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This is a really good movie and has wonderful music. One of the best by Rodgers & Hammerstein. Shirley Jones and Gordon Macrae are perfect for their roles. Personally, I think the best parts are during the end of the film when Macrae finally gets to see his little girl. I thought I could make it through without crying. Boy, was I wrong. The ending is great and just tugs at your heart and makes you want more. If you like musicals, you'll love this. If you don't then you're missing out on a wonderful movie.
Nearly as well done one as 'Oklahoma', this is the rare musical where
everyone does their own singing and does it well, unlike 'South
Pacific' and 'Camelot' where the stars were cast for their box office
power and someone else sang for them.
Each time I've seen this movie on TV, the lovely duet 'If I Loved You' is photographed from a distance, at least when Gordon MacRae sings his part. Perhaps the close-up take was ruined and this was substituted, but you can't see any facial expressions. All you see is MacRae gesturing, walking back and forth while you hear his voice. You don't even see his lips move. It's too bad, because vocally, this version of the duet is superior to the original Broadway cast version with Jan Clayton and John Raitt. Raitt was great, but Jan Clayton's voice is too weak and delicate. In the movie, Shirley Jones is every bit the vocal equal of Gordon MacRae. Now compare how 'If I Loved You' is photographed with 'Soliloquy' or even when MacRae returns for 1 day and softly and beautifully reprises 'If I Loved' to the middle-aged Julie.
The casting of MacRae is perfect, not just vocally either. Even though this movie came out just 1 year after 'Oklahoma', MacRae is visibly heavier and seedier around the edges. At some level, Billy Bigelow understands he's a self-destructive loser and needs Julie more than Julie needs him. His strutting act is tinged with shame. He's not that much different from his pal Jigger, except that Jigger is not handicapped by conscience. Even though Frank Sinatra (who was originally cast as Billy) played many characters like this, I think MacRae had the better voice for this part and actually seemed to be in real life the handsome golden boy going bad.
Julie is partly a loser because she knows better, and she deserves better than Billy Bigelow. Other reviewers have criticized the play for an unrealistic portrayal of a woman sticking with a shiftless abusive husband. Seems to happen a lot still. The seaside setting in Maine is so picturesque, the songs are so lovely, you almost forget that this story is more commonly found in a city slum or a trailer park. Jones and MacRae sing their parts like champions, just as they did in 'Oklahoma'. Their singing transcends the sordidness of their story.
The pairing of Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae is the best of all the movie musicals. Shirley Jones had the best soprano voice in movies with the possible exception of Julie Andrews. You could actually make out the words in her singing. She had none of the pretentious trilling of Kathryn Grayson. MacRae could go from soft crooning to operatic high notes with ease. I've seen Oklahoma and Carousel on stage many times and have yet to hear them sung better than the movie versions.
Rodgers and Hammerstein avoided making Carrie and husband Mr. Snow money driven caricatures by their mutual love for each other in the tender 'When The Children Are Asleep'. As much as the emotional center belongs to Billy & Julie, one must admit that it is the Snow family that's the prototype for the successful American Family. Mr. Snow's plowing his profits from one fishing boat to build up to a fleet could be applied to restaurants, taxicabs or stores.
The dream dancing in Carousel is better than in 'Oklahoma'. Jacques D,Amboise has a tremendous screen presence, and Susan Luckey is a better actress than Bambi Linn in Oklahoma.
I have had the relatively rare privilege of performing "Carousel" on
uncut, and with a full orchestra. The original "Carousel" that Rodgers
Hammerstein wrote for the stage is practically an opera, employing
musical scenes that cover great stretches of plot and character by
alternating music and dialogue. When one sees the "Carousel" on stage
good voices and the original orchestrations), one begins to understand why
this is considered one of the greatest musicals ever written.
"Carousel" on film is not nearly as overwhelming. The story is still there, as are the songs, for the most part. But they are just songs in the movie, scenes distilled to the bare bones of the melody on which the original sequence was based. You don't get the feeling, after hearing them sung, that you have learned anything new about the characters (excepting, of course, Billy Bigelow's "Soliloquy" which is left entirely intact).
