Great Songs in Film #11: “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” Gordon MacRae opens Fred Zinnemann’s 1955 film “Oklahoma”

I grew up hearing about Gordon MacRae’s problems with alcoholism and its consequences.  I was a star-struck kid, read magazines like Photoplay, and was totally caught up in both the  nonsensical gossip  being produced by Hollywood press agents and  the embarrassing truths being being suppressed by the same Hollywood press agents. In college, I even got a part time job with Cinema Center films as a publicist for perhaps the most forgettable film the great Dustin Hoffman ever made.

Fun? Of course.

But looking back, I see that what all the nuttiness obscured was the actual talent that celebrities did or did not bring to the table. Set all the rumors and backbiting aside, and someone could either act, sing, or dance or they couldn’t.

Well, Gordon MacRae had more raw charm and acting chops than any one human being deserves.

And he could sing. Beautifully.

When he was given a chance at one of the greatest songs Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote — “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” —  the result was sublime.

Gordon MacRae died in 1986, having faced his demons, recovered from alcoholism, and become a visible spokesman for this insidious disease. 

But before everything, there was the voice.

And the fact that when two of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s greatest musicals were filmed, one guy was cast as the male lead in both.