Carnival Story (1954)

94-95 mins | Drama | 16 April 1954

Director:

Kurt Neumann

Producers:

Maurice King, Frank King

Cinematographer:

Ernest Haller

Production Designer:

Edward S. Haworth

Production Companies:

King Bros. Productions, Inc., Westra Film
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Backfire and Carnival . After the title card, the opening credits are interrupted briefly by the first scene of the film. The credits then resume and are interspersed throughout the scene. As noted in news items, Carnival Story was shot at the Geiselgasteig Studios in Munich, Germany. Some scenes were filmed at the Barnhof Railroad Station and Maxburg Strasse in Munich. A German-language version of the film, entitled Rummelplatz der Liebe , was made simultaneously with the English version and released in Germany in 1954. The German version starred Curt Jürgens as "Toni," the advance man; Eva Bartok as "Lilly," the diver; Bernard Wicki as "Franz," her husband; Robert Freytag as "Richard"; and Willi Rose as "Karl." Helene Stanley, Adi Berber, Jacob Möslacher and Jadin Wong reprised their English- language roles in the German version. According to an Aug 1953 NYT article, many Munich locals appear in the picture as extras. Although pre-production news items announced that the film would be shot using the Zeiss 3-D system, an LADN item of 20 Jul 1953 reported that plan had been dropped.
       According to the MPAA/PCA file on the film at the AMPAS Library, Carnival Story encountered many censorship problems during its script-writing phase. In a 24 Aug 1951 letter to the King Bros., PCA director Joseph I. Breen called the picture "so shockingly low-toned as to be grossly offensive." PCA memos indicate that in early drafts of the script, "Willi" (called "Vida" in the submitted draft) kills her husband after he demands that she quit the circus and live ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Backfire and Carnival . After the title card, the opening credits are interrupted briefly by the first scene of the film. The credits then resume and are interspersed throughout the scene. As noted in news items, Carnival Story was shot at the Geiselgasteig Studios in Munich, Germany. Some scenes were filmed at the Barnhof Railroad Station and Maxburg Strasse in Munich. A German-language version of the film, entitled Rummelplatz der Liebe , was made simultaneously with the English version and released in Germany in 1954. The German version starred Curt Jürgens as "Toni," the advance man; Eva Bartok as "Lilly," the diver; Bernard Wicki as "Franz," her husband; Robert Freytag as "Richard"; and Willi Rose as "Karl." Helene Stanley, Adi Berber, Jacob Möslacher and Jadin Wong reprised their English- language roles in the German version. According to an Aug 1953 NYT article, many Munich locals appear in the picture as extras. Although pre-production news items announced that the film would be shot using the Zeiss 3-D system, an LADN item of 20 Jul 1953 reported that plan had been dropped.
       According to the MPAA/PCA file on the film at the AMPAS Library, Carnival Story encountered many censorship problems during its script-writing phase. In a 24 Aug 1951 letter to the King Bros., PCA director Joseph I. Breen called the picture "so shockingly low-toned as to be grossly offensive." PCA memos indicate that in early drafts of the script, "Willi" (called "Vida" in the submitted draft) kills her husband after he demands that she quit the circus and live on a farm with him, then turns herself in to the police. Breen complained that the story lacked "compensating moral values," as Willi was not sufficiently punished for committing murder. In the final picture, "Joe" kills the husband and is himself killed by "Groppo." According to the PCA files, Arthur Gardner worked on the script's early drafts, but his contribution to the final film has not been determined. Despite the script changes, the Legion of Decency gave the film a "B" rating and publicly asked the producers to tone down the "offensive material." The King Bros. refused to comply, however. Some reviewers complained about the prurient nature of the story, but like the Var reviewer, predicted that the "sizzling sex and carnival thrills" would spell box office success.
       On 15 Aug 1958, the King Bros., through Distributors Corp. of America, opened the German-language version of Carnival Story in New York. The film, titled Circus of Love (see below), was presented in the original German, with English subtitles, and was earmarked for art houses across America, according to an Aug 1958 DV news item. The NYT review commented that the 1958 German-language version and the 1954 English-language version were "almost identical." According to the review, Anne Baxter and Steve Cochran are seen briefly in the German version, as are Bartok and Jürgens in the English version. In 1955, LAT reported that the King Bros. were being sued for $20,000 over the use of John Philip Sousa's march "The Stars and Stripes Forever" in the picture. The disposition of the suit is not known. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Mar 1954.
---
Box Office
10 Nov 1958.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1953
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1954
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1958.
---
Film Daily
24 Mar 1954
p. 6.
Film Daily
15 Aug 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1953
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1953
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1954
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1954
p. 3.
Life
10 May 1954
p. 86, 89-90.
Los Angeles Daily News
20 Jul 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Mar 1954
p. 2237.
New York Times
2 Aug 1953.
---
New York Times
17 Apr 1954
p. 8.
New York Times
16 Aug 1958
p. 10.
Time
19 Apr 1954.
---
Variety
24 Mar 1954
p. 6.
Variety
21 Apr 1954.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
COSTUMES
Wardrobe des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Sd ed
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Tech dir
Dial dir
Prod mgr
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
SOURCES
MUSIC
"The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa.
SONGS
"Ring Down the Curtain," words and music by Willy Schmidt-Gentner, Pony Sherrell and Philip Moody.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Backfire
Carnival
Circus of Love
Rummelplatz der Liebe
Release Date:
16 April 1954
Production Date:
early June--late July 1953 at Geiselgasteig Studios, Geiselgasteig, Germany
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 April 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3657
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Agfacolor / Print by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
94-95
Length(in feet):
8,529
Length(in reels):
10
Countries:
Germany, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16481
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As soon as Charley Grayson's financially troubled American carnival arrives in Munich, Germany, Willi, an impoverished local woman, picks the pocket of advance man and spieler Joe Mallon and buys some food. Joe quickly realizes what Willi has done and confronts her. As Joe grabs his wallet from her, Willi bites his hand, impressing him with her spunk. Joe then convinces Charley to hire the English speaking Willi as a kitchen helper and interpreter. When Willi bemoans her ragged dress and filthy skin, Joe finds her some clean clothes and takes her to the shower area. After her shower, Joe tries to kiss her, but she pulls away. Joe persists, however, and Willi soon gives in to his ardor. Later, Frank Collini, the carnival's high-dive attraction, spots Willi and offers to pay her extra to bring coffee to his tent after his performances. Willi accepts, then watches in amazement as Frank climbs a 150-foot ladder and dives into a flaming tank of water. When she later delivers his coffee, he suggests that she train to become his diving partner. Unsure, Willi asks Joe about Frank's idea, and he happily endorses it. Willi begins her training, while continuing to help in the kitchen. One night, after most of the carnival is asleep, Joe whistles for Willi, who goes to him but complains about being treated like a dog. When Willi, who has had a difficult time with men, demands to be treated decently, Joe balks and seduces her again. Under Frank's patient tutelage, Willi's training goes well, and she soon is ready to perform. While they stand on the platform together ... +


