The Law of Contact

Carnival Story (April 16, 1954)

Anne Baxter in Carnival Story

Released April 16, 1954: A carnival that failed in the U.S. travels to Munich, Germany to see if the Germans will like the corny carnival acts any better than the U.S. did.

Directed by Kurt Neumann

The Actors: Anne Baxter (Willie), Steve Cochran (Joe Hammond), Lyle Bettger (Frank Colloni), George Nader (Bill Vines), Jay C. Flippen (Charley Grayson), Helene Stanley (Peggy), Ady Berber (Groppo)


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The first real job I ever had was with a carnival that came to town when I was 15 years old. In little Somerset, Pennsylvania the first 'big box' store was built on Rt. 31 heading out of Somerset, and what a wonder it was. During the summer they engaged a small carnival, composed of a half dozen rides, a couple of food vendors, and a bunch of 'skills' tents, like throwing a small ring at a collection of pop bottles in hopes of landing the ring on a bottle, or bursting a balloon on the back wall with a dart. Another kid near where I lived was already 16 and had a car, and we went out to Somerset to watch the carnival unload. One of the fellows there saw us and asked if we wanted to help out, offering to pay us cash. Well, this was like going to heaven - not just watching a carnival arrive, but being a part of it! That first hot summer day we took our shirts off and helped build the rides, putting together pieces of a ferris wheel and an octopus ride. Not being used to the hot sun on my back, that night I had large blisters on my back, and the worst sunburn I have ever had in my life. But the rest of the week was wonderful. I got to sit in the booth that sold tickets for the rides, working from 10am until 8pm. The guy that ran the outfit never paid us anything, promising to do so at the end of the week. Well, that was fine by us, but we heard from one of the fellows running one of the game tents that the guy would never pay us - he'd promise to pay us for everything after we helped tear down the day after the carnival was ended. But in reality, they always packed up and left at night, starting the minute the store closed, and they never paid the local help that they used during the week. So the father of the kid that worked with me went to the Somerset County District Attorney with this news, and he met us at the carnival on the last night and walked us to the owner, and he demanded that we get our money in cash on the spot, or he would spend the night in jail. Well, the fellow paid us . . . I remember I got $60 for my week's work . . . about 75cents an hour . . . big money in the 1960's.

It is 1954, the Second World War is over, and America is turning its attention to fun, games, love and adventure. Joe works for a carnival full of bearded ladies, exotic dancers, assorted freak shows, cotton candy and popcorn. This carnival doesn't have what it takes to be successful in the U.S. so they take their acts over to Munich, Germany, where no one has ever experienced a carnival. On their first day Joe watches a beautiful blonde German girl ('Willie' - Anne Baxter) as she picks the pocket of a fellow, deftly taking his wallet. He watches her until she walks past him, and as she goes past he grabs her, pulls her into an empty tent behind him, and as she struggles he pulls the stolen wallet from her. After talking with her for a couple of minutes, he offers her a job in the carnival. She is very excited at this, as jobs are very rare in post-war Germany, and her life has been very hard. Joe arranges to have her join the carnival as a cook and food server, and when Joe kisses Willie, she is swept off of her feet, and they begin a torrid love affair.

One day as she is cooking, Frank Colloni, the guy that dives from 110 feet into a pool of water below with fiery flames on the surface asks her if she would be willing to bring a pot of hot coffee to his tent right after his performance each day. The first day that she brings his coffee, they chat and Frank offers her a job as his assistant, with the promise of a lot more money than she makes as kitchen help. She asks Joe if he minds, and Joe tells her that he would never hold her back from such a great opportunity, and she should definately take it. As things progress she leans the act and becomes closer to Frank, and when he asks her to marry him, she accepts. Even at this point Joe isn't too upset, and he tells Willie that even after she is married to Frank they can continue their torid affair. Willie doesn't like this, and is upset and tells Joe that he could have married her anytime he wanted, but he never wanted marriage.

So Willie and Frank get married and find fame as the biggest attraction of the carnival. Joe still has the hots for Willie though, and tries to get her alone to have some fun with her. Willie resists, but one night she meets him and although she stuggles against his aggression, he plants a big kiss on her lips, and she melts into the kiss, returning it with passion. But her husban Frank comes into the tent that minute, and starts a fight with Joe that brings the whole carnival to life as they come and watch. With Joe laying on the ground badly beaten, Frank tells the boss that Joe must leave the carnival and never return.

The next night, Frank and Willie are climbing the ladder for their performance, with Frank a few feet ahead of Willie. Suddenly as Frank nears the top, something happens and Frank topples backwards, hitting the ground uner the ladder, dying instantly. Willie feels guilty, thinking that when he saw her kissing Joe she broke his heart, and somehow that is what made him fall. When she is leaving the funeral, talking with the owner, she comments on how none of the other carnival people spoke to her, but instead gave her the cold shoulder, and she thinks that everyone believes that she caused Frank's death. The owner convinces her that she must be mistaken, but she doesn't believe it. The owner of the carnival meets with her after they get back to the carnival and explains that the day after Willie and Frank were married Frank came to him and gave him a 'last will' with instructions on where Willie can find $5,000 that Frank has been saving most of his life. They discover the money behind a mirror in a trunk, and in Willie's grief she claims that she care about the money. After the funeral, as Willie is heading for her area, she sees Joe sitting there. He wishes her well and quietly leaves. The next morning when Willie wakes, she looks around her area and discovers that everything has been ransacked, and the mirror in the trunk lid has been opened and all of the cash is gone. Suddenly she gets steel in her heart, and without telling anyone about the robbery, she tells the owner that she wants more money, and that from now on she would be smart, and not let anyone manipulate her any more. On her first solo dive, she tries a somersault on her way down, and lands badly, unconcious and face down in the flaming water.

There are more men, and more adventure, and more story lines in this one that you just need to watch and enjoy. Whether you are 6 or 60, man or woman, if you have ever enjoyed the exotic excitement of a carnival, you will certainly enjoy this hour and a half with beautiful Anne Baxter and a carnival full of excitement.