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"Carousel" is the musical version of the old film "Liliom"--a story
that was filmed many times since 1919. While I've not seen either
silent version, I have seen the Frank Borzage version (1930) and the
French language version by Fritz Lang (1934). I wasn't impressed by
either of these films--mostly because the leading character was pretty
despicable. He's a very selfish character who horribly mistreats his
poor wife--and I wonder how they can make this a romance with such a
horrible guy, as it severely undermines the story. So, "Carousel"
begins with a major handicap, as hating the leading character makes it
hard to fall in love with the film.
The film begins in New England. A very impressionable young lady (Shirley Jones) sees a handsome rogue (Gordon MacRae) at the carnival and the two inexplicably fall in love and decide to marry. I say inexplicably because he is a real womanizer and NOT the type to ever settle down. As for the marriage, it is a disaster--mostly because he is a ne'er-do'-well who is afraid to work or commit himself to his lovely wife. At times, such as when he learns he's about to become a father, he commits to changing but invariably he ends up returning to his old ways. Now I was a bit uncomfortable about this, as he apparently slapped his bride around--but they made LOTS of excuses for it, such as saying 'he's under a lot of pressure' or 'I only hit her once'! So much for a film that will empower the women in the audience! I just couldn't get past the fact he was a jerk who died while trying to rob someone!
This story is apparently all part of some flashback. You see, MacRae's character is dead and he's telling this to the head honcho up in Heaven because he wants permission to return for one and only one brief period. Now considering most of the flashback consists of him acting like a clod, you wonder how this is all going to convince the powers that be to grant his request!
As for the music, it's decent but the film clearly lacks the crowd-pleasing tunes of many of Rogers and Hammerstein's other works. "South Pacific", "Oklahoma" and the rest had more memorable songs--and didn't have to work so hard to compensate for an unlikable lead. Here, it's an uphill battle. Pretty, well made...but still a film that I had a hard time liking. Overall, it looks good but fails. Watchable but among the least in the Rogers and Hammerstein canon.
Yes, I fell in love again with the singing voices of Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae! They were so good together in Oklahoma. Both are Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, and will live forever in my memory for the song "Climb Every Mountain", "This Was a Real Nice Clambake", and Billy Bigelow's soliloquy "My Boy/Girl Bill". A great production!
I really wanted to love this musical. It was beautifully filmed on location in Maine, all the songs are great and the dancing is amazing. The problem? Gordon MacRae. I like him, he's very handsome and has a great voice--not a bad actor either. It's just that his character was so unpleasant in this movie that it got annoying to watch. Shirley Jones' character was a problem too--way too sweet. I wondered more than once why she loved the guy and didn't just divorce him. So basically, I didn't like or respect the two main characters. Still, the songs were fantastic (especially "You'll Never Walk Alone") and the choreography during "June is Bursting Out All Over" was staggering. So, worth seeing for the songs and dancing--ignore the story and characterizations. Also, see it letter-boxed, it doesn't work otherwise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having heard about this film from a musician I was under the impression
I was going to be amazed by it. I was misinformed. The coloring,
costumes, and music were all great and enjoyable but the set drove me
The continuity was horrible. Most musicals made during this time were often shot in the studio, sometimes on location. This was shot at both. Although it may have seemed like a good idea it was poorly executed. They used studio shots and locations shots in the same scene but it was completely obvious and distracting. The images didn't even match.
One of the scenes in-which this is the most apparent is when one of the characters are dancing on the beach. At first she is on a real beach her costume flows with the breeze, The waves are moving in the background and sand slowly falls from the dunes however after a few minutes it cuts to the studio image. It is almost the same shot only the logs in the scene are slightly moves and the background has no life to it. In fact it is hard to even see a single wave.
This film is beautiful to watch at certain times however its depressing ending isn't the only thing that leaves you upset. But its attempt in using various shooting locations makes you confused and just simply annoyed
Anyone who has read my reviews of most musicals will know that they
don't enthrall me one bit. Specifically, as I watch them, I tend to
throw out the sorts of comments that Mike, Servo and Crow hurl at the
grade-Z flicks sent them by Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank on "Mystery
Science Theater 3000". Most of my comments related to the fact that
"Carousel" is set in Maine, which I usually think of as Stephen King
land. To be certain, the movie does have a character named Carrie.
