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Reviews & Ratings for
Carousel More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Carousel is dark and inspirational

Author: pkarnold from United States
30 December 2011

*** 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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"Won'drin' if the endin' will be sad"

Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
4 September 2011

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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Just Splendid!

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
8 April 2009

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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Gordon Macrae's masterclass

Author: IzAguirreWrathofGod from United Kingdom
2 October 2008

Carousel is the musical that did not quite make it, probably because the "hero" is A) Dead B) A Criminal C) A known wife-beater D) A Braggart

But, it does have some of the greatest songs ever written and a masterclass in singing by Gordon Macrae. His interpretation of "Soliloquy" is the most complete 8 minutes of music you may ever experience. Starting with the noisy, boisterous first part which is about "My boy Bill" he sings the other half about "My little girl" with a tenderness which is as gently careful as the first section is confidently brash. This song was a great favourite of Sinatra, but, to my mind, it belongs to Macrae. The only other song he sings in the movie is "If I loved you" with its wistful lyrics. An expression of shy regret and missed opportunity, again sung with a depth of understanding and coherent expressiveness. The film also includes the anthem "You'll never walk alone" but there are lots of gaps in the way the story is told that may persuade you to feel that you are watching the Trailer rather than the actual movie. This, unfortunately, was Gordon Macrae's last musical. Regrettably, he became a victim of alcoholism and denied us the pleasure of hearing more of his wonderful voice.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Jacques d'Amboise terrific--Better than Astaire

Author: pocomarc from United States
26 January 2007

*** 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.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An old favorite, after having seen the play....

Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
2 November 2006

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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Carousel-The Ride of Your Life ***1/2

Author: edwagreen from United States
5 January 2006

Rogers and Hammerstein's Carousel, a glorious, rousing, inspirational film.

What music, what stars, what chemistry.

A rich plot revolves around beautiful music where a young girl (Shirley Jones) meets and quickly marries Billie Bigalow, How will Billie make money for his bride, who is soon pregnant as well? What will he do?

In that gorgeous soliloquy, Billie talks about his plans for his son. He never really anticipates a daughter.

Sadly, Billie falls under the influence of the dishonest Cameron Mitchell, in another gem of a performance following Love Me or Leave Me, the year before. The two are killed during a failed holdup.

A widowed Jones is comforted in the memorable You'll Never Walk Alone. Jones was absolutely perfect for the role with her rich voice and apparent vulnerability as Julie Jordan. (Hard to believe that she would cop a best supporting actress Oscar five years late in a totally completely different role- a non-singing one as a tramp in "Elmer Gantry."

While in heaven, Billie can come down from there and try to square things, especially with his troubled daughter Louise. Louise has been riled throughout her young life due to her father's iniquities. She is tough, but as a young lady, also quite vulnerable. What makes the picture so good is that the music tells the story. The soliloquy, You'll Never Walk Alone and the clambake are just inklings of what is to come. Did Cameron Mitchell do his own singing for the film? Perhaps, June is Busting Out All over is rather over-done. School children can readily tell you the excitement as that wonderful month roles around.

Bring plenty of handkerchiefs, but leave the theater knowing full well that you have seen a masterpiece. ***1/2

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Love It!

Author: Cara from USA
2 July 2005

It was one of the first if not the very first musical I ever owned. I loved Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae together in it. They did good in Oklahoma too but I saw Oklahoma after I'd seen Carousel. I know that Frank Sinatra was first choice for Billy and I've heard him sing If I loved you and I didn't like it at all. I know that if he had been in it I probably wouldn't have liked it. I've read that Gene Kelly was second choice and while I love Gene and can picture him making a good Billy no one could pull it off like Gordon MacRae. Still to this day like 8 to 9 years after my first time watching it I cry when Billy dies although you know in the beginning he's dead. It still gets me. It's sad that they didn't say I love you until it was after it was too late but in some ways you could tell that they knew that the other one knew they did. I just wish that Julie would have seen Billy again. I love this movie and it is one of the best musicals of all time and a great movie all together. I'm a huge fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein and this movie is a big reason why.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: Tim Cox from Marietta, OH
13 May 1999

Handsome film musical based on Molnar's play Liliom, with a memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein score. The cast sings and dances beautifully all the way throughout. The show is lively and full of energy. The photography in the film is also stunning, as is the use of color. Features the classic song "You'll Never Walk Alone."

