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Carousel (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry King
Screenplay byPhoebe Ephron
Henry Ephron
Based onCarousel
by Richard Rodgers
Oscar Hammerstein II
by Ferenc Molnár
Produced byHenry Ephron
Darryl F. Zanuck
StarringGordon MacRae
Shirley Jones
Cameron Mitchell
CinematographyCharles G. Clarke
Edited byWilliam H. Reynolds
Music byRichard Rodgers
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
  • February 16, 1956 (1956-02-16)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.3 million[1]
Box office$3.75 million (US rentals)[2]

Carousel is a 1956 American drama fantasy musical film based on the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical of the same name, which in turn was based on Ferenc Molnár's 1909 non-musical play Liliom. The film stars Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones and was directed by Henry King.

As with the original stage production, the film contains some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most famous songs and perhaps the most serious storyline of all of their musicals.

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Billy Bigelow, a rough-talking, macho, handsome carousel barker, and Julie Jordan, a young, innocent mill worker, live in the small town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. They fall in love, but are fired from their jobs; Billy because he paid too much attention to Julie and incurred the wrath of the jealous carousel owner Mrs. Mullin, and Julie because she had violated the curfew imposed by wealthy mill owner Mr. Bascombe.

Billy and Julie marry and live at the seaside spa and restaurant of her cousin Nettie Jordan. Julie admits that Billy, frustrated and bitter because he cannot find work, has started hitting her. Mrs. Mullin hears of this and wishes to rehire Billy, but only if he leaves his wife. However, Julie informs him that she is pregnant. Billy is overjoyed and declines Mrs. Mullin's offer. However, worried about finances and lacking work experience, Billy secretly agrees to join his pal Jigger Craigin in robbing Bascombe.

During a clambake on a nearby island, Billy and Jigger sneak onto the mainland to commit the robbery, but Bascombe, who is usually unarmed, carries a gun and the robbery is foiled. While Bascombe is momentarily distracted, Jigger flees and leaves Billy at the mercy of the police. Cornered, Billy climbs atop a pile of crates, but they collapse and Billy falls on his own knife. The others return from the clambake, and Julie sees the mortally wounded Billy. She rushes to him and he dies after saying his last words to her. Julie is devastated because she truly loved him, even though she never had the courage to say so out loud.

Fifteen years later in another world (apparently Purgatory, or the back door of Heaven), Billy is told that he can return to Earth for one day to make amends. Billy returns to find his daughter Louise emotionally scarred by constant taunting because her father tried to commit a robbery. Without disclosing his identity to Louise, Billy makes himself visible, tries to raise her spirits, and gives her a star that he stole from Heaven. Louise is frightened and refuses the star, but Billy, in desperation, slaps her hand. She rushes inside the house and informs Julie of what happened, saying that she did not feel a slap, but a kiss. Billy tries to become invisible before Julie can see him, but she glimpses him for a brief moment and senses that he has returned for a reason. Billy asks his heavenly guide for permission to attend Louise's high school graduation, and there he silently gives Louise and Julie the confidence that they need and the knowledge that, in spite of everything, he did love Julie.


Frank Sinatra was originally cast to play Billy Bigelow and recorded the songs that he was to sing in the film. It had been reported that Sinatra withdrew in objection to the requirement that each scene be filmed twice, one for regular CinemaScope and the other for CinemaScope 55,[citation needed] but according to Shirley Jones' 2014 autobiography, he quit because his wife Ava Gardner threatened infidelity if he failed to accompany her on her film set.[3] Gardner was in the late stages of filming The Barefoot Contessa.


The film was shot in CinemaScope 55 and DeLuxe Color. However, it was projected in regular 35mm CinemaScope rather than the 55mm version of the process,[4] although the original premiere did feature a six-track magnetic stereo soundtrack specially devised for CinemaScope 55. It was played on a separate machine synchronized with the picture. All of the other prints of the film were composite prints and used the standard four-track stereo soundtrack featured on regular CinemaScope films circa 1953–1957.

Cinematographer Charles G. Clarke explained that "In the beginning it was decided to film 'Carousel' in both 55mm and the standard 35mm CinemaScope. This meant double setups for each shot. When the results became available for screening, our studio decided the 35mm version was no longer required, and thereafter we filmed the production only in 55mm CinemaScope....The new 55mm CinemaScope negative is exactly four diameters greater in size [than 35mm]—twice the width and twice as high—so that reductions are made without altering the composition of the original negative."[5]

Filming took place in the Maine locations of Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Newcastle, and Augusta as well as Paradise Cove, California and the 20th Century-Fox studios.[6]

Differences from stage production

The film follows the stage musical faithfully except for five major changes:

