“Annie Get Your Gun” is a musical, loosely based on the life of sharpshooter great, Annie Oakley. Written by with music by Irving Berlin, the courtship of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler is the main storyline. The Broadway show opened in 1946 and the Movie was produced in 19. World War 11 had ended and women who were in factories and serving in the armed forces were returning home. Many people at that time wanted to restore the traditional role that women played in American society, that of wife and mother. The character Annie Oakley reflects the America’s rejection of the working independent woman that blossomed in the war.
Although the movie celebrates Annie Oakley’s skills, “Annie Get Your Gun’s character Annie Oakley struggles with her independent nature and her desire to win the man of her dreams, Frank Butler. A modern reflection of the musical and the character Annie reminded us how American women were expected to behave post World War 11and how different societal expectation are now. At the start of the movie we met a confident self-assured Annie. She was uneducated and illiterate, and could barely count but that did not bother her in the least.
She was content in her world providing for her family by hunting. She sang that education is not necessary because she and her family do quite well “doing what comes naturally”. She had no concerns about how she looked in public and was not ashamed of her impoverished and tomboyish appearance. Annie’s sharpshooting skills were extraordinary. From the very beginning of the movie she bragged of her skills and insisted she was better than anyone at shooting. When she agreed to the sharpshooting match with Frank Butler, she was confident she would win.
Annie’s confidence began to falter however, when she met Frank Butler, the current sharpshooting champion. She was smitten by his good looks and fell head over heels in love at first sight. Although he found her amusing, he didn’t take her seriously. He told Annie the kind of woman he wanted to marry. He sang about the 1950’s ideal woman. He d the stereotypical woman who was soft, dressed well with painted nails. The 1950’s woman was demure and was expected to simply sit there looking pretty and supporting her husband. This woman was all about looks and image.
He never mentioned any qualities that were beneath the surface, such as a kind or loving nature, As Frank sang about the woman he dreamt about marrying Annie became painfully aware that she was definitely not that woman. She wasn’t even close to being that type of woman. Annie was a rough, uncouth woman who told her brother to use his sleeve to wipe his nose because that’s what it was for. On the surface she was the complete opposite of Frank Butler’s dream girl. Annie was also loyal and kind. She had a positive attitude toward life that was contagious.
She endeared herself to all the other men in the movie from Buffalo Bill to Sitting Bull, to the promoter who appreciated her talents and qualities. They accepted and admired her for the loving and talented person she was, and defended her to Frank when his ego caused trouble for Annie. At the start of the movies Annie was definitely not the type of woman that appealed to the 1950’s audience. To get her man Annie would have to change. As she said, she couldn’t get a man with a gun, which was a symbol of masculinity and power. Although she shined in the competitive arena, women were not supposed to shine in the arena.
They were not supposed to beat men in competitions. They were supposed to be submissive, nonathletic and noncompetitive. Annie was assertive, athletic and extremely competitive. Wildly in love with Frank, and hoping she could change enough to make him love her, Annie proceeded to change her looks and her clothes. With focused determination she scrubbed off her freckles and plastered mud masks over her face. She worked hard to learn how to read and began to wear stylish glamourous costumes. Although these improvements were good for Annie, she had no need to change herself.
Her sole motivation was to become attractive to Frank Butler. Although she was his match in sharpshooting, she settled to be Frank’s assistant. Like the many women who entered the workforce in the 1950’s and settled for lesser jobs and careers, Annie’s abilities and talents were kept on the background. When Buffalo Bill realized Annie would be the bigger draw, he headlined Annie as the greatest sharpshooter in the world. Although Frank had let his defenses down (another reference to a competition with Annie), lost the battle, and fell in love with her, his ego could not tolerate being second to his woman.
He wrote Annie a goodbye letter and told her she was too smart for him. He left the Buffalo Bill show and went to another show where he could once again be a star. .Annie went on tour in Europe where Queens and Princes gave her accolades and medals to honor her skills and accomplishments. Her independence was one of the most unacceptable qualities to the 1950’s audience. Although she was clearly devoted to her sisters and brothers, when the time came for her to go on tour with Buffalo Bill, she didn’t hesitate.
She didn’t stay home with them. She found childcare, hugged and kissed them goodbye, and went off to pursue her dreams. While no one under thirty would blink at this choice, it was clearly not what would be expected of the 1950’s single girl with a family to support. Annie also didn’t stay back, waiting for Frank to come back. She walked up the gangplank and headed to Europe and success. She was in fact the greatest sharpshooter in the world but in the post WWII era a woman was incomplete and lonely without the man she loved.
The plot made sure that the Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the promoter saw how unhappy Annie was and brought her home to America. At that time a happy independent woman without a man was not allowed, So Annie had to go back to Frank. When she returned to America, she reunited and reconciled with Frank until she showed him all the medals she won. His offering of his own medals embarrassed him when he saw her all decked out in her medals, and they got into an all \out musical competition in Berlin’s classic “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”.
Once again they challenged each other to a shootout competition, betting on their awards. Even in the song, Annie outdid Frank. Nothing had changed at all and the relationship seemed doomed to fail. Before Annie arrived at the match, her good friend Sitting Bull tampered with Annie’s guns so that she misfired several times. When she went to use an unaltered gun, Sitting Bull told her she would lose Frank if she won the competition. Annie had to win by losing. Even Sitting Bull, a Native American man , understood the American mindset.
When she realized losing was the only way to win Frank she quickly got on board with the plan and threw the competition. Frank won the match, won the medals and the girl. Annie lost the competition and her expensive awards to Frank, but she won Frank and that was more important to her. The movie ends with the moral that Annie learned her lesson. Women must repress their talents and gifts and never outshine a man if they want to be happy. At that time in America, women like Annie were frowned upon, but a woman who put her husband first would be rewarded with her husband’s love and ociety’s approval.
Actress Annette O’Toole critiqued this film on TNT and said she was disappointed with the ending because Annie gave less than her all to win the man she loved. This is what was expected of the 1950’s film heroines. Women had to get their man by hiding their light under a bushel. Ms. O’Toole expressed what many women of my generation felt when looking at Annie. Modern women wondered why any woman would even think of doing something like that. The irony is that Annie Oakley/Frank Butler relationship was really much more modern than the play allowed.
Frank Butler always supported Annie’s endeavors and they worked together in shows for years. Frank Butler died heartbroken, eighteen days after Annie Oakley died, They were married for fifty years. · Irving Berlin’s wonderful music, Betty Hutton’s Annie and Howard Keel Frank turned MGM’s version of Annie Oakley’s life into a classic. “Annie Get Your Gun’s Annie Oakley gave hope to little girls in the 50’s who didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold of the ideal woman.. Annie proved that if you were smart, loving loyal and could shoot straight, you could get a man with a gun.