Gordon MacRae is Billy Bigelow, a smooth-talking carny barker who falls in love with a millworker (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 onscreen 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.
Whatever the obstacle, Carousel may well be a revelation to first-time viewers. The score is among the composers' most affecting, from the glorious instrumental "Carousel Waltz" to a succession of exquisite love songs ("If I Loved You"), a heart-rending secular hymn ("You'll Never Walk Alone"), and the expectant father's poignant reverie, "Soliloquy." Top-lined stars Shirley Jones (as factory worker Julie Jordan) and Gordon MacRae (as Billy Bigelow, the carnival barker who woos and weds her) achieve greater dramatic urgency here than in the more successful Oklahoma!, with MacRae in particular attaining a personal best as the conflicted Billy, whose anxiety and wounded pride after losing his job are crucial to the plot. It's Billy's impatience to support his new family that drives him to an ill-fated decision that transforms the fable into a ghost story.
Adding to the luster are the coastal Maine locations where 20th Century Fox filmed principal photography. Newly remastered by THX, Carousel looks and sounds better than ever, but VHS tape buyers take heed: as a movie conceived for the then-new widescreen platform (it was the first to be shot in the studio's second-generation CinemaScope 55 format), this is one film that doesn't benefit from pan-and-scan editing, which lops off half the screen's image, virtually eliminating the sweep and spectacle of big production numbers. The widescreen version is vastly superior. --Sam Sutherland
Top Customer Reviews
The music is splendid ("Carousel Waltz" in particular), the story compelling. There's even a bit of philosophy (the blossoms fell because it was their time). And Carousel isn't padded out with interminable dance scenes -- just one, six minutes of dancing on rooftops. The other big dance scene, Louise's Ballet, is the only dance I can think of that kept keep me not just away from the fast-forward, but glued to the screen! Susan Luckey, as Louise, is the star of the show (for her fifteen minutes).
One real problem with movie musicals is the opening up of the stage. We don't want to lose the stage, since this is, after all, a fantasy; but neither do we want just a filmed play. Some go too far into location (e.g., South Pacific) and others go nowhere at all (Oklahoma). Even Music Man is a bit too stagey. But Carousel has found just the right mix between the stage and location. The transitions from one to another are particularly well-done.
BUT... Somewhere between the play and the movie, we lost at least two songs, and whole verses of other songs! If I hadn't listened to that cast recording in my youth, I would never have known. But I did, and the missing music sorta spoils an otherwise superb movie.
I'm not so keen on the movie, though. As much as I adore Shirley Jones in "The Music Man", she's rather shrill here and seems to talk in a falsetto voice, which is just plain weird. She sings beautifully, though. Gordon MacRae looks like he's not enjoying making the movie at all. I love the ballet scene with their daughter, but the switch between real beach shots and soundstage shots is almost funny -- yeah, we KNOW those rocks are made of foam. And Shirley Jones seems to wear different versions of the same dress throughout the whole movie. I mean, I know it's small town Maine, but come on -- there must have been more than one dress pattern in the general store.
There is a certain cheesy charm in the movie, and the ending scene does make me tear up every time, but that's more due to the glorious music than to the actual movie. It's a jewel of a musical play, and, as much as I hate movie remakes, I'd love to see a contemporary director take a crack at it. We need to have a "Carousel" that does justice to the score.
Billy of course and he falls on his knife. No matter what kind of person he was, I think he has changed in all the time he was waiting to get into heaven. He almost spoils it by slapping his daughter. Louise seems to be just like he was at the age of fifteen. She is young and impressionable and thinks alot of people are conceited. Her schoolmate, the elder son of the Snow's isn't convinced of her actions. His mother, Julie's friend Carrie isn't too happy to be the mother of the many children and says so to her husband. Although, you know that she wanted to be "Mrs. Snow" as earlier in the play. But, the main focus is on Julie, Billy and their young daughter. The song "If I Loved You" seems to be the main theme of the star-crossed lovers. Does he love her? Does she love him?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The DVD was in excellent condition. It is a great version of an unforgettable musical.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Need more space than 400 characters to express my views over Carousel DVDPublished 8 months ago by Ronald Hartley
If you love Musicals and musicals of the past you should see these they are wonderful and they do not make enough musicals like these anymorePublished 8 months ago by Vicki Rigsby
If you are an old movie buff, and not into crime and violence movies, you would love these old classics. Read morePublished 19 months ago by HABBY
I love all these musicals as do my three daughters who grew up with watching them. I especially love Julie Andrews.Published on June 7 2014 by gail tesorio
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