Rod Steiger:Jud Fry
Gene Nelson:Will Parker
Gloria Grahame:Ado Annie
"Oklahoma" had a cast of wonderful singers and dancers. It was Shirley Jones' first movie and she and Gordon MacRae made such a beautiful couple, both in looks and talent, that they were subsequently cast as the leads in "Carousel." Gene Nelson was a superb dancer and perfect for the part of Will Parker.
Rod Steiger, although quite menacing as Jud Fry, did overact in the film, using perhaps too much of his "methods" training for the part.
All of the main actors in the movie "Oklahoma" began their careers on Broadway.
Shirley Jones was born in Pennsylvania in 1934. At the age of 18, she won the Miss Pittsburgh contest, but her career actually started two years earlier when she appeared on TV on the Fireside Theater. Her next role was also on television on the Gruen Guild Playhouse in 1952.
Film audiences were introduced to Jones in her first movie, "Oklahoma," in 1955. This successful performance was followed a year later by "Carousel." Although Jones had a beautiful singing voice, she only appeared in a few more movie musicals, including "April Love" in 1957 and "The Music Man" in 1962. It was her performance in a dramatic film, "Elmer Gantry," that won her an Academy Award in 1960 for Best Supporting Actress. From 1959 to 1961, Jones played roles in four more dramatic films. After the early 1960s, she did not appear that often in movies and her last film was in 2006.
Jones appeared occasionally on television from 1950-2008. She starred in a successful series, "The Partridge Family," from 1970 to 1974.
Shirley Jones spent many years performing in plays, both on Broadway and in road tours. Her first part was in the chorus of "South Pacific" in 1953. She appeared on Broadway in two musicals - in "Maggie Flynn" in 1967 and in a revival of "42nd Street" in 2004. While she was married to Jack Cassidy, she co-starred with him on road tours and local productions of at least five plays.
Back to Top
Gordon MacRae, born in New Jersey in 1921, began his career on Broadway in 1941 as a replacement in "Junior Miss." He appeared again on Broadway five years later in "Three to Make Ready." Broadway audiences had to wait another twenty years to see MacRae return to Broadway in "I Do, I Do" as Robert Preston's replacement.
Following his first appearances on Broadway in the 1940s, MacRae was given a recording contract. During the 1940s and 1950s, MacRae made records, appeared on radio and worked in films. His first movie in 1948 was a non-musical film ("The Big Punch"). This, however, was followed by movie musicals, beginning in 1949 with "Look for the Silver Lining." MacRae made 13 movies before being cast as Curly in "Oklahoma" in 1955.
After a successful film career and a TV show, MacRae suffered from a severe alcohol problem and he made no movies and just a few TV appearances from the late 1950s through the 1960s. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he performed again on TV and in movies, but he never regained his former success. His last film was in 1980. He died of cancer in 1986.
Back to Top
Rod Steiger was born in New York in 1925. Although his parents had been in vaudeville, Steiger did not grow up in show business since he never knew his father and his mother left show business while Steiger was still very young. Steiger left home at 16 to join the US Navy during WW II.
After WW II, Steiger returned to New York to study drama at the Actors Studio under two of the great "methods" acting teachers, Lee Strassberg and Elia Kazan. Steiger's first role was on Broadway in "An Enemy of the People" in 1950. The following year, he appeared in "Night Music" and in 1952 in "Seagulls Over Sorrento." Steiger returned to Broadway two more times - in 1959 in "Rashomon" and in 1962 in "Moby Dick."
In addition to starring on Broadway in the early 1950s, Steiger also appeared in many plays on television from 1951 to 1955 and again from 1957 to 1959. His parts included the starring role in "Marty."
Steiger was a prolific movie actor, making over 100 films from 1951 to 2002, with one-fourth of the movies being made from 1990 to 1999. He appeared in at least 13 movies every decade from 1951 to 1999 and in 6 movies from 2000 to 2002. Steiger was nominated three times for the Academy Award (1954, Best Supporting Actor in "On the Waterfront"; 1965, Best Actor in "The Pawnbroker"; 1967, Best Actor for "In the Heat of the Night") but he only won the award for "In the Heat of the Night."
Steiger's only musical was "Oklahoma," and he did his own singing in the film ("Poor Jud is Daid").
Steiger died in 2002 of pneumonia and complications from surgery.
Back to Top
Leander Eugene Berg, better known as Gene Nelson, was born in Seattle in 1920. As a child he watched Fred Astaire dancing in the movies and he decided that he wanted to become a dancer. At the age of 22, he appeared in his first Broadway role in "This is the Army." His next Broadway appearance, in 1948 in "Lend an Ear," earned him the Theater World award. Nelson would not appear again on Broadway until 1971 in "Follies," but this role, too, earned him recognition with a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. His last Broadway appearance was in 1974 in "Good News."
Nelson's first parts in movies in 1939 and 1943 were uncredited, and it was not until 1947 that he received billing in a film. During the 1940s and 1950s, Nelson appeared in both musical and dramatic film roles. He also appeared on television during the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, Nelson left acting to become a director.
Back to Top
Gloria Grahame, born Gloria Hallward in 1928, had a mother who was a British actress and acting teacher. Grahame's mother was her first acting coach, teaching her the art starting when Gloria was a child. Her first acting job was on Broadway and when Louis B. Mayer saw her, he signed her to a contract with M-G-M.
Grahame's film debut was in 1944 in "Blonde Fever." Until the 1960s, she appeared in many movies, usually in dramas and playing supporting parts. She received an Academy Award nomination in 1947 for Best Supporting Actress in "Crossfire" but it was her supporting role in "The Bad and the Beautiful" in 1952 that won her the coveted award.
Film parts disappeared for Grahame in the 1960s because she was considered difficult to work with so she returned to Broadway. In the 1970s, she again appeared in films while continuing to also work on the stage in both New York and London. Her last film was in 1981.
Grahame died from breast cancer at the age of only 58.
Back to Top