographer Ossie Morris' 40th film, a fact that in itself would not necessarily mean too much besides experience, if among the 40 there were not such subtle triumphs of colour photography as in John Huston's "Moulin Rough" (which won an Oscar nomination) and the more recent "The Taming of the Shrew," starring the Burtons. He liked to work in black & white from time to time, and his shooting of "The Hill" won Morris a British Academy Award. Morris has a personal link of continuity with "Oliver Twist". He operated the camera for the straight dramatic film many years ago, in fact 10 years before Lionel Bart set it to music. His latter projects included Norman Jewison's "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971) as director of photography.
"Oliver!" Much much more than a musical!