Saturday Night Cinema: Carousel (1956)


Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema Classic is Rodgers & Hammerstein’s dark masterpiece, Carousel. That said, it produced some of the most beautiful and most sophisticated music to come out of Broadway. I can tell you I live by “Never Walk Alone.’

Carousel is a masterpiece, a sublime piece of 20th Century musical theater that includes among its abundant treasures a song, “If I Loved You”, that ranks among the most beautiful ever written for the stage “ Deadline

Interesting fim trivia factoid: Frank Sinatra was originally cast to play Billy Bigelow. He even pre-recorded the songs he was to sing in the film. Prior to filming, the cast knew they had to film some scenes twice, one for regular Cinemascope and the other for CinemaScope 55. According to one account, when Sinatra arrived on the set, he claimed that he was being paid to film one movie, not two, and he walked away from the set and said: “You’re not getting two Sinatras for the price of one”. However, according to Shirley Jones’ 2014 autobiography, the real reason he walked away from the film was that the love of his life, Ava Gardner, told him that if he didn’t accompany her on her film set immediately, she would start an affair with her costar.Gardner was in the late stages of filming The Barefoot Contessa at the time. (From Shirley Jones’ book, ,”Chapter Four, Things Are Going My Way.” Shirley Jones: A Memoir. Page 82.)

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Carousel was adapted from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical of the same name–which, in turn, was based on Liliom, a play by Ferenc Molnar. Gordon MacRae stars as carnival barker Billy Bigelow, who much against his will falls in love with Maine factory girl Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones). Billy proves an improvident and unreliable husband, but Julie stands by him. Upon discovering that Julie is pregnant, the unemployed Billy sees an opportunity for some quick money by joining his unsavory pal Jigger (Cameron Mitchell). The scheme goes awry, and Billy dies. Standing before the Pearly Gates, Billy is given a chance to redeem himself by the kindly Starkeeper (Gene Lockhart). He is allowed to return to Earth to try to brighten the life of his unhappy 15-year-old daughter Louise (Susan Luckey). Billy offers Louise a star that he has stolen from the sky; when Louise backs off in fear, Billy slaps her. He feels like a failure until he and his Heavenly Friend (William LeManessa) attend Louise’s school graduation ceremony. There the invisible Billy watches as the principal (Gene Lockhart again) inspires Louise (and, by extension, Julie) by assuring her that so long as she has hope in her heart, she’ll never walk alone. Frank Sinatra, the film’s original Billy Bigelow, dropped out of the production due to laryngitis. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Empire Online

Billy Bigelow died young, as a result of the bad choices he made when he fell in love with Julie Jordan. As he watches his daughter grow from heaven, he begs for the chance to go back and put things right.

Billy Bigelow (Gordon Macrae) sits up in heaven watching his teenage daughter struggle through life without him, and puts in a request to return to earth and try to make her understand his death. What follows is, naturally, ultimately uplifting.

The romance, marriage and subsequent problems between the charismatic fairground barker Billy and the sweet-natured Julie (Shirley Jones), are seen in flashback, enhanced by some of the greatest musical numbers ever filmed, including the joyous knees-up June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, the stirring anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, and the poignant Soliloquy. A genuine tearjerker.
Jimmy Choo
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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music at its best, well performed by Macrae and Jones. A magical musical.

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