Release year: 1953
Director: David Butler
Screenwriter: James O’Hanlon
Starring: Doris Day, Howard Keel, Allyn Ann McLerie, Philip Carey, Dick Wesson, Paul Harvey, Chubby Johnson, Gale Robbins
Ratings: 1 Oscar (Best Song), 2 Oscar nominations: Best Sound and Best Music
In Deadwood Calamity Jane (Day) is just one of the guys, foul-mouthed, dressed in buckskin and handy with a gun. She bickers with best friend Bill Hickock (Keel) and secretly yearns for the handsome Lieutenant Gilmartin (Carey). But when another woman comes to town in the form of actress Katie Brown (McLerie) things chances.
Warner Bros’s response to the success of Annie Get Your Gun (1953) finds its inspiration in the real-life character of Wild West heroine Calamity Jane. Always sunny Day (Pillow Talk, 1959) appears in a more rugged form as we are used to but with a sheer energy that has her bouncing through the movie overshadowing everyone else in it. Belting out tunes in her crystal-clear voice and dazzling with her million-watt smile, Day is a star and everyone else is there to support her. But they do deliver great support, right from Keel (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1954) as Hickock to McLerie (Jeremiah Johnson, 1972) as the new woman in town forcing Jane to look at her appearance to win her man. The songs are great and never dominate. Instead they appear at times where they support the story rather than slow it down. But the best part is by far Day as Calamity Jane. The determined look, the jumping about like a wild squirrel, the bragging, and the buckskin: Calamity Jane is a wonderful character and likely to put a smile on your lips throughout the movie.
Doris Day recorded the song ‘Secret Love’ in one take. She said of the event: When I first heard ‘Secret Love’, I almost fainted; it was so beautiful. When we finally got around to doing the pre-recording, Ray Heindorf, the musical director at Warner’s, said he’d get the musicians in about 12:30 so they could rehearse. That morning, I did my vocal warm-up, then jumped on my bike and rode over to Warner’s – we lived in Toluca Lake at the time, which was just minutes from the studio. When I got there, I sang the song with the orchestra for the first time. When I’d finished, Ray called me into the sound booth, grinning from ear to ear, and said, “That’s it. You’re never going to do it better.” That was the first and only take we did.
Doris Day’s performance as Calamity Jane was used as inspiration to the look and voice of the character jessie in the Toy Story franchise.
If anyone who has been to the Disneyland Park in Anaheim sees a resemblance between the Golden Horse Saloon and the salon interior of the movie it is because they were both designed by Harper Goff.
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video