Also, there's the fact that ever since I watched "Grandma's Boy", I
think of Shirley Jones as the character who performed a certain sexual
act on Charlie Chaplin. On top of everything, the carousel itself only
appeared in one scene...and the way that they filmed the scene, it
looked as though Julie was humping the horse-shaped seat!
As for the plot, Billy should have known better than to hook up with Jigger; if you hook up with slime-ball people, slime-ball things happen (Billy's just lucky that he didn't suffer the same fate as Steve Buscemi's character in "Fargo"). Speaking of the name Billy Bigelow, there's a history teacher named Bill Bigelow: he established the Rethinking Columbus curriculum, and expanded it into the Rethinking Schools project.
I understand that after reading my review, you probably take me for some sort of lunatic pervert. Go ahead and think that. I just can't imagine that 1870s Maine was that much like the events portrayed here. If you want to write me an angry letter attacking my reviewing style, then I welcome your jeers. I'm not changing my ways. To be certain, I would like it if Leslie Nielsen starred in a spoof of all the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.
Anyway, I figure that plenty of individuals absolutely adore this movie. I'll just never be one of them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is a line across which conformity, the quotidian, and mainstream
convention can be pushed, where it transforms into some new sort of
radicalism; where psychology becomes so diffuse as to become
unfathomable, motivations become obscure and the complete absence of
recognizable human interaction makes a viewer question his
understanding of the world; crushing the zeitgeist and ushering in a
Carousel occupies some deeply weird space just short of that line. When you watch this odd, odd movie, you are so estranged from the endeavor, and destabilized as a viewer that the experience becomes deeply troubling. One's mind struggles to assign allegorical meaning to this shallowest of shallow movies; the whole production would drown in a teaspoon.
The merits of Carousel are harder to find than anywhere in the entire R & H canon. Horrid songs, people with the emotional maturity of five-year olds, a plot even more facile and inert than Oklahoma, and vacant characters, all of whom are freakishly whitebread. If you granted these characters 10,000 dumb remarks each and gave them a head start, they would still never stumble across the world of ideas. When they are talking about clambakes, beer or June, they are really only talking about clambakes, beer or June. You'd have to watch the Teletubbies to reach the same arid, 2-dimensional psychological space. Here's a blank, trifling world where people spend a whole scene getting fired and wondering who'll pay for the beer. It's like a Samuel Beckett piece, or a structuralist musical ("Carousel at Marienbad.") in which everyone is an empty vessel going through the motions. It's positively bizarre. One waves ones hands at the screen as if to say "Hey, remember me... the viewer? I had some ideas about how narratives work, when I came in... Do we agree on any of them?"
As an example of the score, the 1st song in the movie features a drippy secondary character deliriously singing a crappy song about her emotional entanglement with another secondary character whom we won't even meet for another hour. This occurs before the main plot even starts. This scene alone should pound the last nail into the coffin that R & H songs advance the plot. And "June is Bustin Out All Over" is the clumsy stumble over another rotting corpse on the way to the graveyard.
Carousel has suffered for it's efforts. No one clamors for revivals. It has no cult following. The DVD exists seemingly only for R&H completists.
