Cast & Crew
Cornie Quinell and his partner, Debbie Telford, run an unsuccessful dunk tank game at a Texas carnival. While good-hearted Cornie is out getting a hamburger for the hungry Debbie, he sees drunken rancher Dan Sabinas flashing a lot of money and saves him from getting fleeced at a hammer and nail game. Dan offers money and undying friendship to Cornie, who makes Dan take a cab to his hotel and promises to return his car later. Unknown to Cornie, Dan orders the cab driver to take him to Mexico instead of the hotel. A few minutes later, Cornie is confronted by the angry nail and hammer concessionaires, and barely manages to escape with Debbie. When they return Dan's expensive car to the hotel, the staff mistakes them for Dan and his sister Marilla, whom they have never seen. Cornie then goes to the Sabinas' suite, hoping to find Dan, while Debbie attracts attention at the pool because people thinks she is Marilla, the richest girl in Texas. As Debbie waits for Cornie to return, Slim Shelby, Dan's foreman, arrives and soon discovers that everyone thinks that Debbie is Marilla. Because he is attracted to Debbie, Slim says that he has never actually met Marilla or Dan. When Cornie realizes that people think he is Dan, he decides to enjoy the luxurious surroundings before Dan returns. Meanwhile, Debbie is so hungry that she faints in the pool and is rescued by Slim, who has not let on that he knows she is a fake. After Slim takes her to the suite, the doctor recommends that she eat something, and the starving Debbie devours an expensive room service meal. The next morning, Cornie is becoming used to their sumptuous surroundings, but the more practical Debbie is worried and wants to leave. Cornie convinces her to stay until Dan returns and can straighten things out, then goes to the lobby, where Sheriff Jackson, an oil millionaire, drags him to meet his daughter Sunshine. The exuberant Sunshine is attracted to Cornie and convinces him to spend the afternoon with her. Meanwhile, Debbie borrows clothes from Marilla's closet and goes to the lobby, but returns to the suite feigning a headache after running into Slim. When Cornie returns, Debbie again begs him to leave, and he admits that he had an accident in Dan's car while driving with Sunshine. A moment later, Slim arrives at the suite to escort "Marilla" to a banquet being given in her honor. Despite her nervousness, Debbie enjoys herself and starts to fall in love with Slim. The next morning, trying to escape Sunshine and her father, Cornie wanders into a poker game, unaware that the jellybeans that the wealthy players are using as chips represent thousands of dollars. He only realizes his mistake when one of the players, Tex Hodgkins, asks him for a check for $17,000 to cover his losses. The startled Cornie is saved only by Tex's suggestion that they settle the bet by seeing which one of them wins a scheduled chuck wagon race. After Cornie confesses everything to Debbie, who has kept meticulous records on their expenditures, she convinces him that they should sneak out right away. In the lobby though, when they see how Tex and the others treat a man who has welched on a mere $1.75 bet, they decide to try winning the race. At a campfire that night, Slim reveals his feelings to Debbie and tries to propose, but she runs away. The next day, a very hung over Dan turns up at the hotel and goes to his suite. Cornie and Debbie try to explain things to him, but Dan no longer remembers Cornie and is very surly. Realizing that Dan is a different person when he is sober, Debbie suggests that Cornie get him drunk, but Cornie is the one who winds up so drunk he passes out. When Dan tries to tell Sheriff Jackson that he is the real Dan Sabinas, though, the sheriff thinks Dan is the imposter. As the race is about to start, Cornie remains unconscious while Debbie tries to revive him in the first aid tent. When the real Marilla comes in, she tries to help Debbie until Slim enters the tent and Marilla discovers Debbie's deception just as Debbie realizes Slim's. Hearing Debbie's story, Marilla agrees to smooth things over with Dan if Cornie wins the chuck wagon race. Cornie is still drunk but manages to drive the chuck wagon and, despite an accidental encounter with some dynamite, wins the race. Sometime later, Debbie and Cornie are back on the midway, miserable until both Slim and Sunshine arrive and happily embrace their respective sweethearts.
