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FAQ for
Carousel (1956) More at IMDbPro »

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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Carousel can be found here.

What is 'Carousel' about?

Sixteen years ago, handsome carousel barker Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) fell in love with and married Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones). Fired from his job on the carousel by jealous owner Mrs. Mullin (Audrey Christie), Billy had nowhere to turn except to a life of crime with his lowlife buddy Jigger Craigin (Cameron Mitchell), a 'job' that got him killed. Now polishing stars in heaven, Billy hears that Julie and their 15-year old daughter Louise (Susan Luckey) are having problems, so Billy wants to cash in on an option that he long ago turned down...the chance to go back to Earth for a day. However, he must first convince the starkeeper (Gene Lockhart) as to what good he could do if allowed to go back.

No. Carousel is a film adaptation of the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical, also titled Carousel, which was based on a non-musical play Liliom by Hungarian-born writer Ferenc Molnar. The screenplay for the film was written by American playwriting husband and wife team, Henry and Phoebe Ephron.

In the DVD commentary, the years given are 1873 (when Billy and Julie meet and marry) and 1888 (when Billy returns). However, several viewers have pointed out anachronisms in the film that make those years impossible. For example, the carousel is festooned with scads of electric lights. However, Edison didn't invent the incandescent light bulb until 1879. Also, Billy talks about the carnival's crowded midway, but the term 'midway', applying to an area of a carnival or circus containing side shows and other amusements, was coined in reference to the Midway Plaisance of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. For this reason, many viewers place the movie in the late 1890s or early 1900s.

When not being filmed on a soundstage, the open water scenes were filmed in Boothbay Harbor. A map of Maine showing Boothbay Harbor's location can be seen here.

First of all, the dance was a fantasy, and when the fantasy is over, everyone but Louise disappears. Second, her partner was intended to represent the kind of charismatic lothario that Billy had been, the kind of guy who loves'em and leaves'em when the time comes for the carnival to move on. It's a scenario similar to the one that Louise described to Billy about the theatrical agent who came to town and told her that he could make her famous. These are the kinds of guys that someone of Louise's 'station' would attract, since the well-to-do, snooty people (represented by Enoch Snow (Robert Rounseville) and his family) would have nothing to do with her, her father being a thief and a wife-beater.

How does the movie end?

Billy follows Louise home to the cottage she shares with her mother. Making himself visible and claiming to have known her father, 'handsome feller' that he was, he tries to cheer her up by giving her a present...a star from heaven. When she refuses his gift and tells him to go away, he angrily slaps her hand, and Louise goes running to Julie. Julie steps out of the house and catches a glimpse of Billy before he disappears again. Louise explains the slap as feeling more like a kiss and asks Julie whether that's possible. With a dreamy look in her eyes, Julie replies, 'It IS possible, dear, for someone to hit you...hit you hard...and it not hurt at all.' Billy tells Julie in song of his love for her, and Julie picks up the star and takes it into the house. Billy asks his Heavenly Friend (William LeMassena) for an extension on his time so that he can go to Julie's graduation where Dr Seldon, looking a lot like the starkeeper, delivers the speech, urging the graduates not to worry about their parents' successes and failures but to stand on their own two feet and to make their own successes. Standing invisibly next to Louise, Billy encourages her to believe in those words. In the final scene, as the audience sings 'You'll Never Walk Alone,' Billy tells Julie once more that he loved her, and then he and the Heavenly Friend walk away in the sunset.

That depends on how you interpret what has happened and how politically correct you want to be. It is condemned in the dialogue when the Starkeeper asks Billy why he hit Julie. Billy says, "Well, we'd argue, she'd say this, I'd say that, and she'd be right. So I hit her". The Starkeeper asks him rather sternly, "Are you sorry you hit her", and Billy answers, "Ain't sorry for anything", making it clear that although Billy has a bad attitude, the authors of "Carousel" are not praising him for it. (In the 1934 French film of the non-musical play "Liliom", on which "Carousel" is based, Liliom - the Billy Bigelow character - is forced, as punishment, to watch a film showing him slapping Julie over and over.) However, the movie does seem to make light of it, suggesting that the magnitude of his hit on Julie was blown out of proportion by gossip and having Louise describe his hit to her hand as feeling more like a kiss.

The biggest difference is that most of the story in the film is presented as a flashback, while everything in the stage version happens in chronological order. But there are other differences, and one of them somewhat waters down the plot. In the play, Billy Bigelow commits suicide to avoid being captured by the police, while in the film he dies accidentally while trying to escape from them. Another difference is that, in the stage version of "Carousel", there is use of recitative (sung conversation that always leads to an actual composed song), while in the film, much of this recitative is simply turned into spoken dialogue. Occasionally a word or two will be changed in the lyrics, but this is usually for censorship reasons. One of the few lyrics changed just for the sake of changing it is in the song "You'll Never Walk Alone". The original lyric was "When you walk through a storm, keep your chin up high", and for the film this was changed to the now more familiar "When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high". The powerful, rousing song that Billy sings late in the stage version -- "The Highest Judge of All" -- is omitted from the film. The songs "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan" and "Blow High, Blow Low" were recorded for the film, but not used. They can both be heard on the film soundtrack album and as extras on the 50th Anniversary DVD of the film, although the visual footage is not on the DVD and the songs are heard only as supplements. (On the soundtrack CD, they are heard in their rightful place.) However, the film is largely extremely faithful to the original stage version, retaining most of the dialogue. None of Billy's physically abusive behavior is shown, but then, up until the 1994 revival of the musical, it wasn't shown onstage either.

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