  • In the film, Billy dies by accident when he falls on his own knife while trying to escape arrest. In the original stage production, he commits suicide by deliberately stabbing himself while standing on the pile of crates, which does not collapse.
  • The recitative singing in the bench scene leading directly into the song "If I Loved You" is instead spoken dialogue in the film.
  • The recitative singing that leads directly into the song "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" was eliminated.
  • The film begins in 1888, with Billy having been dead for 15 years, and the story of his life on Earth (from his first meeting with Julie at the carousel to his death) is a flashback that consumes the majority of the film. Billy tells his story to the Starkeeper to receive permission to return to Earth for one day, which he had been offered when he first arrived but had declined. This last change was enacted to prevent film audiences from being surprised at Billy's death and to prevent them believing that the film had ended at that point.
  • In the film, there is no specific mention that Billy must return to Earth for one day and perform a good deed in order to win entry into Heaven, as in the play. In the film's opening scene (a pre-credits sequence), a heavenly friend advises Billy that "there's trouble ... down on Earth" should he wish to return there. Billy does return, but the film does not intimate that he is doing so in order to be admitted into Heaven.
  • The song "When the Children Are Asleep" was moved to a later moment in order to take full advantage of the Maine locale.


The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote:

"Carousel," like "Oklahoma!" before it, is a beautifully turned out film, crisply played and richly sung by a fine cast that is fully worthy of the original musical show. And Twentieth Century-Fox, its producers—not to be outdone by the producers of "Oklahoma!," who made that one in the new large-screen Todd-AO—have run out their latest large-screen process, CinemaScope 55, which gives more clarity, if not more size, to the imnage, for this production of "Carousel." The honor does something more than flatter the eminence of the enterprise. It endows the production with a sharpness of line and color that is well nigh superb. Seldom has a musical comedy been made to look more handsome on the screen. And that, as they say, is something that couldn't happen to a nicer show. ... [T]he picture follows the stage play most faithfully in plot and in mood. Its pathos derives from human nature; its poignance is wholly genuine. ... You may look for two hours of fine enjoyment in this beautiful, touching "Carousel."[7]

Sources differ as to the film's financial success. Musical-theater scholar Thomas Hischak stated that the film "was a box office success across the country and 20th Century-Fox earned a considerable profit on the picture".[8][9] However, Allmovie states: "The film's often downbeat tone ... did not resonate with 1950s audiences, making Carousel a surprising box-office flop. Some reviewers were also critical of the acceptance of wife beating in the film."[10]


Two songs recorded for the film, "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan" and "Blow High, Blow Low," were removed in order to limit the film's duration but have been included in all editions of the soundtrack album. "The Highest Judge of All" was eliminated from the film score and does not appear on the soundtrack album, presumably because the flashback scenes precluded it. Mr. Snow's sentimental song "Geraniums in the Winder", which serves as an introduction to "Stonecutters Cut It on Stone", was also eliminated, as was a reprise of "Mister Snow". As with "The Highest Judge", neither "Geraniums in the Winder" nor the reprise of "Mister Snow" was recorded for the film and neither has appeared on any editions of the film's soundtrack. One verse of "Stonecutters Cut It on Stone" (which appears on the album) was omitted from the film, perhaps because of objectionable content.

The soundtrack album also features the complete version of "Carousel Waltz", which is first heard at the beginning of the original stage musical and early in the film. Because of its length, only an abridged version of the waltz is heard in the film, and many stage productions of Carousel shorten the piece as well. The soundtrack album version of the song "When the Children Are Asleep" includes the long introductory section to the song sung by Mr. Snow, as it is in the stage musical, but the film does not include it. The album also includes a section of "If I Loved You" that is not in the film.

The album was first issued on vinyl LP in 1956 by Capitol Records, but only in mono. However, because the film's soundtrack had been recorded in stereo, as were all early CinemaScope films (including stereo dialog), Capitol released a stereo version of the album in 1958. The later release was shortened by approximately five minutes by abridging the opening instrumental "Carousel Waltz" because of technical limitations of stereo. The mono release as originally issued played for about 50 minutes, while the stereo version played for 45 minutes.

A large team of orchestrators contributed to the complex musical arrangements, including Nelson Riddle, Herbert W. Spencer, Earle Hagen, Edward B. Powell, Bernard Mayer, and Gus Levene.

Three editions of the soundtrack album were issued on compact disc, all in stereo. The first, issued in 1986 by Capitol, was an exact duplicate of the 1958 stereo release. The rights then were obtained by Angel Records, which issued a second edition of the album featuring the complete "Carousel Waltz" in stereo for the first time. The release was superseded in 2001 by Angel's expanded edition, which for the first time featured almost all of the songs and music recorded for the film, including the dance music, resulting in a playing time of 70 minutes.

