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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.
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.
Rogers and Hammerstein's Carousel, a glorious, rousing, inspirational
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
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."
*** 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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Carousel" is probably the best musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, it was their favorite. A testament to how shaking the material was for it's audiences in the 1940s was it's run of just under 900 performances on Broadway, by all means respectable, but no where close to the lengthy runs of "Oklahoma", "South Pacific", "The King and I" or "The Sound of Music". The mentioned titles are darker than most audiences take them for, but "Carousel" is more blatantly dark and sophisticated than those, which would make a film version tricky. Indeed, the film is fairly sugar coated, mistakenly deciding to have it be a flashback from heaven, and to not have Billy commit suicide are both mistakes, taking away from the heartbreaking effect found in the stage version. Gordon Macrae and Shirly Jones are in decent form, but one does wonder how the film might have turned out if the originally fought after leads Frank Sinatra (who quit on the first day of filming) and Judy Garland had madethe film. One also might have wished that Nicholas Hytner's breathtaking revival was filmed and released (as Trevor Nunn's 1999 "Oklahoma!" was) or if the excellent 2002 Carnegie Hall Concert of the show (with Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald) was televised. Since neither of them were, this film is worth viewing, even if it is on the whole disappointing.
It's probably not shocking that I have a strange fascination with this
musical--though I barely sit through any musicals--when you consider my
top 4 favorite films: Brazil (director- approved cut), McCabe & Mrs
Miller, Blade Runner (director's cut), and Seconds. Brazil is a downer,
McCabe & Mrs Miller is a downer, Blade Runner is a downer although
there is a rather hopeful interpretation to certain epiphanies that
take place near the end--and Seconds?! Seconds is, from front to back,
the ultimate nightmare. Even my fifth favorite flick, Hitchcock's
Notorious, though not an outright downer, features two people in love
who only seem to know how to mistreat each other and squander any
chance they have at happiness.
So it is too with Carousel.
I remember I was about 10 years old when Carousel got run on TV. The only musical in my life up to that point was The Wizard Of Oz, and that was all I needed. Oz was so fantastic, with clear characters, clear villains, and some great songs adorning a fantasy/sci-fi world such as I was lapping up in books, that bits and pieces of things like Singin' In The Rain, or West Side Story seemed too much like real people in the real world, albeit singing like there was something magical about it (admittedly, I finally buckled down and watched all of Singin' In The Rain when I was at home sick, maybe when I was 18 years old or so, and my gosh if that ain't the best ride in the park...anyway, back to when I was only about 10...).
So anyway, me joining Carousel in progress, and sticking with it just long enough for--what's this? The story has suddenly cut to...Heaven?! (Y'see, I had missed the opening scene, where of course the movie starts in Heaven and then jumps back to the past.) Whaa?--so, this movie is about a ghost? And judging by this dude's behavior when he was on Earth it's not hard to surmise that he's gonna end up a ghost--or rather, did end up a ghost--due to some kind of unpleasantness. He's got a lowlife friend who likes knives, and quick crime for quick profit, and talks casually of murder. But the main fellow, Billy, seems like he doesn't want to go down that path, what with a pretty girl who just wants him him to get a job (or does she? She sings like an angel, but she's fairly undemanding of this terminally unemployed grump; more later, on the film's weird gender messages and how they don't go over so smooth today).
So, with this delightful and unexpected fantasy angle whacking me in the face, thus was I cured of thinking only The Wizard Of Oz could take me to pure fantasyland via song and dance. I think I had already seen Heaven Can Wait, and loved it, and this Carousel thing, where no one ever quite seems happy but everyone keeps singing anyway, got around my defences with its lunkhead ghost who only knows how to make a mess of things, and its mood of restless regret. And any time I stick with a musical long enough, the wonderful dance numbers, the colorful costumes, the gorgeous sets, the mellifluous voices do start to distract me from the story, in a good way. There's a certain shot of some boats heading towards a sunset, used as the wrap-up to Mr. Snow belting out a tune as they sail towards the clambake, that is just breathtaking. Earlier, the colors of the women's dresses, as they dance on the rooftops, with the docks and ships and that beautiful coastal-town horizon in the background, is another favorite visual moment of mine.
But not all the colors or clambakes or cavorting can quite dispel the underlying sadness that oozes through this strange musical. Again, it's kind of like people singing and dancing happily almost as--a cover for their sadness, their regret? I'm talking of the main characters, the ones at the heart of the story. The key to understanding this mood seems to lie, at least in part, with the way we perceive Billy. In today's world, the references to his slapping his wife (possibly only once, but these days that reads as thinly-veiled, cowardly denial of slapping her more than a few times), his unemployable status, and his inability to apologize for anything could be enough to put a viewer off Billy, and perhaps off the film entirely. I'm not going to launch into a list of the film's trappings which make it a wonderful extravaganza despite its borderline offensiveness in the 21st century, and yeah, I think Billy is, well, a jerk. But, to my mind, if there's one message I get from Billy's case, it's this: look what happens to him--he gets what he deserves. As you sough, so shall you reap.
So now, decades later, I have watched all of Carousel. Is it the Seconds of musicals? Hey now, I'm not sure I'm being completely facetious! Regret, regret, regret. Ducking and running. Desire to be happy, to make others happy, as it starts to unravel. Carousel has a supremely odd vibe for a musical, and I find myself hooked on it.
The first time I saw Carousel, I was ten years old and staying up late on a weekend. As I turned the dial, I came across the opening scene as Billy was sitting on a ladder in Purgatory (not heaven), polishing stars. This scene fascinated me. At this point I became engrossed in the movie which was to be my favorite for a lifetime. The music is perfect as it ranges from the dynamic "Carousel Waltz" to the simple and beautiful "If I loved You". As in The other R&H musicals that address social issues (racial prejudice in South Pacific and sexual harassment in Oklaholma), Carousel takes on spousal abuse and social discrimination. The scene, where Julie puts Billie's star in her pocket, as her daughter asks, if it was possible to be hit and for it not to hurt, has such deep emotion. Gordon Macrae and Shirley Jones are so right together in their roles as Julie and Billie. Frank Sinatra could never have pulled it off. I'm so glad he walked out on the role of Billy Bigelow. My only regret is that at least two numbers, that I am aware of, were edited out of the final version, "You're a Queer One Julie Jordan" and "A Whaling We Will Go" (not sure if this is the correct title). They were cut do to the extended length of the film. Another hour would have been fine with me.
I gave it a 3 due to the music and the incredible voices.
Honestly, it doesn't even deserve that. I understand that it's supposed to take place in the late 1800's, but this is horrid. Even at the time the movie came out women's lib had already begun and I can't believe that any woman would have had the insane mindset of "If he hits you, it means he loves you" as a norm. It wasn't true even then.
Considering that this is Rogers and Hammerstein, I can't believe how bad it really is.
I love musicals, and the old musicals tended to be rather sexist but this took it to a new level.
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