27 October 2004 | bronty
Lesser Rodgers & Hammerstein, and corny, too - but FUN
I've never seen the 1933 film version of this; I wish I could say the same about the 1962 mistake, the one with that Black Hole of movies, Pat Boone, a man so bland, he sucks the color from anything he's near. THIS version, however, while certainly not up to what many would probably consider Rodgers & Hammerstein 'standards' (MGM, desperate to release a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, but stymied by the continuing run of "Oklahoma!", quickly made this new version of "State Fair", according to information on the DVD), is gloriously corny, old fashioned, innocent, warm, romantic, those-were-the-golden-days fun, with at least two songs that have truly entered the realm of 'classic': the Oscar-winning "It Might As Well Be Spring" and "It's A Grand Night For Singing". The story is simplicity personified: a mid-western farm family heads to the State Fair. The parents have their eyes and ears on winning their respective competitions (he, for his prize pig, Blue Boy; she, for her pickles and mincemeat), while the children, both young adults, find love and heartache along the way. As the parents, Fay Bainter, born to play mothers, is her reliably warm self, while Charles Winninger brings solid humor to every scene. Dick Haymes plays the son, and gets to sing a few tunes, quite capably, and has a bittersweet romance with Vivian Blaine. (Alas, their union is the only unsatisfactory note in the entire movie: it is established Haymes' character has a sweetheart he's hooked on but when she cannot accompany him to the Fair, he almost immediately falls for Blaine and is straight-away promising his undying love for her, seemingly forgetting about his love back home...until the final moments, when he suddenly has her in his arms. It's a false, almost jarring note.) But Jeanne Crain, despite this being an ensemble piece, easily steals the show, and though it's a shame she didn't do her own singing, she still manages to ably give the impression of a restless young woman yearning for something 'more'. Her romance, perhaps the real core of this film, with Dana Andrews, seems much more real than that between Dick Haymes and Vivian Blaine, and they have definite chemistry, which makes the required "happy ending" a delight. Do I wish it had more weight, more heft, to it, like "Oklahoma!" or "The King & I"? Well, the movie is what it is: a light, airy, corny piece of Americana. Were R & H pandering to the tastes of the common man with this movie? Sure they were! But what's wrong with feeling good? Who exactly is harmed by classic songs, winning performers, a simple story line, and a happy ending? If you're looking for weightier or darker fare, there are any number of musicals to whet your appetite; however, if you're looking for pure fun - and for great tunes that'll stick in your head all day long - look no further: here it is! You'll have a terrific time at THIS "Fair".