25 August 2002 | telegonus
A lovely, modest turn-of-the-century musical featuring Dan Dailey as one of those medicine show con men that seemed to be everywhere in the cinematic wild west, with Scatman Crothers as his pal, Chet Allen as the little boy he "adopts". Douglas Sirk directs this films with a real feel for the period, and seems literally to be taking his cues on how to direct this film from Dan Dailey's acting style. Dailey was a conundrum. He never made the top cut of musical stars, yet he could sing and dance with the best of them, and was a better actor than most. There was a cynicism to everything he did that made him perfect for con man and shifty character roles, yet he never found the right one that would enable him to break through, especially in his post-musical career. Here he is in very much in his element, as he plays the character of Doc Tilbee as both a scamp and a decent guy. That the little boy idolizes him and regards him as a larger than life hero, taking Doc's tall tales for the real thing, gives a poignancy to the story. Since Doc is himself somewhat of a child, he understands the boy instinctively, and this helps him grow up a little, too.
There are some nice songs along the way, and real heartbreak as well, and both complement the story rather than detract from it, and so the movie is all of a piece. This is a perfect film for a lazy summer afternoon or evening. It brings back sweet memories of childhood, and when it's over it's hard to believe that the story maybe didn't happen to you, that it's part of your life, and that you just happened to have forgotten about it. There aren't too many movies you can this this about. The Wizard Of Oz comes to mind. Meet Me At the Fair is in its way almost as memorable.