I'd like to see what David Lynch could do with this this source material.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is possibly the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical I like best or, to put it another way, the one I dislike least. When it comes to Rodgers and Hart versus Rodgers and Hammerstein it Larry Hart, no contest, as far as I'm concerned. There's no question that Rodgers was directly affected by his lyricists, with Larry he was sassy, bright and had balls, with Oscar he trades all those for a more lyrical quality that was also portentous. Film-wise it doesn't help that Sinatra walked after a couple of days shooting thus opening the way for the bland, insipid Gordon McCrea, who, it must be said, does give it the old college try but Soliloquy had been in Sinatra's repertoire since the show opened on Broadway and he recorded it twice, once for Columbia in the forties and again for Reprise in the 60s so right from the off McCrae was on a hiding to nothing. Other negatives are the missing numbers - You're A Queer One, Julie Jordan etc but there are positives; although there is a healthy amount of sentiment it's not quite as schmaltzy as it might have been and there are detachable songs - both If I Loved You and When The Children Are Asleep, for instance, could be sung by any shy lovers and any young parents - and they get the best out of production numbers like June Is Bustin' Out All Over and This Was A Real Nice Clambake. Overall it's pleasant and enjoyable but Oh, What It Could Have Been.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was expecting this film to be the tiniest bit cheesy, and I was right, but it is still enjoyable in places. Basically it is all about Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) who is in a Heaven like place telling his story of how met, fell in love with and married Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones) at the Carousel, where he used to work. The only thing is that he pretty much ruined his life, and ended it by trying to commit a crime, which ended up with a fatal escape attempt. However, he was given the chance to see his daughter he never saw, at 15 years old, and his wife. Anyway, that is the main story, accompanied with her friend Carrie Pipperidge (Barbara Ruick) and her husband Mr. Enoch Snow (Robert Rounseville) and a load of music and dancing. Also starring Cameron Mitchell as Jigger Craigin, Claramae Turner as Cousin Nettie, Gene Lockhart as Starkeeper/Dr. Selden and Audrey Christie as Mrs. Mullin. It is a corny film, but definitely worth a try. It was number 41 on The 100 Greatest Musicals. Worth watching!
A few reader comments have said "wish I could have seen this film in a theatre"....well, went to the Redford Theatre in Detroit(www.RedfordTheatre.com)tonight (historic theater that shows classic films) (March 2006) and was very disappointed. First of all the film is sort of lame...the print that was shown was poor quality, faded from being in the can too long, lots of color washed out and lines in the print. A few good songs, and loved seeing it in Cinemascope but that is about it. Gordon McCrae does not show much personality and is rather dry throughout.....Shirely Jones acts so sweet she is literally dripping sugar....if McCrae pointed a gun at her in the film and was going to shoot her, she probably would have said "I love you Billy" ugh!! Cameron Mitchell about as boring as could be in his role....funny scenes seeing women dancers dancing on the roof of a pier at a fishing village. Got a kick also seeing Gene Lockhart, the old Bob Cratchit himself in the film and Audrie Christy who a few years later would be Natalie's Wood's mother in "Splendor in the Grass". I too wonder how Billy Bigelow got to "heaven" - he was a bum and a misfit throughout the film and an attempted murderer...the acting throughout the film was very dry to me....no one developed much of a personality in the film....just a bunch of dubbed in songs. Film leaves you wondering why the director did not let Billy talk in person to his 15 yr. old daughter where she knew it was him, instead of a strange man. Films ends with Jones mopey-dopying in her front yard rusing about her dead husband. Not the best R&H film, very average compared to "Oklahoma" with the same stars.
Rogers and Hammerstein considered this their best musical, showing that
artists often have no appreciation of their own work. Some of the messages
are appallingly dated -- most importantly, the baldly stated message that if
a man hits you it's because he really loves you. Julie Johnson is a weak
character -- R&H's least interesting female lead -- and would most likely
nowadays end up on Ricky Lake in a "Women with low self-esteem who love
Billy Bigelow is a good character, but portrayed as such a jerk that it's hard to be sympathetic. He screws up everything in his life and doesn't even have to courage to make it right in the end (other than singing a song at the end). Further, the song "Soliloquy" is by far R&H's worst -- banal and cliched and preachy and straining for rhymes. Even worse, its placement in the plot makes it clear that its message that a sign of a good father is a willingness to steal.
The score is no where near R&H's best. The Carousel Waltz is fine, as is "If I Love You." "June is Busting Out All Over" is a strange mix of the good (the first line) and the forgettable (quick -- sing the rest of the song). "You'll Never Walk Alone" is popular, certainly, but that sort of smarmy preachiness enveloped in a strained metaphor is extremely annoying. Its use in the film really doesn't make much sense. The rest of the songs are undistingushed.
R&H had done some classic musicals, but this ain't one of them.
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