For example, the "If I Loved You" bench scene between Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones) and Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) lasts almost fifteen minutes once the music starts. What the characters don't tell us about themselves, the music does, throwing melodies left and right until it finally culminates in the release of the famous love song. The scene has built up to this moment until it becomes the only way that Julie can tell Billy that she loves him. In the movie, however, it is all talk until Julie starts singing "If I Loved You". The song seems to come much more out of left field and does not seem nearly as satisfying. Billy repeats the song and the scene ends. As a result, their falling in love with each other doesn't make much sense because the scene really hasn't built up to it.
Several songs which delineate the supporting characters are either severely truncated (such as the musical/character sequence between Carrie Pipperidge (Barbara Ruick) and Enoch Snow (Robert Rounseville)) or cut entirely (such as "Blow High, Blow Low" which could have been a choreographer's dream). As for the choreography itself, surely "June is Bustin' Out All Over" could have been staged with a little more imagination instead of confining itself to the roof and deck of Nettie Fowler's spa. And it does feel confined. This is a song about abandoning the human spirit to the glories of the summer season, a feeling that covers much more territory than just a dining patio.
I do like the casting in the film, although I believe that they were badly underdirected. Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones seem a little lost here. Their talent is not in question as evidenced by their stellar performances in the movie version of "Oklahoma!". Clearly this movie, which had the potential to be a cinema classic, was helmed by someone who didn't understand the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein. In other words, don't try to fix what ain't broke.
"Carousel", the musical, was presented on Broadway with great success.
The transition to the screen, alas, doesn't fare that well. Having seen
this film version a while ago, we decided to take a second look, but
this time, in all honesty, it didn't have the same effect. Partly, it
must be Henry King's take on the musical. Perhaps it this Rodgers and
Hammerstein hasn't aged that well.
The problem, perhaps, seems to be in the music. We have heard variations of these Rodgers and Hammerstein's songs in other musicals. Take for instance, "You'll Never Walk Alone", doesn't it sound suspiciously like "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music"? In both cases, they are heard from much older and wiser women, Cousin Nettie, in this one, or Mother Superior in the other. Also there are shades of "Some Enchanting Evening", from "South Pacific", while Louise is seen playing around at the beach while Billy is looking from heaven. Of course, we realize "Carousel" came before.
One wonders what change of events took Billy Bigelow to heaven? After all, he wasn't a model of righteousness, let alone his way of giving Julie a slap or two at times. If all indicates that he was admitted through the Pearly Gates of heaven, then, there's a chance for most of us, or so, it seems to be the case.
Gordon McRae was more of a singer than an actor, and it sadly shows in this film. The lovely Shirley Jones, at the prime of her youth, fares much better because she could not only sing, but she was a notable actress of this genre and comedy. For some reason, the chemistry that might have existed between them in "Oklahoma", is not shown here. Cameron Mitchell, Gene Lockhart, Claramae Turner, Susan Luckey, among others do good supporting jobs in the film.
The choreography of Agnes de Mille is only seen in all its splendor in "June is busting out all over" and in the Carousel ballet, somehow abridged, and featuring Jacques D'Amboise with Louis Luckey in one of the best moments of the musical.
I have known this one for years and was finally glad to be able to purchase it from the States on DVD. Unfortunately filmed in Cinemascope, the is means a small picture on the TV with thick black bars ! Why didn't they make a 4:3 version ??? Anyway the story was very moving and the musical and dance numbers A1 !! The final scene with the visit to Bigelow's daughter on the Beach and him tramping off back to "heaven" all the the sound of "You'll never Walk Alone" blocks my throat every time I see it and I cannot even describe the scene to someone without tears flowing from my eyes !
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Billy Bigelow is truly a character in need of redemption. Played by
Gordon McRae, the carnival carousel barker needs help, a second chance,
well probably more than a second chance, to try to right wrongs he left
behind in his life.
So this musical is a combination of dark and inspirational, and that is why it is my favorite musical. It actually moves me to tears because how many of us don't need redemption in one-way or another, and how many of us fail those we love at one time or another.
