¨I'm reviewing the situation. Can a fellow be a villain all his life? ¨
¨Oliver! ¨ is my favorite Musical of all time, but it could very well be called ¨Fagin! ¨ because Ron Moody`s performance as Fagin is truly the highlight of the film. He shines in every scene he`s in and his musical pieces ¨You`ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two¨ and ¨Reviewing the Situation¨ are the best ones in the movie. Even Oliver`s buddy, the Artful Dodger played by Jack Wild, steals each scene he shares with Mark Lester, who plays the main character Oliver. The film which is based on Lionel Bart`s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens`s novel, Oliver Twist, had been produced for the stage in London before they decided to turn it into a film. The screenplay adaptation for the movie was written by Vernon Harris. The characters are just as I would have imagined them from reading Dickens`s novel and I don`t have a problem with Fagin and The Artful Dodger stealing the show from the protagonist because that is what happens most of the time with Dickens`s main characters in his novels. He is so good at creating remarkable characters and I remember these two were the most memorable in the novel as well. Oliver Twist serves more as a symbol of innocence and purity among an evil world that has turned its back on him, and his goodness proves to be incorruptible even among these villains he lives with. I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens and I really believe this film lived up to it although it was very loosely based on the novel because you just can`t fit everything into the movie and some of the characters had to be left out (Monks, Mrs. Maylie, Henry and Rose for example), or they didn`t have much screen time as is the case with Mr. Bumble.
The movie begins in a workhouse several miles from London where several young orphans are forced to work and live under harsh conditions. One of the orphans, Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) is chosen by the rest of the kids to ask for more food because it is hardly enough. Oliver is a shy good looking kid, but when he asks Mr. Bumble (Harry Secombe) for more food he is instantly put in discipline for misconduct. He decides to sell the boy because he has become an inconvenience. Oliver eventually escapes and is able to arrive at London where he meets another young boy about his age who introduces himself as The Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). The Dodger offers Oliver a place to sleep and introduces him to Fagin (Ron Moody) and the rest of the boys. Fagin happens to be a thief who trains the children how to pick a pocket and steal valuable goods like wallets and handkerchiefs from distracted men in the streets. Oliver is innocent and doesn’t really understand what is going on until the day he goes on his very first mission with the Dodger and he is mistakenly accused of stealing a man`s wallet. Oliver is finally declared innocent after an eyewitness claims it was another boy who was trying to steal the wallet and Mr. Brownlow (Joseph O`Conner) apologizes to him and adopts him at his home. In the meantime Fagin is worried the boy will give up his hideout along with his partner in crime, Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed). Bill forces his girlfriend Nancy (Shani Wallis) to kidnap Oliver and bring him back and the plot develops from that point on.
Oliver! won six Oscars in 1968, including best picture, and was the last musical to win an Oscar until Chicago won it in 2005. Carol Reed also won for best direction and he really raised the bar for musicals ever since. It was probably the last of the great musicals. Perhaps the hardest character to portray in this film from the novel was Nancy because she is torn between her love for Bill and doing the right thing for Oliver. Shani Wallis does a good job of portraying this inner struggle which eventually leads her to her fate. Oliver Reed had to portray the darkest and most evil character of the novel, Bill Sikes, and he does a good job as well. Some of the other musical numbers I enjoyed were ¨Who Will Buy? ¨ and ¨Oom-Pah-Pah.¨ The art directions and scenery were also really well done for the time period. I don`t know if I would of enjoyed the movie as much as I did if it weren`t for Moody`s performance. He was great and I think he should have won the Oscar for Best Secondary Actor. Robin Williams`s performance in August Rush was probably influenced by Moody`s character in this film. He was just a pleasure to watch on screen and is the main reason why I like this Musical so much. I am not a big fan of musicals, but this is definitely my favorite one and I recommend it.