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Great Music, But Not a Great Film

Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
11 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Carousel" is an adaptation of the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical which, in turn, was based on a play by the Hungarian author Ferenc Molnár. It transfers the action from Hungary to a small town on the coast of Maine. The actual carousel of the title only plays a relatively small role in the film, although at the beginning Billy Bigelow, one of the two main characters, is working as a barker at the local funfair. The other main character is Billy's girlfriend, and later wife, Julie Jordan, a mill worker.

The story of Billy and Julie is told within the framework of a supernatural fantasy reminiscent of "Heaven Can Wait" or "It's a Wonderful Life". The film opens with a scene showing Billy in Heaven. Or is it Purgatory? At any rate, it is somewhere quite different from traditional Christian visions of the afterlife, a place of neither heavenly bliss nor hellish torment, a place where Billy's main occupation is polishing stars and where he has to report to the "starkeeper", a being who seems less like a god or an angel than a supernatural version of a factory foreman. It is to this being that Billy tells the story of his life and of how he died. It transpires that Julie was pregnant with their first child and that Billy, being unemployed at the time and worried about not having enough money to provide for the child, allowed himself to be talked into joining a no-good friend in a robbery. Unfortunately, the robbery was bungled and Billy was killed when he accidentally fell on his knife while attempting to escape. The final scenes are set fifteen years later when Billy is allowed to return to earth to help his daughter Louise, who he fears is also going off the rails.

Musically the film is a very good one. It contains some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most beautiful music; the two numbers which really stood out for me were the opening "Carousel Waltz" and that wonderful song "If I Loved You". I might also include "You'll Never Walk Alone", although this song has been rather devalued, at least in Britain, by its constant use as a football anthem, especially by supporters of Liverpool FC. "June Is Busting Out All Over" is also notable, less for the music than for the energetic ensemble dance sequence which accompanies it, comparable to the similar sequence in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".

Dramatically, however, "Carousel" is not so good. Part of the fault lies with the casting. The two leads Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones (who also starred together in another R&H musical, "Oklahoma") both have fine voices, but on the basis of this film neither was a particularly accomplished actor, at least as far as the spoken word is concerned. Although MacRae was able to convey emotions and feelings well though music, as in his "Soliloquy", in his spoken scenes he comes across as too wooden. Shirley Jones makes Julie seem a rather weak character who does little to dispel the impression that she is a doormat unable to stand up to her bullying husband. The original idea was to cast Frank Sinatra as Billy and Judy Garland as Julie, but Sinatra withdrew after a disagreement with the producers and Garland's appearance never materialised. Both Sinatra and Garland could act as well as sing, and I can't help wondering how the film might have turned out with them in the leading roles.

The film, however, also suffers from a more fundamental dramatic flaw. Billy is not so much a hero as an anti-hero; arrogant, idle, shiftless and easily manipulated, especially by his dishonest friend Jigger Craigin. After he loses his job at the funfair he is unemployed, but not because there is no work to be had. He quite literally turns up his nose at an offer of a job on a fishing boat because he thinks that fishermen smell, and prefers to live off Julie's earnings. About his only redeeming feature is his love for Julie, but even this is suspect (we learn that he has beaten her).

This is far from being the only musical with a serious storyline. Rodgers and Hammerstein had also written "South Pacific" about racial prejudice, and Hammerstein had produced "Show Boat" on the same subject with Jerome Kern. Bernstein and Sondheim had covered juvenile delinquency in "West Side Story". All of those films, however, were centred upon sympathetic characters with whom audiences could identify; identifying with Billy seems much more problematic. It was a brave decision on Oscar Hammerstein's part to write a musical centred on an anti-hero. I cannot say how well that decision succeeds in the theatre, as I have never seen a stage production of the show, nor how well it might have succeeded in the cinema with a different actor in the leading role. All I can say is that it does not work well in this particular film.

"Carousel" was praised by many critics, but did not do well at the box office, even though musicals were very popular during this period. It was the only film of an R&H musical, other than the 1962 remake of "State Fair" which was not nominated for a single Academy award. It may be that its tragic theme may have alienated those cinema goers who looked to musicals to provide escapist entertainment, but perhaps the true explanation is that despite some great music this is not a great film. 7/10

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