Billy, the terrible failure in life, is matched up with the seemingly perfect woman, Julie played by Shirley Jones in this story. And despite the fact that he can't express his love for her, he hits her when frustrated, Julie knows he loves her.
So when he dies while trying to rob a rich man, to provide for Julie and their child to come, he fails miserably in his last act on earth. But the story is only beginning because the star keeper in Billy's purgatory location stirs Billy's interest in his daughter, and Julie back on earth. So, this failure in life is given one last chance to help his daughter who is having a tough time growing up without a father.
As you might expect, he struggles with helping his daughter in his return visit. Julie senses his presence although she never sees him, and he is too embarrassed to be visually revealed to her. Julie always could see through him, and knew his heart better than he ever did. So yes, he was a scoundrel, and at best is a bumbling angel, who ends up telling Julie he loved her, and encouraging his daughter.
The wonderful Carousel theme establishes a setting for an earthly tone of temptation. With songs like June is Busting Out All Over, If I Loved You, and You'll Never Walk Alone, Rogers and Hammerstein's music is inspirational, when not effectively setting up the story. The actors besides Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones, who are skilled singers and convincing, are solid, with special acknowledgment going to Cameron Mitchell, Gene Lockhart, and Susan Luckey as Louise Bigelow.
This movie is not for children, and even adults will disagree concerning the darker violent themes. But I know of no other musical that moves me emotionally like Carousel.
Of all the highly successful Rodgers and Hammerstein screen adaptations
made at Fox Studios in the 50s and 60s, Carousel has the unfortunate
distinction of being the only one to receive no Academy Award
nominations, and while not quite the flop that has sometimes been
claimed, it was only a moderate box office success compared to its
contemporary cousins Oklahoma!, The King and I and South Pacific. But
contemporary opinion is not always correct, and Carousel is by no means
a weak entry in the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon.
Adapted from Ferenc Molnar's play Liliom, an eloquent and poignant apologia for domestic violence that is nowhere near as distasteful as it sounds, this was in fact the favourite of the songwriting duo themselves. Condensing the narrative of the play down to the events of three separate days, the material contains the right mix of romance, tragedy and hope that characterises their best work. It also contains some of their finest songs. "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" features one of the quintessential strange-yet-beautiful Richard Rodgers melodies, a soaring mix of sweet and sour notes. "Soliloquy" is unusual for Hammerstein songs in that it advances story and character in a way more reminiscent of Alan Jay Lerner's work, and yet it contains a lot of that distinctive Hammerstein humour. And then of course there is "You'll Never Walk Alone", probably their most powerfully anthemic song.
For these screen versions the songwriters were always given the right to approve the director. Carousel was the only one directed by that most loyal and senior of Fox Studio helmsman Henry King. King had not done a proper musical before, and what's more the older directors were generally the ones to struggle with the 2.55:1 aspect ratio that these pictures were shot in. He manages the wider canvas better than most though, partly because he doesn't have much use for close-ups, and also because his backgrounds were always exquisite but never obtrusive. He uses these backdrops to bring a rhythmic but incredibly light touch to the musical numbers. Take the sequence which features the songs "Mr Snow" and "If I Loved You". About half-an-hour long, all in the same location, but King keeps it feeling fresh by moving the action along, from the blowing leaves at the beginning, to the maze of tree trunks during "Mr Snow", to the shimmering sea and finally the gently falling blossoms for "If I Loved You". The background subtly changes, matching the tone of each point in the scene, stopping it from feeling static, but never distracting us from the characters or the music.
The two leads here are the same as those in the previous year's Oklahoma! movie Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae. Always more of a good singer who could act than a good actor who could sing, MacRae was not the first choice for the part. And yet, he does a nice job, the rough and chequered Billy Bigelow suiting him far better than the clean-cut cowboy of Oklahoma! And with his burly form he certainly has the right figure for the character, especially compared to the sprightly Frank Sinatra who nearly took the role. Shirley Jones is decent although her part is actually little more than a supporting role. Standouts from the other players are the tomboyish Susan Luckey as Louise, and a delightful appearance by opera singer Robert Rounseville, brilliantly adding pitch to his words for emphasis.
