Carousel

"Excellent"

Carousel Review


The fact that Carousel is Rogers and Hammerstein's least accessible and darkest musical is what makes it so compelling. It has its lovely melodies and dance numbers, of course, but there's no escaping the fact that this is a story about spousal abuse, parental abandonment, and suicide, and no one is going to whistle a happy tune through all that.

Set in a coastal Maine mill town sometime around 1900, the painful love story brings together itinerant carnival worker Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) and virginal mill worker Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones), who fall passionately in love even though everyone thinks she could do a lot better. Hot-tempered and insecure, Billy wants to be a productive member of society, but he doesn't know how, and once he's married and Julie is pregnant, he fears he won't be able to provide. Their situation is contrasted with that of Julie's best friend, Carrie Pipperidge (Barbara Ruick), and her prosperous fiancé, Mr. Snow (Robert Rounseville).

When the annual town clambake comes around ("This Was a Real Nice Clambake"), lowlife sailor Jigger Craigin (Cameron Mitchell) convinces Billy to join in a robbery scheduled to take place when everyone is distracted. Billy agrees, but it all goes terribly wrong, and when cornered by the police, Billy takes his own life, an act that leaves Julie desolate and sends him to a sort of purgatory where an angel works with him on redemption, offering him a chance to return to Earth to try to make things right.

Carousel shares many characteristics with Oklahoma!, the Rogers and Hammerstein musical that preceded it to the screen by just one year. Most obviously, it reteams Jones and MacRae, and they are excellent. MacRae's interpretation of "Soliloquy," one of the great American musical theater numbers, is both thrilling and chilling. Like Oklahoma!, the film seamlessly integrates songs into the plot, propelling the story forward efficiently, and like Oklahoma!, it even features an impressionistic Agnes de Mille ballet, this one telling the story of Julie and Billy's daughter growing up across the 15 years he spends in purgatory.

You'll recognize great numbers such as "June is Bustin' Out All Over," "If I Loved You," and "What's the Use of Wond'rin," a song that many women have thought about when pondering their crummy marriages. The movie ends, of course, with the soaring "You'll Never Walk Alone." Today it's hard to think of this song without conjuring up images of the Jerry Lewis Telethon, but in context, it's a beautiful number staged perfectly, and it's not nearly as corny as you expect.

Trounced at awards time when it competed against The King and I, yet another Rogers and Hammerstein musical that came out the same year and was far more commercially successful, Carousel has faded a bit in our collective consciousness, and that's too bad. Among several Rogers and Hammerstein masterpieces, it really stands out. Few musicals before or after dare to go to some of the dark places Carousel takes us. It's a fascinating journey.

You spin me right round baby.



Carousel

Facts and Figures

Genre: Musical

Run time: 128 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 16th February 1956

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: 20th Century Fox

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Henry King

Producer:

Starring: as Billy Bigelow, as Julie Jordan, Barbara Ruick as Carrie Pipperidge, as Jigger Craigin, Claramae Turner as Cousin Nettie, Robert Rounseville as Mr. Enoch Snow, as Starkeeper / Dr. Selden, as Mrs. Mullin, Susan Luckey as Louise Bigelow, William LeMassena as Heavenly Friend, John Dehner as Mr. Bascombe, Jacques d'Amboise as Louise's 'Starlight Carnival' Dancing Partner

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.