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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 !
In the process of exploring the great works of Rodgers & Hammerstein, I
came across this musical, again, one of their earlier works remade into
a Hollywood movie.
But it was a complete disappointment- Both the plot as well as the music. Although I didn't expect the plot to be very interesting since it was made such a long time ago, when slow movies had audience, I expected the music to compensate for the sloppy plot, but unfortunately, the music was also a letdown. Except a couple of songs, others didn't register well with me.
I will try to revisit the music sometime later, and find out if it is more appealing on multiple listens.
Gordon MacRae is Billy Bigelow, a smooth-talking carny barker who falls
in love with a mill worker (Shirley Jones) on the colorful coast of
Maine. Filmed on location, with a beautiful seaside setting as a
backdrop and a thrilling score for accompaniment, their romance
unfolds. But right before the birth of his daughter, Billy is killed
while committing a robbery. Now in heaven, years later, he returns to
earth for one day to attend his daughter's high school graduation and
teach her one very important lesson.
Like its immediate predecessor, Oklahoma!, this 1956 screen musical boasted then state- of-the-art widescreen cinematography, stereophonic sound, a starring romantic duo with on screen chemistry, and the Rodgers & Hammerstein imprimatur. Adding to its promise was a source (the venerable Ferenc Molnar play Liliom) that had already been filmed three times. Yet unlike the original Broadway production, and despite evident craft, Carousel proved a box- office disappointment. Why? Hindsight argues that '50s moviegoers may have been unprepared for its tragic narrative, the sometimes unsympathetic protagonist, and a spiritual subtext addressing life after death.
*** 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.
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.
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
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.
*** 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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