By Arthur Flynn
Children and pets have always been a successful format for films. One such film was the musical Annie, adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meechan. It in turn was based on Little Orphan Annie, the 1924 comic script by Harold Gray.
For several years producer Ray Stark wanted to bring the forever popular story to the screen. From an early period, he wanted both John Huston and Joe Layton to work as the director and choreographer on the project. He also wanted Huston to be executive producer on the film, because it was too large a project for one person.
Many people in the industry were surprised and wary of Huston directing as this would be his first and only assignment on a musical in his 40-year directing career. His projects had mainly covered adventures and classics. Regardless he took on the task and challenge.
Screenwriter Carol Sobieski stated that “hiring Huston is an outsider risk, but Stark’s a major gambler. He loves this high-risk situation.”
A strong production team was assembled for the $50 million film for Columbia Pictures headed by cinematographer Richard Moore, musical director Ralph Burns and editor Michael A. Stevenson.
Many leading actors were considered for principal roles. They included Sean Connery, Cary Grant and Jack Nicholson for the role of Daddy Warbucks that finally went to Albert Finney. Many young actresses were auditioned for the leading role of Annie that finally went to Aileen Quinn.
Other leading members of the cast included Carol Burnett as Miss Agatha Hannigan, Tim Curry as Daniel Hannigan, Bernadette Peters as Lily and Regis and Ann Reinking as Grace Farrell.
Several singer-actresses made their debuts in this film as Annie’s fellow orphans and principal dancers.
The film was set during the Great Depression of 1933 and told the story of Annie, an orphan living in an orphanage in New York. It is run by Miss Hannigan, a cruel woman.