Carnival Story (1954)

Anne Baxter and Lyle Bettger in Carnival Story (1954)

Not a Carnival of Fun

During the 50s and 60s there were a few movies which were set in the circus and whilst this one is labelled "Carnival Story" it is in the same sort of style as we have various acts that perform in tents. Unfortunately whilst those other movies highlighted the whole excitement of the show "Carnival Street" doesn't and is more focussed on the love triangle of Joe, Willie and Frank. It makes it very ordinary as the whole love triangle thing had already been done to death by the time this movie came out and this one fails to add anything really new to it other than a lot of melodrama.

Having set up their show in Munich as interest in carnivals had dwindled in America, the performers are working to attract the German crowds. Whilst promoting the show carnival barker Joe (Steve Cochran - Dallas) comes across local girl Willie (Anne Baxter - I Confess) when she picks his pocket and not only offers her work but seduces her. But Willie is not Joe's only girl and so when high diver Frank (Lyle Bettger - All I Desire) not only takes Willie under his wing as part of his act but asks her to marry him she accepts. But that doesn't stop Joe from thinking he can carry on with Willie especially as the high diving act is making good money.

Anne Baxter and Steve Cochran in Carnival Story (1954)

So "Carnival Story" despite its setting is just a love triangle movie which focuses on the melodrama of Joe still trying to have his way with Willie despite her being with Frank. That is it and it throws in a few cliches such as Joe's other girl, the flame haired Peggy who ends up at one point having a fight with Willie and of course there is the obligatory fight between Joe and Frank. It is all very routine up until the final half hour which is where "Carnival Story" actually becomes interesting because of a dramatic scene which catches you by surprise. But after that it turns mostly obvious again and various unsubtle scenes which occurred during the first hour such as the occasional focus on Groppo the dumb strong man come back in to play.

All of this with the exception of that one scene which takes you by surprise makes "Carnival Story" a bit of a slog which sadly fails to capture the excitement of these sorts of acts none more so the actual high dive act. It makes it a movie which ends up relying heavily on the actors and characters to entertain. The cast itself is good with Anne Baxter, Steve Cochran and Lyle Bettger all looking the part with Baxter making Willie a devious and beautiful creature. But none of the characters have any real depth and not only end up shallow but not entirely likeable.

What this all boils down to is that "Carnival Story" ends up a very ordinary melodrama which basically lacks all "the fun of the fair". The cast are appealing and it has one shocking scene but beyond that it is a bit of a slog.