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In recent years it has become commonplace to site Frank Kapra's `It's a
Wonderful Life' as one of the greatest films ever. It has become a Christmas
tradition. I feel that film is overrated. The problem I have with it is that
it stacks the deck in trying to convince us of the value of human life.
George Bailey is a successful banker- not exactly rich but successful enough
that he contributed a lot of material things to people's lives, including a
housing development named after him. He also saved his brother's life so his
brother could save the men on that ship, etc. etc. The message is that you
are of value if you have done the sort of things they build statues of
people to honor. On top of that, without George, everybody in this town is
nothing. They are all drunks or crooks or prostitutes. They have no
capabilities of their own. They are all dependent on George Bailey.
I much prefer Carousel, whose hero is a bum. If you were to ask nearly everybody in town- a town that has done just fine without him, as a matter of fact, what Billy Bigelow contributed to their lives, they would say nothing- if they remembered him at all. The only people who would have anything good to say about him are those that he loved and who loved him. And that is the bottom line. If a person can be redeemed by his ability to love and to inspire love in others, we all have a chance. If you have to have a bank and town named after you, the bar is too high for most of us.
As a musical, this is as good as it gets. `If I loved you' is rivaled only by `Some Enchanted Evening' as a love song and it means more as it's revealing of the character of this crude man who can't express what's in his soul and this shy girl who wants only to love and be loved. `Soliloquy' is the dramatic highlight in the history of the musical as Billy works out all his hopes and dreams in his mind and vows to do anything he can to make his daughter's life special. By over reaching his bounds, he does the opposite. `What's the Use of Wondering' expresses the doubts anyone entering a relationship has and is doubly moving as it's sung by Julie, for whom we know the song will have special relevance. `When You Walk Through a Storm' offers hope to us all. Those old guys at graduations are really worth listening to.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's brilliant stage musical comes to the screen with
most of the music intact--and what songs they are. Each one is a gem and
fully integrated into the tragic storyline. Gordon MacRae stars as Billy
Bigelow, the amusement park barker who tries to change his life when he
marries Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones)-- with tragic results. MacRae's robust
baritone is showcased in his big number, 'Soliloquy', performed at seaside
with the ocean backdrop. Only occasionally is the use of stagebound sets a
jarring note--but overall, the look and feel of the movie is one of
genuinely moving musical drama.
Delightful performances from Barbara Ruick and Robert Rounseville as Mr. and Mrs. Snow. Their 'When The Children Are Asleep' is a charming highlight. Claramae Turner does an outstanding job on 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Cameron Mitchell is a slyly villainous Jigger. Filming of the 'June Is Bustin' Out All Over' number in Boothsbay Harbor, Maine is a production highlight and choreographer's dream.
Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones are in excellent voice for 'If I Loved You'. What more could you want? An exceptional movie musical that ranks with the best of Rodgers & Hammerstein's works.
This is the musical which gave Gordon MacRae his greatest solo song, namely
the 7 minutes long "Soliloquy", in which Billy the circus barker speculates
about his unborn child, first with bluster and pride if it is a boy, and
then with insecurity and despair if it is a girl he can't buy things for.
Billy, as we have seen in the opening sequence of the film, is telling his
story to one of the angels in heaven, where he has gone after a violent and
premature death. So we see his tale unfold, as he meets pretty little Julie
Jordan (Shirley Jones, excellent), marries her, and through fate and bad
luck, gets separated from her.
The subject matter is darker than Oklahoma (the film version of which also starred MacRae and Jones) but the sheer exuberance of songs such as "June is Bustin' Out All Over"; "A Real Nice Clambake"; "When The Children Are Asleep" and "If I Loved You", plus of course the best-known song from the show, "You'll Never Walk Alone" takes the story to another level and makes this film enjoyable to watch. Robert Rounsville makes a fine bombastic Mr Snow and has a fabulous voice; MacRae and Jones have their memorable duet to the lovely melody of Rodgers' score. There is also an excellent dance sequence, not as extensive as on stage, but still effective, where the daughter of Billy and Julie imagines an escape from her lonely and ostracised life.
This is a great film, based on a great show. It is perfectly cast, and has
the world's best love song (If I Loved You) in a smashingly romantic
setting. I shudder to think what the film would have been like with
who were possible leads--Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly--because Gordon
is so right--physically and vocally--for the role, and Shirley Jones is
marvelously young and innocent and beautiful.
The new (as of 5/99) DVD production is stunning, bringing wide screen, impeccable color, sharp definition, and glorious sound to the mix.
This Rodgers and Hammerstein show is a classic, and must not be missed!
