Billy Bigelow asks for permission to be sent down "from above" for one day to try and make amends for mistakes he made in life. Billy worked at the carnival as a carousel barker, which is where he met Julie.
The carousel owner, Mrs. Mullin, fired him because of jealousy, and he and Julie got married. Billy got into bad habits when he couldn't find a job and they were forced to live with Julie's cousin Nettie after Julie was fired from her factory job for staying out late with Billy.
When Julie told him she was pregnant, he felt compelled to somehow find a way to support his family, but the only option seemed to be falling back into crime with his old pal Jigger.
Gordon MacRae ... Billy Bigelow
Shirley Jones ... Julie Jordan
Cameron Mitchell ... Jigger Craigin
Barbara Ruick ... Carrie Pipperidge
Claramae Turner ... Cousin Nettie
Robert Rounseville ... Mr. Enoch Snow
Gene Lockhart ... Starkeeper / Dr. Selden
Audrey Christie ... Mrs. Mullin
Susan Luckey ... Louise Bigelow
William LeMassena ... Heavenly Friend
John Dehner ... Mr. Bascombe
Director: Henry King
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
Rodgers & Hammerstein's groundbreaking musical version of Molnar's "Liliom" has been given a fine rendering on film. Gordon Macrae is the carousel barker, Billy Bigelow, who falls in love with the lovely millworker, Julie Jordan, portrayed by the talented Shirley Jones. The road to happiness is paved with wife abuse, criminal acts, and tragedy, not the usual items found in musicals.
The score of "Carousel" is probably one the greatest ever composed for the musical theatre. "If I Loved You" is sung by the couple in a lovers' lane setting where their attitudes and emotions are conveyed by Rodgers' bittersweet melody and Hammerstein's wonderful lyrics. "June is Bustin' Out All Over" is danced and sung by the ensemble of youthful denizens of the Maine town where the story is set. The choreography is delightful, somewhat reminiscent of the athletic-balletic dancing in "7 Brides for 7 Brothers". Gordon Macrae's moving performance of "Soliloquy" along the rocky seashore with its crashing waves is nothing short of perfection. Frank Sinatra was originally to have the role, but to be frank, he looked a little silly in the costume worn by the character as seen in a still photograph shown in a documentary about Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The cinematography is spectacular using the Cinemascope 55 process. Of course, the film must be seen in its widescreen version available on laserdisc and soon to be released on DVD. I first saw "Carousel" at the Roxy Theatre when it opened in 1956. The huge screen seemed like a window looking out on the world of these star-crossed characters. The sound was stereophonic and still is in its video incarnations.
Supporting performances are also fine. Cameron Mitchell is Billy's bad influence. Barbara Ruick and Robert Rounsville have magnificent voices and sing the lovely "When the Children Are Asleep" against the panoramic scenery of a June sailboat ride to a clambake. At the clambake, the chorus lead by Claramae Turner sings the heart out of "A Real Nice Clambake". Turner also sings the anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" at a tragic turning point in the film.
Between the sumptuous singing of MacRae and Jones and the wonderful cinemascope technicolor, the film is simply outstanding. I find it hard to find any faults with this film, and could simply watch it over and over.
This Rodgers and Hammerstein show is a classic, and must not be missed!
* Frank Sinatra was cast as Billy, but backed out because each scene had to be shot twice (once in 35mm, once in 55mm). Three weeks after he left, they found a way to film the scene once on 55mm, then transfer it onto 35mm.
* Although this film was publicized as being filmed and shown in CinemaScope 55 (a wider-than-usual, 55 millimeter, 6-track stereo system), it was only shown in standard 35mm Cinemascope. 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.
* 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.
* Judy Garland, who was fresh from A Star Is Born (1954), was considered for the role of Julie Jordan, although that never materialized.
* At the time that this film was released, it was not successful at the box office, but the film's soundtrack album did become a national best seller.
* 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.
* Shirley Jones has said that of all of her musicals, "Carousel" is her favorite Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II score.
* 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.
* 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 the only Rodgers and Hammerstein film to be completely shut out of the Academy Awards. Conductor and music supervisor Alfred Newman led the orchestra for both films, and won for "The King and I". 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 won Oscars for that film.