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Oliver! (1968) Poster

(1968)

Trivia

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While filming the scene where Oliver gets a peek at Fagin's treasure, director Carol Reed was not satisfied with the reaction on Mark Lester's face. Later, while re-shooting the scene, he hid a small white rabbit in his pocket and stood behind the camera. As Ron Moody opened the box of treasures, Reed pulled the rabbit out of his pocket. Lester's reaction to the sight of the rabbit was then used in the final film.
When Nancy asks Bill if he loves her and Bill says, "Of course I do, I live with you, don't I", that line was ad-libbed by Shani Wallis and Oliver Reed, because Reed was walking through a very tough neighborhood one day and heard a woman saying, "Don't you love me" and a man saying, "Of course I do, I fucks you, don't I" Reed wanted to use it in the movie, but director Carol Reed wouldn't let him, so they used it, but changed it to "live with".
Since Mark Lester was unable to simulate tears, freshly cut onions were used to make his eyes water for the "Where Is Love?" number.
Onna White recalled that Jack Wild had to practically drag Mark Lester through the "Consider Yourself" number. Wild, having been part of the West End version, knew the entire play backwards but Lester had no idea what to do.
As a practical joke on Harry Secombe, the make-up department created a false ear for Mark Lester so that when Secombe grabbed the boy's ear, it came off in his hand.
Dick Van Dyke was considered to play Fagin.
The whole of Bloomsbury Square in London was recreated on the Shepperton Studios backlot for the "Who Will Buy" sequence. In fact, the entire Shepperton Studios was given over to the production of Oliver! (1968).
Although many viewers assumed Jack Wild was one of the youngest members of Fagin's gang, he was actually the second oldest. He celebrated his 15th birthday during filming.
Oliver Reed's only song "My Name" was cut from the finished film, officially because the producers decided that Bill Sikes should not sing, but also allegedly because there was concern over the quality of Reed's singing voice. However, the instrumental version is played in the background when the audience is first introduced to Bill Sikes.
Mark Lester did not do his own singing in Oliver! It was dubbed by Kathe Green, daughter of Johnny Green, the music arranger/supervisor on the film. Johnny revealed this for the first time publicly in 1988 during an interview on the 20th anniversary of the film. He says that Mark Lester was "tone deaf and arrhythmic". He originally had two boys set to dub his singing but during post production they realized their voices didn't match Mark's look, so they used Johnny's daughter instead.
The first time Mark Lester saw Ron Moody out of his Fagin make-up, he didn't recognize him.
Mark Lester was not allowed to run around playing with the other children on set as he would invariably get rosy cheeked from his exertions. It would then take up to 10 or 15 minutes for his complexion to return to normal.
Both Jack Wild and Oliver Reed were wearing lifts in the film. Although Wild was 15 at the time of filming, he was actually shorter than nine-year-old Mark Lester.
"Boy For Sale" was shot in July 1967 despite the required snow setting; exterior shots depended on adequate cloud cover due to the erratic weather in London. The snowballs were made of polystyrene, salt, crazy foam and mashed potatoes.
Although Ron Moody had played Fagin to great acclaim on the London stage, he was only allowed to repeat his performance in the film after Peter Sellers and Peter O'Toole had reportedly turned down the role.
The "Consider Yourself" number took three weeks to film.
When he finally received his payment for the film at the age of 18 (the money had been put in trust for him), Mark Lester went out and bought a Ferrari with his earnings.
Fagin's owl proved to be a big scene-stealer as every time Carol Reed shouted "Action!", the bird would spin its head 180 degrees.
Early rumors regarding casting included Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as Bill and Nancy, and either Laurence Harvey or Peter Sellers as Fagin; though eventually Ron Moody was asked to reprise his stage role. Jack Wild had played one of Fagin's boys in the London production, but was now old enough to play the Artful Dodger. Shani Wallis finally won the role of Nancy nearly a year after first auditioning when she demonstrated an acceptable Cockney accent - the one she grew up with.
Ron Moody toned down his East London Yiddish accent for the film as compared to the original 1960 London stage version, partly for intelligibility to American audiences and partly to avoid accusations of anti-semitism (although Moody was himself "100% Jewish"). In his autobiography Moody admitted he also changed his accent for the film because a Jew in England in 1837 would not have had his accent. What came to be regarded as Jewish accents was actually the result of immigration of Jews to the UK from Germany and Poland later in the 19th century.
A lavish party was held on the set on 11 July 1967 to celebrate Mark Lester's ninth birthday.
