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Not like sunny Oklahoma! -- much darker.
  • Review Date: February 11, 2008
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 1956
  • Running Time: 128 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Billy beats his wife (not shown), is unwilling to work, and steals when he's alive. He's only a little better when he comes back as a ghost. Julie explains that feelings of love can overcome physical pain, a message that may send mixed signals about justification of domestic violence.


There's implicit domestic violence that's never shown and may go over younger viewers' heads. Billy attacks a man with a knife and ends up falling on it and killing himself. As a ghost he hits his daughter -- she doesn't feel it.

Not applicable
Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some alcohol and tobacco use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein isn't like their other crowd pleasers such as The Sound of Music and Oklahoma!. The themes are darker and the characters are flawed, especially Billy who beats his wife (not shown), steals, and dies in a knife fight. When he comes back as a ghost he may be after some form of redemption, but there are some mixed signals -- at one point he hits his daughter (who doesn't feel it).

What's the story?

A deceased Billy Bigelow, hoping to return to Earth for a day to visit his family, tells the Starkeeper in heaven about his rocky marriage. In the flashback, Billy and his mill-worker wife, Julie, meet at the fair where he works as a carousel barker. Julie marries him in spite of his reputation as a scoundrel. Since the female carousel owner had hired Billy based on his bad-boy reputation, he loses his job, and the couple depends on Julie's cousin. When Julie's pregnancy inspires the lazy Billy to earn money -- or steal it -- he meets his untimely end. The rest of the film follows Billy as he observes (from the beyond) his widow and teenage daughter in hopes of redeeming himself.

Is it any good?


Some of the dancing, especially the ballet, is particularly good as far as movie musicals go. The song, "You'll Never Walk Alone" is memorable. Plus, the widescreen, Technicolor DVD features breathtaking scenery of the New England coast. An older audience, however, will pick up on the bleak and often misogynistic themes that make this story primarily about marital hardship and a husband's redemption.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether the film portrays Billy and Julie as fully developed characters, rather than as a stereotypical couple facing domestic violence. Also, what are some examples of those stereotypes in other films? How might the film be different if it were made today instead of 1956?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 16, 1956
DVD release date:November 7, 2006
Cast:Cameron Mitchell, Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones
Director:Henry King
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:128 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Teen, 17 years old Written byDominicboo1 September 2, 2013

Decent But No Sound of Music

This one has some good music, but at the same has more violence than Sound of Music. They do mention here that Billy hits his daughter, but it doesn't mention that not only she doesn't feel it this is what she says..."Is it possible for a hit not tot hurt much...but to feel like a kiss"That line makes me cringe just a little bit. The songs aren't bad..but there's no My Favorite Things or Climb Every Mountain in this Rogers and Hammerstein musical. I'd like to add that a woman calls two girls an s's which I'm not even allowed to type here apparantly........
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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