Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema selection is a sweet and wonderful confection, the infectious State Fair. Of the many different versions brought to the screen, this is by far my favorite. The music, the innocence, the Americana, is overwhelming.
Jeanne Crain is so pretty, her ethereal beauty is almost otherworldly, and her love interest, Dana Andrews, is a man's man -- or in my case, a woman's man. The last of a dying breed in the increasingly poisonous town of Hollywood.
The music is delightful. Is the movie hokey? Yes. Delicious? Totally. I love every minute of this flick. It's a simple, happy movie embodying a simpler, clearer, moral America.
State Fair (1945)
THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; 'State Fair,' Musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Wifh Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain and Dick Haymes, Opens of Roxy 'Hidden Eye,' Starring Edward Arnold as Blind Detective, Is New Bill at State--Russian War Film Arrives at Europe At Loew's State At the Europe
With the magical names of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammer-stein 2d billed above the title, director and actors in Twentieth Century-Fox's "State Fair," one might confidently expect this new musical, now at the Roxy, to be another R-H gem—for people do say that these two gentlemen can't touch anything but what it glows. But the simple fact is that this song version of the old Will Rogers talking-film is no more than an average screen musical, with a nice bucolic flavor here and there.
More is the obvious pity, for the lusty milieu of a big state fair would seem to be the best inducement to the Rodgers and Hammer-stein flair. And certainly the rural phenomena in the old Will Rogers film—and in Phil Stong's book, from which it was taken—would seem to be sufficient to their needs.
But the boys let Hollywood get them—the Hollywood stencil, that is—and their film is much closer to Vine Street than it is to Iowa. To be sure, they have worked in some pleasant — though slightly burlesqued — sequences concerning a farmer's anxiety over his championship-bidding hog, and they have whipped up a charming little episode around a farm-wife's mince-meat and pickle display. They—or someone at Fox—have also tossed in a few kaleidoscopic midway scenes and one or two tempting little glimpses of livestock and trotting horses' hoofs.
For the rest—and most part—however, they have let the film be concerned with the routine romantic adventures of a couple of boys and girls. And these boys and girls are the usual Hollywood musical types, cut more to the patterns of the night clubs and the fashion salons than to the last of a State fair.
Vivian Blaine as a dance-band songstress, Dick Haymes as a crooning corn-belt boy, Jeanne Crain as a dirndl-modeling sweet-thing and Dana Andrews as a news-hawk are the nubs. And most of their bucolic action has to do with looking into space—or into the eyes of one another—and singing romantic songs. Best of the numbers are a cute one called "It Might As Well Be Spring," and two pictorially unrealized chorales, "It's a Grand Night for Singing" and "All I Owe Iowa." Charles Winninger is far from the comic that Will Rogers was in that previous film and Fay Bainter is nice but rudely limited as his domestically accomplished wife.
Someone could do a great musical about a gay, noisy, pungent State fair. Rodgers and Hammerstein could do it. But they didn't do it this time.
STATE FAIR, screen play by Oscar Hammerstein 2d, adapted by Sonya Levien and Paul Green, from a novel by Phil Stong; music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Mr. Hammerstein; directed by Walter Lang and produced by William Perlberg for Twentieth Century-Fox At the Roxy.
Margy Frake . . . . . Jeanne Crain
Pat Gilbert . . . . . Dana Andrews
Wayne Frake . . . . . Dick Haymes
Emily . . . . . Vivian Blaine
Abel Frake . . . . . Charles Winninger
Melissa Frake . . . . . Fay Bainter
Hippenstahl . . . . . Donald Meek
McGee . . . . . Frank McHugh
Barker . . . . . Henry Morgan
Miller . . . . . Percy Kilbride
Marty . . . . . William Marshall