The interesting thing about going back in time like this to watch the original or one of the early versions of a movie you know well is that oftentimes you end up waiting for key moments or song cues. That is certainly the case for this 1934 French film known as Liliom. In America, most would think of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel that starred Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae. Here, there are no sound notes. It is a straight drama.
While MacRae played the carnival barker named Billy Bigelow, in this Fritz Lang directed production, the barker is named Liliom and is portrayed by Charles Boyer. Now that was a kicker for me, too, because I do not believe I have ever seen Boyer in this young of a role. I am more used to seeing him as an older, more sophisticated gentlemen in shows from as earlier as the 1950s. I see that man in this young Frenchman, but it took some doing at first to really go, “Yeah, that’s Boyer.”
There is not an English audio version of the movie, so that means focusing totally on it to catch the subtitles, unless of course you speak French.
The young, naive blonde named Julie, played by Jones in Carousel, is played in this film by Madeleine Ozeray. It one of the weirdest casting, Ozeray also plays her daughter. I guess it has been done here and there, but it certainly feels odd.
There are several differences, including the relationship between Julie and Liliom, which is much more open than in traditional American. The method of death is vastly different, too, and that surprised me a little. There is a more tender parting scene related to the death as well, and there is a bit more emphasis on the carnival and the other woman in Liliom’s life.
The last segment has a really marvelous trip with Liliom and a couple of heavenly cops. This is so different and I really liked it a lot. It probably captured my interest more than any other part of the movie. The way the angel wings are on is a little different, too, and I like that very much as well.
This was surprisingly interesting to watch.