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The film's title card reads "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel." Unlike Rodgers and Hammerstein's play, the film begins with "Billy Bigelow," deceased and relegated to the lower reaches of heaven, polishing a star. He then flings the star across the screen, and it bursts into the film's title. At the start of the Broadway play, Billy is alive. The film reprises all of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway score with the exception of the songs "The Highest Judge of All" and "Blow High, Blow Low." Although the Variety review indicates that the song "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan" was performed in the film, only a few bars from the music are heard.
The picture's opening credits read "introducing CinemaScope 55." According to studio publicity contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Carousel was the first motion picture filmed in CinemaScope 55, a process that brought greater definition to the screen image. In his autobiography, cinematographer Charles Clarke explained that Twentieth Century-Fox converted their old 70mm cameras to accept 55mm film stock. The 55mm film was then optically printed back to 35mm for theater projection. Clarke noted that because this was Fox's first experience with the new process, the studio decided to shoot additional takes of every scene in 35mm as a precaution. The Daily Variety review commented that the dance routines were "greatly enhanced by this process, which gives a clear image to every inch of the screen. In fact...the screen has surpassed the stage as a medium for dance numbers since the technique of the performers is much more clearly seen."
The dual-camera requirement caused Frank Sinatra, who was initially cast as Billy, to walk off the set, claiming that he was being forced to act in two films for the price of one, according to Clarke and an August 1955 Los Angeles Examiner article. When he quit, Sinatra had already pre-recorded songs to be synchronized with the image. A August 30, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Fox sued Sinatra, but the disposition of that suit is unknown. Gordon MacRae, who took over the role, had previously co-starred with Shirley Jones in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (see below). Sinatra recorded "If I Loved You" and "Soliloquy" in the mid-1940s. Those recordings were released on the 1959 album "The Frank Sinatra Story in Music." According to a July 22, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, David Cross auditioned for a role in the film, but his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
Filming began in Booth Bay Harbor, ME, with the dance number "June Is Busting Out All Over." Once studio executives viewed both the 35mm and 55mm versions of that number, they decided a 35mm version was unnecessary and so abandoned the dual filming, according to Clarke. Carousel also featured the technological innovation of a six-channel sound system that featured two more channels than conventional stereo sound, according to studio publicity. Claramae Turner, who played "Cousin Nettie," was a contralto with the Metropolitan Opera, as noted in an August 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item. Carousel marked her only film appearance.
Ferenc Molnr's play has been the basis of several others films. In 1921, Metro Pictures produced a film entitled A Trip to Paradise, directed by Maxwell Karger and starring Bert Lytell and Virginia Valli. Liliom, a 1930 Fox production, was directed by Frank Borzage and starred Charles Farrell and Rose Hobart (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30, for both). In 1935, the Fox Film Corp. produced a French version also entitled Liliom, starring Charles Boyer and Madeleine Ozeray and directed by Fritz Lang (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In 1967, a television version of the musical Carousel was produced by Armstrong Circle Theater, directed by Paul Bogart and starring Robert Goulet and Mary Grover. After a successful run in London, the Nicholas Hynter-directed revival of the musical played on Broadway from March 24, 1994 to January 15, 1995. Michael Hayden and Sally Murphy starred as Billy and Julie in the revival.