The "Oliver!" Online Souvenir Book
~ From Stage to Screen ~
London theatre programme
US 1 Sheet
World premiere programme
As "Oliver!" attains the great dimensions of the cinema screen and thus achieves immortality, far more than the transfer of a long run, internationally-acclaimed stage success is involved. There is a triumph of another nature. For when Lionel Bart undertook to translate Charles Dickens' classic "Oliver Twist" into terms of modern musical theatre, he was creating a grand climax to a tradition. With "Oliver!" Dickens joins Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw as a prime source for our musical entertainment. ("West Side Story" came out of "Romeo & Juliet" as, earlier, "Kiss me Kate" had emerged from Bard's "The Taming of the Shrew;" "My Fair Lady" had its origin in Shaw's "Pygmalion.") Bart had been enchanted by the special blend of innocence and sophistication in Dickens's novel, and inspired by its extraordinary scope, for the drama unfolds against the spectacular and sharply contrasting backgrounds of both the poor and elegant in 19th century London.
Bart's new musical began its smash-hit career 1st July 1960 at the New Theatre in London's west end and for six years, audiences there continued to take it to their hearts. David (42nd Street) Merrick produced it on Broadway in 1963, and for almost four years "Oliver!" captivated theatregoers in New York and on tour throughout the United States. At the same time, it was being produced wherever English is spoken, and in many lands where it is not-most notably in Japan.
Producer John Woolf, once the screen rights had been obtained knew immediately that "Oliver!" would be the biggest musical ever undertaken in Britain (a local which he felt was practically dictated by the nature of the subject). It would far transcend such films as his own "Moulin Rough" and "The African Queen," not to mention others which had made his name synonymous with distinguished entertainment. So he entrusted this new, impressive assignment to as a celebrated a team of talents as he could find: Carol Reed, director; John Green, music director: Onna White, choreographer; John Box, designer: Vernon Harris, writer of the screen play; Oswald Morris, director of photography; and, at the head of very large and luminous cast, Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, Harry Secombe, Shani Wallis, Mark Lester, Jack Wild, and of course Butch the bull dog as Bullseye.
This was to be more than "a big picture." The timelessness of its theme, its depth of story and character, its richness of song and dance, its evocation of an era, all demanded painstaking devotion, over a long production period. The original stage presentation had to be "opened up," so that the movie camera might do justice to its several hundred performers amid new colourful settings; and so that 110 musicians, and scores of singers, and the magic of sound engineering might give new dimensions to its music. But it had to be expanded by the addition of far more dancing than the limited confines of the stage had permitted.
A crew of 350 built the astonishing sets, and symbolic of their scope may be these random examples of the materials used: 110 tons of scaffolding; 10 tons of nails and screws: 1000 cobblestone slabs to recreate roadways of long ago; 1000 gallons of mixed paints. But cold statistics can convey no sense of the warmth, dedication and "heart" of the vivid life and crowded panorama which so many talents joined forces to create.
On the 23 June 1967 producer John Woof and director Carol Reed gathered the team and the movie camera's turned for the first time to immortalize "Oliver!" for ever on film, at Shepperton film studios in Surry, England. Then over 15 months later "Oliver!" had its world premiere on 26 September 1968 at the Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square, London, England in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret."Oliver!" opened to the general public at the Odeon Leicester Sq. on Thursday 26th September 1968 and ran until, "Funny Girl" took over from Wednesday 15th January 1969. With the exception of Monday 16th December when "Oliver!" made way for the premiere of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".. As for the rest.... well ...Who could have possibly asked for more?
"Oliver!" Technical information: "UK" cinema release 70mm roadshow prints in 6-track stereo sound, certificate "U" running time: 02 hours. 25 minutes. 45 seconds. 1st half runs: 82 minutes. 55 seconds. 2nd half runs: 62 minutes. 50 seconds. In addition play-in music: 03 minutes.13 seconds. 2nd half play-in music: 02 minutes. 45 seconds. Ending with play-out music: 01 minute. 03 seconds. General release prints were also produced in 35mm Cinemascope picture format in both 4-track stereo and mono optical sound prints. "Oliver!" was originally filmed on 35mm film in 2.35:1 picture aspect ratio, colour by Technicolor, with a 4-track magnetic stereo sound mix by Westrex Recording System. "Oliver!" was a Romulus Films Production, in association with Warwick Film Productions Ltd, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Please kindly note: all running times are approximate and refer to "UK" cinema release prints...
"Oliver!" Much much more than a musical!