For years, I searched for this film on TV, plus the old Magnetic video
released during the late 1970's. However, other than the occasional pay
channel, it was never on. Local channels would play all of the other
Rodgers and Hammerstein films, but this one was not one of them for some
reason. I had heard the score before. It was perhaps Rodgers and
Hammerstein's most RECORDED score. There were two major Broadway cast
albums, both starring John Raitt, as well as a variety of studio-recorded
albums. It was even done for TV in the 1960's with Robert Goulet, a
I hope eventually will be released. The score is one of the most
to listen to, and the lyrics are inspiring. The movie leads, Gordon
and Shirley Jones, are perfectly cast, and their singing voices
fill the roles. They are even better in this than they were in
As Julie's best friend, Carrie, Barbara Ruick is a perfect contrast to
Jones' innocent Julie. She is unintentionally flirtatious, yet not
like Gloria Grahame's Ado Annie in "Oklahoma!". Those two roles are very
similar in the sense that they are both the second leads with a comic
but I found Ruick's Carrie more developed character wise. As her leading
man, Robert Rouseville's Mr. Snow can seem a bit stuffy, but his
is a product of his times: quietly macho, not in the romantic sense, but
that a girl like Carrie simply wanting a home and family would be perfect
for him. Cameron Mitchell's Jigger Crane, the "Jud Fry" of the story,
on as a some-what light-hearted villain; it is his actions which will
ultimately affect the destinies of our lovers Julie and Billy. As the
pricklish Mrs. Mullins, owner of the carousel, delightful Audrey Christie
was perfectly shrewish. Finally, as the sweet and wise Aunt Nettie,
Claramae Turner was wonderful as the musical's voice of reason, a role
scene in Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Her rendition of "You'll
Walk Alone" is unforgettable.
It is totally believable that Julie and Billy would fall for each other. They are both attractive young adults. Yes, he did beat her, and she stayed with him in spite of this. This was the 1870's, and women did stay with the men they loved in spite of things like this. One of the reasons things like this are important to be seen today is to show how far women have come. In the man-dominated New England of that time, women were secondary citizens, so it is realistic to portray Julie in this light. Sad yes, but a part of history.
The New England sets are breath-taking, particularly during the "June is Bustin' Out All Over" number, and in the climactic clambake. They are beautifully photographed, making the film mesmerizing to look at. Between the sumptuous singing of MacRae and Jones and the wonderful cinemascope technicolor, the film is simply outstanding. I find it hard to find any faults with this film, and could simply watch it over and over.
Shirley Jones is very believable as Julie Jordan, the lovely and ever patient mill worker who falls for a carousel barker, Billy Bigelow. With such heart felt ballads as "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" it definitely ranks as one of the essential Hollywood musicals. Carousel is just about the only musical made during this period that deals with darker themes (i.e. date rape, domestic abuse). One could say that it even argues in favor of birth control. Carousel will never look dated because its themes are timeless and apply to the human spirit no matter what year it is. Everybody can identify with Billy to a degree and everybody can not help but feel a deep respect for Julie by the end of her personal journey. Fans of musical drama will treasure Carousel for years to come.
I saw Carousel for the very first time in its first release when it
played a double bill with Oklahoma. You can't do much better than that
for an introduction to the American Musical Theater.
It would get a perfect 10 had it been done with the original two leads that were set for the show, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. Judy backed out before production started and Sinatra shortly after that, so Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones got to do a second Rodgers&Hammerstein classic.
Carousel is based on the Ferenc Molnar play Liliom and the original setting is in Molnar's native Hungary. On Broadway it was done by Eva Le Gallienne and Joseph Schildkraut and later in revival by Ingrid Bergman and Burgess Meredith. One man who did it in summer stock was Tyrone Power who if a straight dramatic version of Liliom had ever been done, would have been perfect.
Whether he's Liliom in Hungary or Billy Bigelow in 19th century New England, the part is one for a hero/heel that Tyrone Power patented on the screen. Probably Gordon MacRae benefited in no small way in having Power's favorite director Henry King in charge of Carousel.
Richard Rodgers was also used to writing for a hero/heel having done Pal Joey with his former partner Lorenz Hart. Billy is that kind of guy, a carousel barker and boy toy to owner Audrey Christie when he spots Julie Jordan and her friend Carrie Pipperidge, a couple of mill workers. It's love at first sight and marriage shortly after, but Billy's not a guy to change his layabout ways and it ends in tragedy.
One reason that Sinatra was also so right for the part was that he had made a successful hit record of Billy's Soliliquy back in 1945 when Carousel debuted on Broadway. It was a groundbreaking piece of musical theater that Dick Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were responsible for in the Soliliquy. Billy's just been told by Julie he's about to become a father. In an almost 10 minute number he bares his soul to the audience and sings/thinks aloud the moves he's going to make. The song is almost operatic in quality, it takes a real singing actor to put it over like Sinatra, like MacRae is here, like John Raitt in the original cast on stage.
Though it's not Julie's song, Judy Garland had a successful record with You'll Never Walk Alone. I'm sure she would have sung it in the film had she seen it through. It's probably the big hit song from the score, still an inspiring number today.
Rounding out the cast is Cameron Mitchell as Billy's no good pal Jigger, Robert Rounseville and Barbara Ruick as Mr. Snow and Carrie, the second leads and from the Metropolitan Opera Claramae Turner as Julie's cousin Nettie who does sing You'll Never Walk Alone.
