Texas Carnival (1951): Charles Waters’ Musical, Starring Esther Willimas

At the height of her popularity, Esther Williams made Texas Carnival, a minor but enjoyable musical comedy, directed by Charles Walters, and co-starring Red Skelton and Howard Keel.

Debbie Telford operates a dunk tank at a Texas carnival, with honest partner Cornie Quinell (red Skelton).  Cornie helps the inebriated Dan Sabinas, a millionaire rancher who’s exploited at another carny booth.

Dan is put in a taxi, and Cornie promises to return his car, but being drunk, the cab takes him to Mexico instead.

Cornie and Debbie drive to Dan’s hotel in his car, where they’re mistaken for Dan and wealthy sister Marilla.

Cornie enjoy the luxury accorded to Sunshine Jackson (Ann Miller), whose daddy is the sheriff (Tom Tully).  Meanwhile, Debbie is courted by Dan’s handsome foreman Slim Shelby (Howard Keele), who pretends not to know she’s an impostor.

In a poker game, Cornie is unaware that the jellybeans used for chips are worth a lot of money. He loses $17,000, but needs to win a Texas chuck wagon race in order to pay.  Debbie’s in trouble, too, because the real Marilla gets suspicious.

Dan returns but can’t recall who Cornie is. Trying to get Dan drunk again, Cornie gets tipsy instead and needs to drive his chuck wagon that way.

Perky Ann Miller, who has the splashier role, gets to perform some solo tap and trio dancing (dressed in brown leather outfit and wearing red boots), and there’s also a group dancing, accompanied by Keele’s singing.


Esther Williams as Debbie Telford
Red Skelton as Cornie Quinell
Howard Keel as Slim Shelby
Ann Miller as Sunshine Jackson
Paula Raymond as Marilla Sabinas
Keenan Wynn as Dan Sabinas
Glenn Strange as Tex Hodgkins
Tom Tully as Sheriff Jackson

Commercial Appeal:

The movie was popular at the domestic and international box-office.

Release Date: October 5, 1951

Running time: 77 Minutes