Last night I watched Carousel (the 1956 movie version) for the umpteenth time. And I openly cried at it for the umpteenth time.
So am I turning gay now I am 54? I am reasonably sure that is not the case. I find Shirley Jones more attractive than Gordon MacRae by way of proof.
The story and especially the music is intensely emotional, but not in any trite way. It may seem very superficial to look too deeply into a Hollywood musical that shows one the main leads polishing stars in some pre-heaven holding bay but we should not forget that Oscar Hammerstein wrote these lyrics:
You've got to be taught
There is nothing trite or superficial about that.
I think it is the story of doomed love that gets to me and even though it is not explicit in the movie, it is explicit in the lyrics and music and it is the music that has subversively affected me so that by the time he falls on his knife I fall to pieces. A couple who love each other so intensely yet are doomed to never be happy together. Even if the robbery had been a success he had, in a few minutes of madness, already gambled his share way, and Jigger was not a man to let that go. He was never going to San Francisco, he knew it and she knew it. The tragedy is played out before us. And she is party to all of this. Not that he would have listened but she could never tell him that she loved him. Until he was dead that is. That is a real surprise coming from the dewy eyed girl of that first meeting. But she is no simpering play thing as it made clear at the outset when she defies her mill owner boss. And it is made even clearer in the lyrics of 'What's the use of Wonderin':
Something made him the way that he is,
Against this we have the unhappy marriage of Carrie and Mr. Snow. Happy on the surface and she still friends with Julie but both instilling in their children a hatred of those beneath them or unlike them. Their children are being carefully taught. The movie's message appears to be that intense love cannot survive and is pre-ordained to fail whereas false love, conditional love will succeed.
Another reason this movie is so good is the cast. They are all perfect. As I mentioned the key to the plot is in the music and the lyrics, not the dialogue. For music and lyrics we need singers. Rodgers and Hammerstein knew this. For an almost non-singing role they got Cameron Mitchell, an actor; the other leads were also carefully chosen. Cousin Nettie and Enoch Snow were opera singers (and it shows). Jacques d'Amboise, who does the dance sequence with the daughter Louise, is a multi-awarded dancer cited as one of the finest classical dancers of our time. Louise, Susan Luckey, went on to appear in The Music Man and also had great success.
The travesty of this movie is the adoption of one of the songs by a few thousand cretins in Liverpool. It is surely the worst case of an appropriation of a song in history. Now that is something to cry over.
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