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This score, which includes "You'll Never Walk Alone", "If I Loved You", "June Is Bustin' Out All Over", "What's the Use of Wondrin'", "A Real Nice Clambake", the title "Carousel Waltz" and many more (although 2 1/2 were cut), is entrancing and moving. But the flashback method (like the recent "Titanic" where we know who DOESN'T die), a poor performance by the juvenile lead, Susan Luckey, a DANCER, and indoor beach sets unevenly interwoven with spectacular real beach scenery, fleetingly detract from the film. But superb performances, sung and acted, by Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, lovely Maine scenery, expert direction by Fox "house" director Henry King ("The Song of Bernadette", "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing", many more), an emotional finale and that evergreen score and you have got a musical almost on the level of "The Sound of Music" and "The King and I"
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of the quintessential Rodgers-Hammerstein musicals, this one comes in
just behind Oklahoma, South Pacific, and the King and I. From a jazz
musician's viewpoint, it offers fewer enticing songs than anything by
Rodgers & Hart and most of the collaborations with Hammerstein as well.
Yet in the context of the times, a song such as "You'll Never Walk
Alone" helped heal, provide consolation and hope to the ones who were
left behind after the war. "If I Loved You" is certainly a gorgeous
melody and sensitive lyric, but the highlight, at least for any
expectant father, has got to be "Soliloquy." (Listen to Sinatra's
unsurpassed, timeless reading of this one as well as "You'll Never Walk
Alone" on "The Concert Sinatra".)
Sinatra's instincts were right in backing out of this movie, which is the most wooden, flat, artificial and leaden of all the filmed adaptations of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals (it makes "Sound of Music" look like "Citizen Kane"). It's simply not good movie-making-- partly because the filmmakers got carried away with the technology, thinking that bright colors and a wider Cinemascope image, requiring two final takes of each scene (the reason Sinatra split), would be "realism" enough for the public.
That's one reason this film, contrary to another reviewer's evaluation, can't compare with Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." But he also misses the point about George Bailey. True, he's not the bum that Billy Bigelow is. But he's become so self-righteous about his "indispensability" to his community that he commits suicide all because of the loss of a mere thousand bucks. (In the movie version of "Carousel" Billy falls on his knife accidentally after the stick-up goes awry.) Billy comes back as an angel to provide comfort, hope, and encouragement, "earning his wings" by doing well by his daughter. But George Bailey has earned too many wings--in fact, his good deeds and his savior complex are his problem. The wingless angel Clarence is sent on a mission to Bedford Falls to restore to George Bailey his humanity, with all its flaws and failings. Compared to Carousel, it's a darker, more profound story about tragic pride (even archetypal, given its parallels with Sophocles' Oedipus Rex), and ultimately it's more cathartic and life affirming, since it conveys faith in a world not overrun by Mr. Potters: ordinary people do have the capacity to be unselfish and forgiving. This is not to cast aspersions on the deeply felt sentiments of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece. It's just unfortunate that Carousel was not filmed in the 1940s by a creative, inspired giant like Frank Capra.
One of the darkest if not the darkest of the big Hollywood or Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals this has an almost thoroughly unsympathetic anti-hero and somewhat of a doormat, at least at first, for a leading lady. However it also has some of the most beautiful music ever written sung by two great artists. "If I Loved You" is a song so full of cautious yearning and guarded longing with beautiful simplicity it tells you so much about Billy and Julie any other back story would be wasted. "You'll Never Walk Alone" is starkly moving and "June Is Busting Out All Over" provides some much needed levity in the heavy proceedings. Shirley Jones, at perhaps the peak of her loveliness, and Gordon MacRae, always one of the most attractive men in films with his All American robustness, with their chemistry and charisma make the two main characters people you care about which especially in Billy Bigelow's case is not the easiest accomplishment. As far as their singing performances Shirley as was always the case is in exquisite voice but the real standout has got to be Gordon, blessed with a gorgeous baritone and a fine expressive style, he is terrific here particularly in his big show-stopping set piece "Soliloquy". He was rushed in when Frank Sinatra walked out in a huff and it was a lucky break for the film, Sinatra with his at times boorish entitlement would have engendered zero sympathy, a vital component to making the character at least somewhat engaging. Sadly this was his last big picture since it was the end of the cycle for big Hollywood musicals. A waste of a superior talent. A beautiful film about imperfect people, and the redemption of one, that may not be politically correct if viewed through the prism of modern times but looked at from the perspective of the times it was made in is a great entertainment.
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 ***
First, I've got to get something off my chest. I was reading in the
discussion section the thread entitled "This film is an atrocity". Some
of the dumbest comments I've ever read on IMDb. We have some reviewers
who can't differentiate between "I didn't like this film" and "This is
a horrible film". There is a difference. I personally can't stand
opera, but that doesn't mean that I don't recognize its beauty and the
talent it takes to perform one. And in fact, that's one of the things
some of our reviewers don't get...more than some musicals, this film is
-- in a sense -- an opera.
Second, thank god that Frank Sinatra walked away from this film. First, it would have been type casting. But second, he was all wrong -- including physically wrong -- for the part of Billy Bigelow. Having said that, I see Sinatra's Reprise recording of "Soliloquy" to be the definitive recording of the song.
Now, more directly to the film. I can see why modern audiences might not enjoy this film. It has a slow pace in a few places. Some of the modern interpretive dance, which really is quite good, might not appeal to many. And, the film excuses hitting women.
On the other hand, when you think about it, the film tackles more substance than musicals often do. The plot is a little thin, but that's so you can fit in the music. And the music here is truly notable: "Soliloquy", "If I Loved You", and the stunning "You'll Never Walk Alone" (although I was a bit disappointed with the orchestral arrangement here, particularly in the first appearance of the song).
Shirley Jones's performance was -- once again -- virtually flawless. It's a travesty that her type of film virtually disappeared from movie screens, relegating much of her later career to weak films, few of which are notable.
Gordon MacRae is excellent here, and I say that as no fan of his.
Claramae Turner's part gets little screen time, but her nearly-operatic performance of "You'll Never Walk Alone" is timeless. Cameron Mitchell...well, I never quite saw what Hollywood saw in him...and still don't. Gene Lockhart is worth mentioning here. He was a character actor with a long and substantial career, and this movie was filmed just about a year before his death, although he performed in 2 films after this, including "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit".
All in all, despite what some of our reviewers have written, this is a significant film, though it may not be entertaining to modern audiences. It will be remembered more for several of its musical pieces, rather than for its plot. I'm glad I finally watched it -- once -- but I probably will not view it again. That era has passed, and personally I don't feel this is the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. However, still recommended from an historical point of view in film history.
There are many people today (as well as many people back when this was first released) who don't care for the dark story in this, one of the least financially successful of the Rodgers and Hammerstein filmizations. However, the film is lovely and a grand filming of a classic. The "opening up" of the story with beautiful Maine locations makes it's beauty breathtaking at times, and no one can fault the handling of the grand musical score. Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones do more than justice to the beautiful songs, and the choreography of such great numbers as "June is Bustin' Out All Over" is superb. This is a film that, despite it's darker elements does leave you with an uplifted feeling. A masterful job by Twentieth Century-Fox.
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