As soon as Charley Grayson's financially troubled American carnival arrives in Munich, Germany, Willi, an impoverished local woman, picks the pocket of advance man and spieler Joe Mallon and buys some food. Joe quickly realizes what Willi has done and confronts her. As Joe grabs his wallet from her, Willi bites his hand, impressing him with her spunk. Joe then convinces Charley to hire the English speaking Willi as a kitchen helper and interpreter. When Willi bemoans her ragged dress and filthy skin, Joe finds her some clean clothes and takes her to the shower area. After her shower, Joe tries to kiss her, but she pulls away. Joe persists, however, and Willi soon gives in to his ardor. Later, Frank Collini, the carnival's high-dive attraction, spots Willi and offers to pay her extra to bring coffee to his tent after his performances. Willi accepts, then watches in amazement as Frank climbs a 150-foot ladder and dives into a flaming tank of water. When she later delivers his coffee, he suggests that she train to become his diving partner. Unsure, Willi asks Joe about Frank's idea, and he happily endorses it. Willi begins her training, while continuing to help in the kitchen. One night, after most of the carnival is asleep, Joe whistles for Willi, who goes to him but complains about being treated like a dog. When Willi, who has had a difficult time with men, demands to be treated decently, Joe balks and seduces her again. Under Frank's patient tutelage, Willi's training goes well, and she soon is ready to perform. While they stand on the platform together before her first professional dive, Frank asks Willi to marry him. Willi declines to answer and completes her dive, then finds Joe and tells him about Frank's proposal. Although she insists that she does not return Frank's love, Joe, who has also seduced Peggy, another performer, encourages her to marry the financially secure diver, noting that she can always find love in Joe's arms. Willi is disgusted by Joe's attitude and rushes to Frank. Willi and Frank marry and their act, now called the Great Collinis, becomes the hit of the carnival. Aware of their success, Joe corners Willi one day and, after declaring that he made a mistake letting her marry Frank, demands that she lend him $200. Afraid of her lingering feelings for Joe, Willi stalls and promises to bring him the money that night. Willi is distracted during her afternoon performance, and that night, sneaks out to see Joe and admits she does not have the money. After confessing that she is still in love with him, Willi kisses Joe, who tells her to get some money and run away with him. Before she can leave, Frank catches them together and fights with Joe, eventually knocking him out. Enraged, Frank then informs Willi that they are quitting the carnival and moving to a farm in the United States. Willi angrily protests Frank's decision, but he orders her to bed. The next morning, Willi and Frank apologize to each other and vow to repair their marriage. Later, after Frank's former Army buddy, photographer Bill Vines, snaps their picture for a Life magazine spread, Frank and Willi start to ascend the ladder for a dive. Two-thirds of the way up, a rung breaks and Frank falls to his death. Although Frank's death is ruled an accident, Willi feels guilty and tells Charley she does not want the $5,000 that Frank left her. Bill befriends Willi, but when Willi discovers Joe in her tent one night, she still cannot resist him and spends the night with him. The next morning, however, Willi wakes to find her tent ransacked and the $5,000 gone. Embittered by Joe's betrayal, Willi demands a large pay raise from Charley and announces she is undertaking Frank's most difficult dive. Never having practiced the dive, Willi overextends and breaks her back when she hits the water. With Bill by her side, Willi slowly recuperates at a hospital. Just before her release, Bill starts to propose, but she stops him, claiming not to know what love is. When Charley calls to inform her that the carnival is moving to Frankfurt, however, Willi anxiously asks about Joe and races back to resume her career. Willi assures Joe that she has forgiven him, then as Bill watches with the crowd, dives without fear. Later, in her tent, Joe tells Willi that the two of them are going to make lots of money together and kisses her. When Willi finally is able to resist Joe's advances, calling him "garbage," he slaps her. Furious, Joe reveals that he sabotaged Frank's ladder and will implicate her in his murder if she refuses him. Joe then grabs Willi, who screams, alerting the adoring Groppo, the carnival's mute strong man. Groppo chases Joe onto the ferris wheel and eventually pushes him to his death. After the police lead Groppo away, Willi departs with the devoted Bill. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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