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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.
"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 ***
A Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with a thinner than average plot.
Aside from the ravishing Shirley Jones, this film has little to
Mostly forgettable songs in an alleged tale of love and redemption...
Billy Bigelow is a drifter, carnival barker, and ladies' man...Julie Jordan, pretty, prim, and demure, is the target of his flirtations as the movie begins. These two people make the most mismatched "romantic couple" this side of the fatal Henry Higgins/Eliza Dolittle pairing...and despite their differences they end up married to each other, if for no other reason than spite and stubbornness (the song "If I Loved You" basically catalogs the reasons that the pairing forebodes imminent disaster). So, of course, in the spirit of soft-headed 50's romanticism, these completely incompatible people end up married, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE REFUSED TO EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE LOVE FOR EACH OTHER!
The now bored, unemployed, and out of circulation Billy takes his frustrations at no longer being the "Cock of the Walk" out by slapping the wife around occasionally, and belittling her in front of her friends. (How frigging heartwarming!) When encouraged by her friends to dump this dead weight, Julie replies with a "stand by your man" kind of song! Will true Love save the day here? (Gee, I wish there was a sarcasm font!) Next, Billy discovers that Julie is pregnant with his child, so, does Billy settle down to find reasonable employment? Of Course Not! Billy Bigelow's poor character and poorer decision making lead him into an attempted crime that was so ineptly executed that it had NO chance at success and leads directly to his death.
In the name of "Love" and "Responsibility", he has condemned both his widow and his child to a life of misery and ridicule as the spouse and child of a felon who met with justice! At the gates of Heaven (yeah, right, this guy rates a glimpse of heaven!), Billy is informed that he must undo the damage he has done to gain admittance.
In the 15 years since his death, his daughter has become a hellion as a form of defense against the life long ostracism she has faced as a consequence of Billy's actions...She plans to run away from home to become a carny and a tramp (a chip off the ol' block!).
Billy, returned to earth, and pretending to be a friend of her father's, tries to reason with the girl, but, damaged and resentful, she refuses any gift from him...His response is to smack her! (truly touching!) His daughter reports the incident to her mother, adding that the slap felt like a kiss! (Who writes this stuff? I guess it makes Julie pine for the good old days when she had a husband around to beat her too!) Anyway...we move on to the Daughter's High School Graduation...where the shame he has brought upon his family is demonstrated by townspeople's shunning his daughter (honestly...there is not ONE redeeming character in this whole mess!) with a refusal to even applaud her graduation.
Finally, the graduation speech is delivered by one of the heavenly characters (God, or for the purposes of this play, the "Starkeeper") in disguise. The speech is a moral dissertation that the graduates truly are neither helped or hindered by their parents successes or failures...Billy's big redemptive moment? Whispering to the daughter to "believe" this moralistic claptrap! Oh...and he finally whispers to his widow that he ALWAYS loved her! (shoot me now!...How Damn Heartwarming!) The show is brought to a close with a reprise of the entire cast singing the inspirational "Climb Every..." no wait!...Same song different words!..."You'll Never Walk Alone." The now "redeemed" Billy heads off for heavenly eternity! (What a HAPPY ENDING!)
Dark...depressing...misguided...romantic drivel...I can barely contain my contempt for the libretto on which this film is based.
R & H...churned out some clunkers...and somehow put a happy face on them...King and I, for instance, celebrates a brutal despot...South Pacific...racism lives!...Flower Drum Song...Illegal immigration and Loveless Arranged Marriages! (although they softened the ending of the source novel by omitting a character's suicide)...Pipe Dream...Love and Brothels! ...Carousel easily rivals the worst of the worst, and any redeeming qualities of film-making, music, singing, or choreography are completely sabotaged by the dreadful story with which they are mounted.
My Fair Lady or Music Man may have their flaws, but in this writer's opinion, are more entertaining than ANY play in the R&H catalog! But, as I said earlier, at least, Shirley Jones is still lovely to look at, and has a beautiful singing voice!
*** 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.
*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You might think that with a title like "Carousel" you have a cheerful,
light-hearted film - and it is in parts but other parts are tragic, sad
and even violent.
It's the story of handsome but arrogant and selfish casanova Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) and his developing romance with a smitten young lady called Julie but the carousel-owner Mrs Mullin is after him too (even though she looks a little too old for him). But Billy marries Julie and just when a happy ending was on its way with a baby girl, disaster strikes. When caught stealing aboard a ship Billy tries to escape resulting in a fatal accident. Both his women were at his side as he was died. Years later, his daughter has grown up and is part of a great multi-talented musical number then tragedy strikes for her; she kisses a funfair guy and everybody laughs at her. Billy was hardly a gentleman when he was alive so he has been given a single day to redeem himself and communicate with his daughter, urging her to do well in life.
The musical numbers are thoroughly outstanding; the dancers were incredible and the songs were nice but a few of them were frankly rather forgettable with no particular rhythm. I do hear that the play was longer than this movie; that's a shame, then there'd be more to the story.
"Carousel" is simply a beauty in the collection of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals.
Sadly, the star Gordon MacRae died of mouth-cancer and an attack of pneumonia at the not-so-old age of 64 (1921-1986).
It is certified U for Universal but does contain some mild language, violence and one distressing scene.
I think this is better than Oklahoma, though both are very good indeed. Carousel is a beautifully-filmed musical, though I didn't completely understand the beginning. The choreography was fantastic, specially in the number in the fishing village, and I found little problem with the direction. The songs and score by Rodgers and Hammerstein was just outstanding. After Sound of Music, this is possibly their best work. I have the rousing title number in my head, after watching it just last night, and I love "You'll Never Walk Alone". As for the performances, just brilliant. As Billy Bigelow, Gordon McRae put a lot of passion into the character, especially with the singing about his unborn child. As Julie, Shirley Jones was also lovely, though she was better in Oklahoma. I loved this film. It is just so colourful, and sometimes moving. 9/10 Bethany Cox.
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