Two more who are perfectly cast are John Dehner as the officious mill owner that employs the girls and the heavenly star-keeper, Gene Lockhart in one of his last roles.
Even more than in Oklahoma, Agnes DeMille's ballet numbers are used to advance the plot. From the exuberant June Is Busting Out All Over to the dance that Billy and Julie's daughter does, all are done with taste and style.
Carousel is both tragic and yet uplifting and inspiring. It's a musical for all the ages to come.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's groundbreaking musical version of Molnar's "Liliom"
has been given a fine rendering on film.
Gordon Macrae is the carousel barker, Billy Bigelow, who falls in love with
the lovely millworker, Julie Jordan, portrayed by the talented Shirley
Jones. The road to happiness is paved with wife abuse, criminal acts, and
tragedy, not the usual items found in musicals.
The score of "Carousel" is probably one the greatest ever composed for the musical theatre. "If I Loved You" is sung by the couple in a lovers' lane setting where their attitudes and emotions are conveyed by Rodgers' bittersweet melody and Hammerstein's wonderful lyrics. "June is Bustin' Out All Over" is danced and sung by the ensemble of youthful denizens of the Maine town where the story is set. The choreography is delightful, somewhat reminiscent of the athletic-balletic dancing in "7 Brides for 7 Brothers". Gordon Macrae's moving performance of "Soliloquy" along the rocky seashore with its crashing waves is nothing short of perfection. Frank Sinatra was originally to have the role, but to be frank, he looked a little silly in the costume worn by the character as seen in a still photograph shown in a documentary about Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The cinematography is spectacular using the Cinemascope 55 process. Of course, the film must be seen in its widescreen version available on laserdisc and soon to be released on DVD. I first saw "Carousel" at the Roxy Theatre when it opened in 1956. The huge screen seemed like a window looking out on the world of these star-crossed characters. The sound was stereophonic and still is in its video incarnations.
Supporting performances are also fine. Cameron Mitchell is Billy's bad influence. Barbara Ruick and Robert Rounsville have magnificent voices and sing the lovely "When the Children Are Asleep" against the panoramic scenery of a June sailboat ride to a clambake. At the clambake, the chorus lead by Claramae Turner sings the heart out of "A Real Nice Clambake". Turner also sings the anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" at a tragic turning point in the film.
The best way to see "Carousel" is in a theatre, but see it. It is sometimes shown on American Movie Classics cable channel in its original widescreen version. Lean back and enjoy.
The film of this classic musical is a joy to watch and listen to.
The music is undoubtedly the finest Rodgers and Hammerstein
Of the many fine moments in the film two astounding highlights
must be Billy's Soliloquy and the Shirley Jones' and Gordon
MacRae's lover's duet "If I loved you".
To this is added two great ballet sequences "June is Bustin' out all
Over" and Louise's ballet.
The film is Rogers and Hammerstein at their most dark and
introspective, which may account for the film's relatively lacklustre
reception at the time of its initial release but the at the same time
explains the ongoing appeal of this truly timeless classic film.
It is a fine memorial to both composer and lyricist and to the
artistry of Gordon MacRae whose performance of the soliloquy is
the benchmark against which all performances are judged.
The film was produced in Cinemascope 55 a large film fomat
which overcame many of the problems that were inherent in early
Cinemascope films (even though the film was actually released
only in standard 35mm form ..a bit like a 35mm print of a 70mm
film this still results in a far better image) and gives the film its
The Fox DVD is crisp and the sound, though very clearly a 1950s
recording is clean and well balanced.
I just wish I could see this film in a cinema on the biggest of
screens... it would be an even more special experience!
The underdog of the two movies, but not in my book. "Carousel" so sweet,
but I hate the darker parts. Hard to watch Jigger & Billy in their evil
planning & trying to carry it out. I like all the song-and-dance movies.
Here, "Louise's Ballet" really special, with Jacques d'Amboise now an older
ballet teacher & mentor of youth. This movie shows him when he was borrowed
as a young star (prodigy) from American Ballet Theater (?). Hate the part
where Louise is taunted by all those rich kids. Liked the part at the end
where Julie is older & more mature; wiser. Still misses her ne'er-do-well
Loved the boat song with Julie's two friends: "When the Children Are Asleep". A tearjerker, but how true.
This story gives a midwesterner a view of late 1800s New England life, about uneducated young people. A female mill hand, and a male carousel barker. No wonder they had no money. People were going to college in those days, but not very many apparently. Billy's other money-making alternative was to steal. So sad.
Gordon MacRae had such an awesome voice. Shirley Jones' voice is beautiful, as is that of Claramae Turner (Cousin Nettie). The big group dance off Nettie's roof is totally excellent & breathtaking. Reminds me of "7 Brides for 7 Brothers".
Too bad people these days only know of Shirley Jones from "Partridge Family".
9/10 (dark violence)
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