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Annie grabbed seven Tony Awards in 1977, so it’s no surprise that the lovable musical was adapted for the screen. Directed by John Huston, the $40 million dollar film had an all-star cast with Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, Bernadette Peters, and Tim Curry.
1. Two big names almost played two big parts.
Sean Connery (Mr. Bond himself) debated playing Daddy Warbucks and even took singing lessons. In the end, though, he passed on the opportunity. Cary Grant was also reportedly asked. Bette Midler was considered for Miss Hannigan, but she wasn’t enthusiastic about the part. Carol Burnett, on the other hand, was over-the-moon. She wrote, “I had never had the good fortune of being in a movie musical, and the idea of it thrilled me.”
2. Everyone wanted to be Annie.
8,000 girls auditioned for the lead. Aileen Quinn was an Annie professional, as she had been in the Broadway show since 1981 playing various orphans. She said, “I was doing the Broadway show, while I was simultaneously auditioning for the film.” At the age of ten, she got the part and made her film debut next to film legends. “I was so young that I had no idea who these famous people were,” she said.
3. Burnett commissioned a song.
It’s hard not to bruise a rib laughing at Burnett’s Miss Hannigan. A particularly scene-stealing moment is Burnett’s duo with Finney called “Sign”. Interestingly, the song wasn’t in the original Broadway musical and came about thanks to Carol. She felt a song would be perfect for the adoption scene, but the film’s composers won’t write one. So Carol contacted Arthur Malvin, whom she had worked with on The Carol Burnett Show, and he wrote the hilarious song. Burnett said, “I just felt that would be something the audience would get a kick out of seeing.”
4. "Easy Street" was refilmed.
Originally, the song was a big number where Burnett, Peters, and Curry walked down a manufactured street that included a dozen storefronts, fire escapes, real fish wrapped in newspaper, and a monkey on an organ-grinder. “It was overkill,” Burnett said, who had to get a tetanus shot after the monkey’s nails hurt her skin. The number was reshot two months after the film wrapped, and by then, there was a development in Burnett’s life – a new chin. When Huston told her to pick up from a certain shot, she said “Two months ago when I went into the closet, I didn’t have a chin.” His advice was simple: “Well, dear. Just come out looking determined.”
5. There was more than one Sandy.
There were four, due to the stunt work involved. The dog that was used for close-ups was a purebred Otterhound named Bingo. Quinn said, “He was very sweet and very well trained.” She did have one complaint though with her canine co-star. Whenever the dog had to lick her, the crew put wet Alpo dogfood on her face.
6. Finney got prepared.
Annie wasn’t his first musical endeavor. In 1970, he played the titular role in Scrooge. Still, Finney wanted to give the role his all and did vocal training. Quinn said, “I can remember him with a cigar out of his mouth and going 'la la la la la la la.’” Finney also put bottle caps on his shoes so he could practice tap dancing. Quinn said, “He was so kind to me.” After filming ended, they kept in touch via letters.
7. There was supposed to be a sequel.
Quinn was contracted for six years, with the intention of making sequels. The proposed sequel would have adapted a story from the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, where Annie is kidnapped. While Quinn didn’t play the role again, two sequels did happen – Annie Warbucks, a continuation of the Broadway musical, and Annie: A Royal Adventure.