«карнавальная история» (1954, carnival story)
Фрэнк, артист цирка, прыгающий в маленький бассейн с большой высоты, предлагает Вилли стать его партнершей, учит ее нырять и в момент их общего успеха делает ей предложение. Вилли выходит за него замуж, хотя продолжает любить Джо. После ссоры с Вилли Джо подпиливает ступеньку лестницы, по которой Фрэнк поднимается на вышку…
Carnival story (1954) – imdb
Unpretentious describes this film production fairly well. But that’s consistent with the setting: a small, insular world, wherein a variety of atypical and colorful people move in and out of scenes, as the plot dictates. These people, for the most part, are tricksters and hangers-on whose only claim to fame relates to some physical trait, or some bizarre gift or craft.
More talented than most is Frank (Lyle Bettger) who high dives into a burning tank of water. Then there’s Joe (Steve Cochran), an announcer who tries to convince attendees to part with a few cents, to see the magic of the headless wonder, or some such. But one of Joe’s attendees, a young, attractive woman named Willie (Anne Baxter), follows Joe to a snack stand, whereupon she proceeds to swipe Joe’s wallet from his back pocket. With his money, she buys some food. But he catches her. And in so doing, he takes a liking to her. She’s destitute, you see, and shapely. And she’ll do anything to make some money, even if it’s just wash dishes in the carnival’s kitchen.
That’s the setup for this modest melodrama, wherein Willie learns about life in the circus and, in the process, finds that love can be confusing with so many guys attracted to her. At one point, she concedes hopelessly: “I don’t know what love is”. Will things work out for Willie? Will she find true, lasting love?
“Carnival Story” is largely a cinematic vehicle for Anne Baxter. I’ve always liked her. But in this film she overacts a lot. Steve Cochran gives a more relaxed, naturalistic performance, as does Lyle Bettger. Tension derives from Frank’s high-dive act, and the rivalry among the various guys drawn to Willie. The film’s visuals are acceptable, if unremarkable. Sets seem realistic. Toward the end, the plot trends melodramatically hokey.
A prospective viewer needs to keep expectations reasonably low for this film. It’s got melodrama and tension. It’s got several fine actors. It’s got an unusual setting. And that may be enough, for this small, low-concept story.