Despite complaints of nepotism, Oliver Reed said he had to persuade his uncle Sir Carol Reed to cast him as Bill Sikes.
Amazingly, the composer of this highly respected score, Lionel Bart, could not read music himself. From his earliest days in theater, he would sing his melodies to a trained pianist, who would then set the tunes down on sheet music and orchestrate them.
The lyrics to "Be Back Soon" were changed from "Bow Street Runners" to "nosy policemen" in case American audiences didn't understand the reference.
In the original Broadway production, the Artful Dodger was played by future Monkee Davy Jones who was also nominated for a 1963 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance.
The cast rehearsed for 6 months before a single frame was shot.
A meticulous craftsman, Carol Reed often insisted on up to 50 or 60 takes for some individual scenes.
The cast included 84 boys between 8 and 15 years of age, and one member of Parliament suggested they were being exploited just as the depicted orphans had been. The filmmakers replied that they needed protection more than the boys did, due to the rowdy nature of the production during the summer.
Ron Moody credited popular magician Tommy Cooper as an inspiration for his interpretation of Fagin.
Mark Lester recalled how he ( and the other children) were terrified of Oliver Reed throughout the production as Reed chose to remain in character as Bill Sikes at all times when on set.
The London sets covered six sound stages and a huge studio backlot - with rich and poor sections. The sets were adaptable overnight in spite of their sturdy look, due to the fact that single dance numbers sometimes required changing sets up to a dozen times.
Julie Andrews was considered for the role of Nancy.
Approximately 5,000 boys were auditioned for the title role before Mark Lester was cast.
The Magistrate which Hugh Griffith plays in the film did not appear in the original stage production of "Oliver!" He does appear in Dickens's original novel, "Oliver Twist", on which the musical is based. In the novel the Magistrate's named Mr. Fang, and although Dickens wrote him satirically, he did not intend him to be comical.
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Because most of the studio sets were built in the open air, many viewers did not realise the movie was filmed entirely in the studio.
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Oliver! (1968) was also the last musical to win the Best Picture Oscar until Chicago (2002) 34 years later. Before Oliver! (1968), the musicals The Broadway Melody (1929), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Going My Way (1944), An American in Paris (1951), Gigi (1958), West Side Story (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965) had all won Best Picture Oscars.
Although it has oft been written that the story takes place during the reign of Queen Victoria, it was, in fact set just a tiny bit earlier - during the reign of King William IV. The book was originally published in Bentley's Miscellany as a serial, in monthly installments which began appearing in February 1837, 4 months before William IV died.
Ron Moody recalled that he did not know for certain until the first day of filming whether he had been cast or not.
Michael Caine auditioned for the role of Bill Sikes in the original (1960) London stage production of the musical on which this film is based and not, as is often reported, in this film adaptation.
The whole "Who Will Buy" sequence took 6 weeks to film.
In conjunction with the release of this film, Random House published a hardcover novelization of the film's screenplay for younger audiences, illustrated with stills from the film. Among the stills featured were scenes showing the arrival at the workhouse and the death of Oliver's mother, who never appears in the film as was shown. Studio records list Veronica Page as the mother and Henry Kay as the Doctor attending to Oliver's birth.
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Many of the sets (which were in storage at Shepperton Studios) were reused for another musical adaption of a Dickens novel: Scrooge (1970). Both films were photographed by Oswald Morris BSC.
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This was the last British or non-American film to win the Best Picture Oscar until Chariots of Fire (1981).
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As of 2013, this is the last G-rated, family film to win the Best Picture Academy Award, as well as the last family film to win the Academy Award for Best Director ('Carol Reed (I)') until, 44 years later, Ang Lee won the Academy Award for directing the 3D, live action family film Life of Pi (2012) though others have been nominated: Norman Jewison for Fiddler on the Roof (1971), George Lucas for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), 'Steven Spielberg' for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), 'Chris Noonan' for Babe (1995), and Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011). There have been other G-rated films nominated for Best Picture: Hello, Dolly! (1969), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Babe (1995), and Toy Story 3 (2010); as well as other family films: Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Finding Neverland (2004), Up (2009), The Blind Side (2009), and Hugo (2011).
Ron Moody recreated his 1960 London stage performance.
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In the song "Food, Glorious Food" among the foods the boys want are pease pudding and saveloys. Pease pudding is made from split peas, water, salt, and spices which are boiled and then mashed becoming almost like hummus. Saveloys are small spicy red pork sausages that taste much like a hot dog.