It's hard to say exactly why Carousel was not a big success upon release. The dark storyline is often cited as a reason. It may also be that it goes against the genre's trends at the time. Compare the obviously fake look of many sets to the very "on location" feel of South Pacific (1958). Compare the theatrical singer-stars Jones and MacRae to dramatic actors Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner in The King and I (also 1956). But leaving aside the tastes of the era, this is a great musical picture. Lyrical, poignant and beautifully melodic, among the Rodgers and Hammerstein features I would judge it second only to The Sound of Music.
I can't remember how old I was when I first saw this on TV, but it was
a long time ago (we had a B&W TV!)...but even though I saw it in B&W,
it had an impact that has lasted. This musical has the most gorgeous
score by the great Richard Rodgers. Also believe this music got me
hooked onto opera later in my youth and that opened an entirely other
world of music to me.
But back to Carousel, the story is beautiful and moving, sad and romantic. The stuff of great musicals. And the music is wonderfully scored by the Fox maestro of the time, Alfred Newman and the superb Fox orchestra!! I think that if Fox had made this film earlier (like in the 40's, the orchestrations might have been sparser. In 1956, with bigger production spending (to get audiences away from their TVs and back into theatres), the musicals are also beefed up orchestrally (with improved stereo recording techniques) to make the most of the score. (The soundtrack is also an enjoyable one to experience on its own.)
I loved the scenery of the Maine coast...I have even travelled to Maine and made a special stop in Boothbay Harbor--much changed since 1956 I am sure, but it felt wonderful to visit there. I only wish that the town would make more of an effort to promote the fact that Carousel's location filmwork was done there.
The cinematography is splendid and lush. I love the way the camera is used in the Carousel Waltz sequence, with the music dominating any dialogue. Modern directors wouldn't dare try that today!
I can live with the juxtapositional mixes of location photography vs. the in-studio filming. Not all the dancing could be done on a real beach. And I was very pleased that the entire Soliloquy scene was shot outdoors, very beautiful camera-work following Mr. MacRae's movements. And he sings that song like it was written for him. I agree with most other reviewers here, that Mr. Sinatra was not right for this part.
Shirley Jones is just gorgeous to look at and so believable in this role. Too bad, she only really has two songs, one being the duet with MacRae. Claramae Turner's rendition of the classic You'll Never Walk Alone always brings tears to me, even now after all these years.
Even at the end, I am teary-eyed. That tells me this movie is timeless.
I hope anyone who has never seen it, and reads the reviews here, that you will be able to find as much joy and love from this great music and story that we all have.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although I have no interest in dancing, I could see there was something
very unusual about the male partner of Bigelow's daughter in the dance
she had in the middle of "Louise's Ballet." I watched closely and
repeatedly, and I swear the guy is better than Fred Astaire (and that
is saying something).
I looked him up, and it turns out he (Jacques d'Amboise) was a US born ballet dancer. He was hardly 20 years old when he did this movie.
The moves he makes during this supposed Broadway musical are far too good for that level. A number of male ballet moves are mixed in.
He does everything effortlessly (even more effortlessly than Fred Astaire) and he is strong as hell. Watch the effortless one-arm lifts of Louise, and the absolute ease during the other lifts.
In looking him up, all his biographies center on his later work educating children in dance.
If he stood out so that I, who got the video to look at Shirley Jones and hear some good Broadway singing (Gordon McRae is terrific and very convincing as the roughneck he plays) could immediately notice the quality of his contribution to this movie, then he was something very unusual.
I cannot believe that better known dancers such as Nureyev or Baryshnikov were any better than Jacques d'Amboise, even if they had bigger PR.
at the NY Jones Beach Theatre (only that one starred Bonnie Franklin as
Julie Jordan's friend-imagine!).
Another review mentioned the fact that this story is more realistic as Billy Bigelow was no hero to anyone, except his family. Shirley Jones is shy Julie, and loves him despite his unpromising future as a carousel/carnival barker.
The cinematography is bold and expansive, the Rodgers and Hammerstein score sometimes haunting sometimes predictable. The story is involving, however, and is not a predictable tale. It is a bit melancholy. Shirley Jones is so likable that she transcends the predictable story, and will keep you watching. 8/10.
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