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TCM 2014: Shirley Jones and Ben Mankiewicz sing at ‘Oklahoma’ Screening

Classic film and TNT stars lined the red carpet last night at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night screening of “Oklahoma” (1953) at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood. To take you there, we interviewed Shirley Jones (“Oklahoma”), TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz and Film Historian Leonard Maltin about the film and digital restoration. You can watch our interviews here: VIDEO: Oklahoma at TCM 2014 with Shirley Jones and Ben Mankiewicz.

TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz at 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night
TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz at 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night
Liz H Kelly
Shirley Jones describes working on set of Oklahoma at 2014 TCM Film Festival
by Liz H Kelly

Also on the red carpet, we captured photos and interviews with Tippi Hedren (“The Birds”), Kim Novak (“Vertigo”), Alec Baldwin (got a great shot of his back), TCM Host Robert Osborne, Writer and Producer Illeana Douglas, Actress Margaret O’Brien (“Meet Me in St Louis” who told us about working on a new film with the late Mickey Rooney), and young stars Valerie Azlynn and Vivian Bang from TNT”s “Sullivan and Son” (who told us about filming with Vince Vaughn.)

When we asked Shirley Jones (who played Laurey in “Oklahoma”) what it was like to be on the set, she described it this way, “It was fantastic. We did it in…Arizona. It was really the first independent musical made because MGM had done all the wonderful musicals before that, and I was a very young girl right out of high school and it was exciting to be cast in it with Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson, and Ron Steiger.” When asked about her favorite song, she burst into song with, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”, which you can hear in our 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night Video.

Nearly 60 years after the original release of “Oklahoma”, Turner Classic Movies Host Ben Mankiewicz, described the evening this way, “Oklahoma works great on your couch, but Oklahoma works a little better in the Chinese Theater with 1000 other people who are desperate to sing along….Oklahoma’s fun.” When pushed to sing a song for the “TCM Community”, you’ll have to watch out video to see what Ben does.

And when we spoke to Film Historian Leonard Maltin, he gave us the background on “Oklahoma.” Leonard is a walking history book. He explained, “It’s a restoration of a special version of the film…It was shot in two separate ways because in the 50s as Hollywood was competing with television, they tried new processes, cinemascope, cinerama, stereophonic sound, all sorts of wide screen devices to get people off their sofas… and back into movie theaters, but because the theaters couldn’t keep up with all these new processes, ‘Oklahoma’ was shot twice, once in Cinemascope 35mm and once in a special process called Todd AO,…long before Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) tried it, and that’s the version that’s restored that’s going to be shown tonight.”

Many thanks to TCM, all the stars who came out, and most importantly, all the classic film fans in the “TCM Community.” As TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz described it, “It’s the family that loves you and praises you and is ready to slap you in the face if you do anything wrong. The relationship that we have at TCM to our fans is unlike anything else in television. Nothing is like it….Every one of these people here at this festival feels like it’s their responsibility to protect these movies and to protect TCM and to watch us and make sure that we’re doing our job right, and that has created a very special bond.”

Other digital restorations at the TCM Classic Film Festival this weekend include, Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” and “Touch of Evil.” For the full festival schedule, visit

© Liz H Kelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist and Goody Awards Founder

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