As do many filmed/televised versions of the same novel, the musical eliminates Mr. Monks, an evil blackmailer who stalks Oliver throughout the book for a mysterious purpose. Although he is important in the book and provides its "twist ending" (no pun intended), he doesn't film very well because his book chapters are very talkative and have little action. All villainy necessary to the story is easily reassigned to Bill Sikes or Fagin so there is no reason left for Monks to be in the movie.
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Ron Moody noted that several members of the original West End stage cast (1960) did not get along saying: " It was not a happy company". He personally had a poor relationship with Georgia Brown, who was the original Nancy. When the film came to be made, Brown blamed Moody for her not being cast as Nancy. However, Moody categorically denied this, saying he had no say or influence whatsoever over the casting of the film and he himself was far from first choice to play Fagin despite his success on stage.
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Final live action cinema film of Peggy Mount
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When Carol Reed went to the Academy Award presentation in 1969, Charlton Heston, whom Reed had directed in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) several years earlier, gave the director a copy of the book accompanied by a hand-written Dickens letter. According to Reed, "He's a very considerate man."
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Additional orchestrator Eric Rogers did all of the orchestrations for the original stage production of "Oliver!"
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Several characters from the novel do not appear in this film including Oliver's half-brother Monks, Mrs Mann, Rose Maylie and her lover Harry.
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Mark Lester's surname Letzer was Anglicanised to Lester so it would sound less German and less Jewish.
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The original Broadway production of "Oliver!" opened at the Imperial Theater on 6 January, 1963, ran for 774 performances and was nominated for the 1963 Tony Award for the Best Musical and received nominations for Best Book and Best Score.
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Was the first British film to use a very early version of video-assist, (a live picture from the film camera to a television monitor) designed by acclaimed and award-winning British camera technician and engineer Joe Dunton. As there was no way ,at that time, to take a direct live feed from a movie camera to a TV monitor, Dunton placed a small rudimentary video camera above the lens (to give an approximation of what the film camera had in the frame) and then fed to a monitor.
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On a budget of $10.5m, this took in a very healthy $37.4m at the US box-office.
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The film is always listed as running 153 minutes, but this is because of the Overture heard before the film, the Intermission Music, and the Exit Music. The actual film, including the opening credits, runs about 145 minutes.
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Bruce Forsyth has claimed that Lionel Bart considered him for the part of Fagin.
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Carol Reed had Shirley Bassey in mind for Nancy, but his choice was rejected by Hollywood studio bosses who felt that the public was not ready for a Black Nancy.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Both the first film with an MPAA rating to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, and the last G - general audience rated picture to be nominated.
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Studio Records list Veronica Page as Oliver's Mother and Henry Kay as the Doctor attending to Oliver's birth. but these performers were not seen in the movie. It is not known if they were not filmed or filmed and not used.
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The only film based on Oliver Twist where Oliver is not seen being sent to the workhouse. (This was apparently filmed but deleted.) Instead it begins in medias res, as he is first seen helping other orphans grind flour at the start of the film.
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Ron Moody played Fagin on stage prior to this film.
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Bryan Forbes was the first choice to direct back in 1964.
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The video on the film camera was reflex through the film lens also it was recorded and played back after each take this was a wolds first for a feature film.
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As well as being originally announced for the role of Fagin, Peter Sellers and his business partner John Bryan were also going to produce through their company, Brookfield Productions.
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Comedian Jim Davidson auditioned for the Artful Dodger role.
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Lewis Gilbert was originally announced as director and brought in Vernon Harris as scriptwriter; however, he withdrew from the film during pre-production.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The idea of Sikes using Oliver as a hostage to help him escape was taken directly from Sir David Lean's film Oliver Twist (1948). It does not occur that way in the novel. Apparently Lean was not pleased about his friend Sir Carol Reed borrowing from his film without acknowledging him in the opening credits.
The film ends with Fagin and the Artful Dodger considering whether to continue a life of crime. The original novel ends much less happily for the two of them - the Artful Dodger is transported to prison overseas and Fagin is... hanged.
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In the book Brownlow is not a blood relative of Oliver, but is an acquaintance of Oliver's father, who gave him the mother's portrait as a token of trust. Only after Oliver has chance encounters with many more people in a "degrees of separation" chain, a treasure hunt eventually uncovers the truth. Charles Dickens' stories are full of this kind of 'coincidental' subplot where characters from many different walks of life and hometowns all show up in London and discover that they are secretly connected to each other. To show this all in a film would have been time consuming and required more actors to be hired for pivotal but small roles, so it was easier to conflate all these characters' words and deeds with Brownlow's role. Many film/television adaptations of the same novel do this including Oliver Twist (1948) which heavily influenced this version.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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