|Doris Day and Howard Keel are fussing, feuding and falling in love in this spectacular Technicolor musical. Inspired by the success of the 1950 MGM musical film Annie Get Your Gun, Warner Brothers found another famous pistol-packin’ mama to write a musical around.
While Irving Berlin’s wonderful score for the MGM film is hard to beat, Calamity Jane’s score by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster works even better because of the way the songs are woven into the plot.
The characters are more interesting in this film because they are developed enough for you to care about them. Doris is at her very best; it doesn’t matter that she is so different from the real Calamity Jane (in spite of what some critics say), her singing and dancing is worthy of an Oscar: (her big ballad "Secret Love" actually did win one). Howard Keel, brought over from MGM and Annie Get Your Gun, is perfect as a singing Wild Bill Hickok. Phillip Carey plays the handsome Lt. Gill Martin and Allyn Ann McLerie is in the role of Katie Brown, the maid for singing star Adelaide Adams -- brought back to Deadwood from Chicago by Calamity by mistake. Another highlight is the performance of Dick Wesson singing "Hive Full of Honey" in drag, masquerading as a female saloon singer!
Filmed in Calabasas at the Warner Brothers ranch in Burbank on Warner Brothers sound stages, the film is a visual treat (in spite of the back projections). With beautiful costumes, an authentic looking town (borrowed from “Gone With the Wind”), and delightful character actors, such as Chubby Johnson (seen in many westerns) and Paul Harvey (who’s film career goes back to 1915). Many famous western TV stars such as Glenn Strange and Robert Fuller can be seen in uncredited bit parts. Also, while watching, see if you can spot our own Reel Cowboy, Roydon Clark. He’s not credited, but the info on IMDB says that he plays a soldier.
The stunning opening musical sequence is interesting in that it is comprised of three tunes that are seamlessly put together, much in the manner of the "Little Johnny Jones" sequence in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (Warner Bros. 1942).
We only found a couple of things that were disappointing. One was the wooden acting style of Phillip Carey. The other was the sappy song, "A Woman’s Touch." So, over all, Calamity Jane is very high in entertainment value. After viewing it, you may be so charmed that you might even catch yourself calling Chicago "Chicagee"!