Foy Willing And Orchestra
Red Norvo Trio
Garry Lee Jackson
A. Arnold Gillespie
Edwin B. Willis
In Texas Carnival, Williams and Skelton play workers in a cheap carnival sideshow who are mistaken for a rich Texas cattle baron and his sister. Howard Keel, who had co-starred with Williams in Pagan Love Song (1950), plays the ranch foreman who falls for Williams even though he knows she's an imposter, and Ann Miller is a sheriff's daughter who pursues Skelton. There's a lot of plot and several musical numbers crammed into a brisk 76 minutes, but director Charles Walters keeps all the wheels spinning smoothly and efficiently.
By the time Texas Carnival went into production in early 1951, MGM was a much different studio than it had been when Bathing Beauty was made. The studio was in the middle of an austerity regime imposed by head of production Dore Schary, who replaced Louis B. Mayer as studio head in June of 1951. Schary's preference was for social issue dramas, and he paid scant attention to the more lightweight fare. Texas Carnival did not have the lavish budgets of earlier musicals, and certainly not that of 1951's big musical, An American in Paris. But in spite of the cheaper production values, Walters, who had directed lavish big-budget musicals such as Ziegfeld Follies (1945), Easter Parade (1948) and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), did manage a few clever touches. Williams has only one real swimming scene, but it's a wonderfully imaginative one. Keel, in his hotel room, is dreamy-eyed over Williams, and as New York Times critic Bosley Crowther writes, "she swims as a gossamer vision before Mr. Keel's enchanted eyes." Among other good moments in the film are Ann Miller's tap dance number accompanied by a xylophone, and a climactic chuck-wagon race.
But the film really belongs to Skelton, who makes the most of his screen time. Crowther's review complained that Skelton "not only gobbles up entirely every scene that he plays alone but also snatches the white meat from the others in every scene that he plays with them...there are few situations in which the comic doesn't butt." In his memoirs, Howard Keel recalled that a bar scene in the film took forever to shoot, because co-star Keenan Wynn couldn't keep from cracking up over Skelton's antics. Skelton, a former vaudevillian and radio star, was at his peak when he appeared in Texas Carnival. The same year the film was released, he began his television show, which lasted until 1970.
Keel and Williams teamed once more in Jupiter's Darling (1955), her last film at MGM. Walters, who called Williams "a dear dame", went on to direct two more Williams splash-taculars, Dangerous When Wet and Easy to Love, both released in 1953. He was Oscar®-nominated for his direction of the lovely musical fantasy, Lili (1953).
In spite of its limited budget, Texas Carnival performed well at the box office. Keel, Williams, Miller and Walters went on to bigger successes (and bigger budgets) at MGM, but the era of the studio system was drawing to a close. Of all the stars in Texas Carnival, it was Skelton whose career would last the longest, thanks to the medium that helped kill the studio system, television.
Director: Charles Walters
Producer: Jack Cummings
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley, story by Kingsley and George Wells
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Editor: Adrienne Fazan
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari
Music: songs by Dorothy Fields, June Hershey, Don Swander, Harry Warren
Principal Cast: Esther Williams (Debbie Telford), Red Skelton (Cornie Quinell), Howard Keel (Slim Shelby), Ann Miller (Sunshine Jackson), Paula Raymond (Marilla Sabinas), Keenan Wynn (Dan Sabinas), Tom Tully (Sheriff Jackson), Glenn Strange (Tex Hodgkins), Hans Conried (Hotel Clerk).
C-77m. Closed Captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
The working title of the film was The Carnival Story. A pre-production news item named Helen Rose as the film's costumer, but she was not credited onscreen, and her work on the production has not been confirmed. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, portions of the film were shot on location at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, and the carnival sequences were shot on an outdoor set specially constructed on the M-G-M lot in Culver City.
Texas Carnival was the second and last film in which Red Skelton and Esther Williams co-starred. Their first film together was the 1944 M-G-M picture, Bathing Beauty. Skelton and Williams both appeared in the 1946 M-G-M film Ziegfeld Follies, but did not appear in the same sequence. Skelton also made a cameo appearance in Williams' 1950 M-G-M picture Duchess of Idaho (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
Released in United States Fall October 5, 1951
Released in United States Fall October 5, 1951