The Arts

Carousel swings back onto the big screen


Fathom Events, which over the years has brought such classic motion pictures as Dr. Strangelove (1964), Jaws (1975), National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Thelma and Louise (1991) – to say nothing of the ever-popular “RiffTrax” series of screenings – back to the big screen, rings in the new year with special 60th-anniversary commemorative screenings of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel on Sunday, Jan. 8, followed by encore screenings Wednesday, Jan. 11.

(Technically, Carousel was released in 1956, which would make this the 61st anniversary … but who’s quibbling?)

Fathom Events has teamed with 20th Century-Fox to restore Carousel to its original CinemaScope 55 aspect ratio, and audiences will also enjoy an exclusive interview with leading lady Shirley Jones and Ted Chapin, the president and CEO of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.

“Carousel has always been dear to me, a film that remains beautiful, challenging, and inspiring,” said Jones. “It was 60 years ago that we immortalized Rodgers & Hammerstein’s gorgeous musical, but when I think back on the memories it feels like no time at all has passed. I hope both long-time fans and new audiences will find it just as fresh and just as wonderful as ever.”

More than 400 theaters nationwide will be hosting the 60th-anniversary screening of Carousel, including the Regal Greensboro Grande Stadium 16 (3205 Northline Ave.) in Greensboro.

Based on Ferenc Molnar’s Liliom, the Broadway production of Carousel opened in 1945 and ran 890 performances, winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award as Best Musical. Hailed by Time Magazine as “the best musical of the 20th century,” it has subsequently been revived on stage many times.

Set in early 20th-century Maine, the story details the bittersweet, star-crossed romance between Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae), a swaggering carousel barker, and Julie Jordan (Jones), a naïve young mill worker. Billy meets an untimely end but years later is granted one day to return to Earth to make amends and prove his worth.

Judy Garland was considered for the role of Julie, but Jones (fresh from the triumph of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! — released the year before) won the role. MacRae had starred with Jones in Oklahoma!, but the role of Billy in the film was originally to have been played by Frank Sinatra, who quit the production – possibly at the behest of his then-wife Ava Gardner, with whom he had a stormy relationship.

MacRae immediately stepped into the role, which he’d wanted all along. (Remarkably, he only made three more films in his career.)
Carousel’s memorable musical numbers include such Rodgers & Hammerstein favorites as “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” “Soliloquy,” “What’s the Use of Wond’rin?” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Carousel was directed by Hollywood veteran Henry King, whose varied credits include In Old Chicago (1937), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), Twelve O’Clock High (1949), The Gunfighter (1950) and The Sun Also Rises (1957), and he earned Oscar nominations for The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Wilson (1944). He was one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and was its last surviving member when he died in 1982.

“Movie musicals become an entirely different experience when viewed on the big screen and shared with an audience,” observed Tom Lucas, vice-president of studio relations for Fathom Events, in an official statement. “We are proud to be presenting one of the best and most unique musicals of the 1950s, showcasing a truly extraordinary achievement of American moviemaking.”

If you want to go …

Showtimes for the 60th-anniversary screening of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel are 2 pm and 7 pm Sunday, Jan. 8, with encore screenings 2 pm and 7 pm Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the Regal Greensboro Grande Stadium 16, 3205 Northline Ave., Greensboro. Tickets are $13.34 (all seats, all screenings). For advance tickets or more information, check out