For Reel

Texas Carnival (1951)
July 28, 2016, 5:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Charles Walters
2.5 Stars
Texas CarnivalTexas Carnival comes near the end of Esther Williams’ short-lived film career (she would make only five more films after this one) and serves as a reunion between her and her first leading man in Red Skelton. As is typical of both of their work at MGM, the film is a breezy, crowd-pleasing entertainment—that it doesn’t have the budget of some of Williams’ bigger pictures diminishes some of the spectacle, however the presence of Ann Miller and a massive xylophone is arguably on par as a distraction. Williams and Skelton play a carnival duo who become mistaken for a rich cattle baron and his sister. It’s a skeleton of a plot and barely registers, moreso playing as a loosely-stitched together series of set pieces, inoffensive but far from either of the stars’ best work. The knockout sequence comes when Williams appears in Howard Keel’s “wet dream”—a phosphorescent Williams comes floating into his bedroom and swims around the furniture, seducing him in a ghostly sort of water dance. That the scene looks like something from Blithe Spirit adds a terrific sense of mystery to the sensuality, and moreover positions it as one of the great surreal moments in a Williams vehicle. The climax involves a chuckwagon race that must have done Buster Keaton proud—Skelton’s wagon completely falls apart as he races across the desert, ultimately leaving him on a flimsy frame and wheels. Nothing registers except for the three key setpieces (Miller’s number, Williams’ dance, and the climax), but the film is a relatively inoffensive way to kill an hour.

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