Under the vocal direction of Ken Darby, the songs on the expanded edition of the album are:

  1. "Introduction" – Gordon MacRae/William Le Massena (Opening pre-credits sequence consisting of spoken dialogue)
  2. "Main Title: The Carousel Waltz" – 20th Century-Fox Orchestra/Alfred Newman (About five minutes after the main title ends, a slightly longer version of the "Carousel Waltz" is heard, this time during the scene showing Julie and Billy's first meeting in the amusement park. Possibly to avoid repetition, this second playing of the waltz was not included on the soundtrack album. However, "Carousel Waltz" is heard again in the track "Louise's Ballet".)
  3. "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan" – Barbara Ruick/Shirley Jones
  4. "When I Marry Mr. Snow" – Barbara Ruick
  5. "If I Loved You" – Shirley Jones/Gordon MacRae
  6. "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" – Claramae Turner/Barbara Ruick and Chorus (Leads without a pause into)
  7. "June Is Bustin' Out All Over Ballet" – 20th Century-Fox Orchestra/Newman
  8. "Soliloquy" – Gordon MacRae
  9. "Blow High, Blow Low" – Cameron Mitchell and Men's Chorus
  10. "When the Children Are Asleep" – Robert Rounseville/Barbara Ruick
  11. "A Real Nice Clambake" – Barbara Ruick/Claramae Turner/Robert Rounseville/Cameron Mitchell and Chorus
  12. "Stonecutters Cut It on Stone" – Cameron Mitchell and Chorus
  13. "What's the Use of Wond'rin'" – Shirley Jones and Women's Chorus
  14. "You'll Never Walk Alone" – Shirley Jones/Claramae Turner
  15. "Ballet" – Orchestra/Newman
  16. "If I Loved You (Reprise)" – Gordon MacRae
  17. "You'll Never Walk Alone (Finale)" – Shirley Jones and Chorus
  18. "Carousel Waltz (LP Version)" – Orchestra/Newman (Additional track containing the full eight-minute "The Carousel Waltz").

Chart positions

The LP first charted in June 1956.

Chart (1956) Peak
UK Singles Chart[11] 26[12]
UK Albums Chart[13] 1
Preceded by
Songs for Swingin' Lovers! by Frank Sinatra
Songs for Swingin' Lovers! by Frank Sinatra
UK Albums Chart number-one album
11 August 1956 – 25 August 1956
1 September 1956 – 29 September 1956
Succeeded by
Songs for Swingin' Lovers! by Frank Sinatra
Oklahoma! by Original Soundtrack

Television and home media

The film was first telecast on The ABC Sunday Night Movie on March 13 and June 26, 1966 in a pan-and-scan, slightly edited format. After these two network telecasts, the film was sold to local stations.[14] It was shown on Turner Classic Movies for the first time on April 18, 2013 in letterbox format[15] and anamorphically enhanced in its proper aspect ratio.

Carousel first appeared in home-video format in September 1990. The DVD edition debuted in 1999 and was rereleased in November 2006 for the film's 50th anniversary, concurrent with the 50th-anniversary release of The King and I and South Pacific. All three films were released as a two-disc special edition with bonus material, including audio commentary.


Carousel was nominated for Best Written American Musical by the Writers Guild of America and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America. Gordon MacRae won a 1956 Laurel Award for Top Male Musical Performance.

The film was ranked #41 on Channel 4's list of the 100 greatest musicals.[16]

Carousel was one of only three Rodgers and Hammerstein films that was not nominated for any Academy Awards.


Carousel was remade as an ABC television film starring Robert Goulet, Mary Grover and Pernell Roberts that aired on May 7, 1967.[17]

A film version of Carousel had been in preproduction for several years and was to be produced by Hugh Jackman, who would also star as Billy Bigelow. As of May 2009, the script was reportedly finished, but the project never materialized.[18][19]

See also


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p250
  2. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
  3. ^ Jones, Shirley, and Wendy Leigh. "Chapter Four, Things Are Going My Way". Shirley Jones: A Memoir. Page 82. Print.
  4. ^ Natale, Richard (May 21, 1992). "Uni/Imagine throw dice 'Far and Away'". Daily Variety. p. 17.
  5. ^ Clarke, Charles G. "And Now 55mm." American Cinematographer 36:12 (December 1955), 706-07.
  6. ^ "Carousel (1956)". IMDb.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1956-02-17). "Screen: 'Carousel' Is Worthy of Stage Original". The New York Times. p. 13.
  8. ^ Hischak, Thomas S. (2004). Through the Screen Door: What Happened to the Broadway Musical when it Went to Hollywood. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-5018-7.
  9. ^ Through the Screen Door: What Happened to the Broadway Musical When It Went to Hollywood (, Scarecrow Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8108-5018-4, p. 154
  10. ^ "Review, Carousel", retrieved December 29, 2010
  11. ^ "VARIOUS ARTISTS | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts.
  12. ^ The Virgin Book of British Hit Singles, Volume 2 by Dave McAleer, Andy Gregory and Matthew White (Virgin Books/Ebury Publishing/Random House/Official Charts Company ISBN 9780753522455)
  13. ^ "The Official Charts Company – Original Soundtrack – Carousel". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  14. ^ "Television: Mar. 11, 1966". Time. March 11, 1966.
  15. ^ "TCM Monthly Schedule - Turner Classic Movies".
  16. ^ [1] Archived April 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Sports and Specials This Week". Los Angeles Times. 1967-05-07. p. 508.
  18. ^ Billington, Alex."Hugh Jackman Updates 'Carousel' Remake"., November 13, 2006
  19. ^ Rappe, Elisabeth. "Hugh Jackman Gets 'Carousel,' 'Security,' and 'Wolverine' Sequel" Archived 2013-01-06 at the Wayback Machine., May 5, 2009

External links

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