Its strange that the film that won the best picture Oscar at the 1968 Academy Awards was a film made in England, but if ever a movie deserved that honor, I think it is Oliver. This movie is a true classic that should be on every best picture list and given a place of honor at The American Film Institute. Movie musicals died out a long time ago and it is a shame because this is the best movie musical I have ever seen. Usually movie musicals are slipshod with some great numbers mixed in with some poor ones. Oliver does the impossible, because every number and every dance in this film hits the bullseye! From "Food Glorious Food" to "Consider Yourself" to "Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning". Ron Moody, Shani Wallace (as Nancy) and Mark Lester as Oliver all give outstanding performances. Mark Lester was at one time the most famous child actor in the entire world. He was the Ricky Schroder of his day or the MacAuley Culkin of his day (I'll bet he wishes he could have made the kind of money they did!). Mark Lester is now a doctor in England and I wrote him a couple e-mails and he talked about Oliver and what a fine experience it was making the film. Shani Wallace was a fine English actress who never got the credit she deserved. She was so good as the sweet, loving Nancy who took a shine to little Oliver and gave her life saving him (her murder scene still makes me shiver, even Charles Dickens said that bothered him when he wrote it!). Doctor Lester wrote me that Shani Wallace was like a big sister to him and it shows on the screen. Ron Moody is delightfully hammy as Fagin. He sort of reminds me of Charles Laughton the way he carries the part to its ludicrous extreme but you savor it along with him. Charles Dickens was so good at portraying the poverty and horrible living conditions of his time and this film shows that especially in the workhouse. Children really lived under those conditions and it is horrifying. The scene that got me is where they are being served horrible gruel and are walking by the dining room where Mister Bumble and his henchmen are dining like kings! That really made me angry. Anyhow, Oliver is a wonderful film that would stand up to any film today and is a good viewing experience for the whole family. It will leave you with a happy heart and a lump in your throat and what more could you ask for?
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