While appearing in a nightclub act with his wife at Lake Tahoe, Gordon MacRae received an emergency phone call to replace Frank Sinatra as Billy Bigelow in the film version of Richard Rodgers's and Oscar Hammerstein II's stage hit Carousel (1956), after Sinatra walked out on the filming when he discovered that every scene was to be filmed twice - once for regular CinemaScope and once for CinemaScope 55. Within three days MacRae, who was already familiar with the Broadway show and had wanted to play the role, reported to the set. Ironically, the producers then discovered a way to shoot in CinemaScope 55 and then convert it to regular CinemaScope without filming the movie twice.
Richard Rodgers always considered "Carousel" his favorite score, even though it didn't generate the number of popular hits that some of the other shows he produced with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II did.
Two songs from the show, "You're A Queer One, Julie Jordan," as performed by Barbara Ruick and Shirley Jones, and "Blow High, Blow Low," as performed by Cameron Mitchell and a male chorus, were recorded, but do not appear in the final film. They are both included on the film soundtrack album.
In 1956, Twentieth Century-Fox had two Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II films in release - this film and The King and I (1956), as well as the CinemaScope version of Oklahoma! (1955). "Carousel", although a critical success, was a box-office failure (probably because of its very serious, downbeat plot), while "The King and I" was a smash hit both critically and financially. Because of this, Fox put all of its Oscar campaign clout behind "The King and I". The result was that "The King and I" was nominated for, and received, several Oscars, while "Carousel" became one of only three Rodgers and Hammerstein films to be completely shut out of the Academy Awards (the others being the critically savaged and unsuccessful 1962 remake of "State Fair" and the equally critically savaged 1999 animated remake of "The King and I"). Conductor and music supervisor Alfred Newman led the orchestra for both "Carousel" and "The King and I", and won for the latter film. One of "Carousel"'s art directors, Lyle R. Wheeler, and one of its set decorators, Walter M. Scott, also worked on "The King and I", and, like Newman, won Oscars for that film.
The original stage production of "Carousel" opened at the Majestic Theatre in New York on April 19, 1945 and ran for 890 performances (a little over two years). Of their five great musical classics - the others were "Oklahoma!", "South Pacific", "The King and I", and "The Sound of Music" - it was the one that had the shortest run, probably because of its very serious plot. But it is the one most highly regarded by many critics, and several of its songs are classics.
The musical "Carousel" was adapted from Ferenc Molnar's 1909 play "Liliom". Instead of the original Budapest setting of Molnar's play, Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) transformed the story's location to a New England fishing village.
There is a mistaken belief held by some that "Carousel" was filmed in separate versions - 55mm and 35mm. This is not true. The 55mm print was converted to 35mm, unlike Oklahoma! (1955), which was literally filmed twice, once in 70mm and once in 35mm.
Although this film was publicized as being filmed and shown in CinemaScope 55 (a larger-than-usual, 55 millimeter system with 6-track stereo), it was only shown in standard 35mm CinemaScope, at a screen aspect ratio of 2.55: 1. However, a 6-track version of the soundtrack had been made in addition to the standard 4-track version, and it was a 6-track dub which was used in the film's premiere. See also The King and I (1956).
For the film's premiere screening, a "double system" was used - that is, the film, projected at a 2.55:1 ratio, was shown in a reduction print, but the 6-track stereo soundtrack, which would not have fit on a reduction print, was played on a separate magnetic strip of film.
This film was originally meant to be filmed in both standard 35mm CinemaScope and CinemaScope 55 (55mm). Early in production it was discovered that both prints could be made from the one negative, and so it was filmed in 55mm CinemaScope only. Standard 35mm CinemaScope prints were made for release, and like The King and I (1956), this film was never shown theatrically in the 55mm format.