FAIR AND SQUARE
I have never been to a state fair, but for now, I guess watching State Fair will do. This lesser-known Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical follows the Frake family to the Iowa State Fair. Pa Frake (Charles Winninger) is entering his huge boar Blue Boy into the competition. Ma (Fay Bainter) is competing too by cooking up an intoxicating mincemeat pie. Meanwhile, daughter Marge (Jeanne Crain) daydreams about a man she has yet to meet and sings about it. Son Wayne (Dick Haymes) trains hard for a booth game, which involves tossing rings. There’s really nothing special about State Fair. It’s typical and harmless All-American entertainment from the 1940s. It’s obviously filmed inside a studio. At one point, you can tell a truck is about to drive into a painted wall of scenery. The movie has fair-looking actors who look too old and square to be involved in teenage romances. Disney could easily create a remake, replacing the lead characters with tweens.
With that said, the movie still has its merits. While the lead characters are a bore, this is where supporting characters salvage the movie. Dana Andrews and Vivian Blaine, who play the romantic interests for Marge and Wayne, are particularly strong and outshine their more prominent co-stars. The comedy bits involving the parents are funny too. Watch for a hilarious scene involving a judge in the food-tasting competition. Without a doubt, the movie’s highlight is the music. This is a musical after all and the music by Richard Rodgers has the power to levitate you temporarily. My favorite song is “It’s a Grand Night for Singing.” I’d let you take off with a sample of its lyrics in flight:
It’s a grand night for singing,
The moon is flying high,
And somewhere a bird
Who is bound he’ll be heard,
Is throwing his heart at the sky!
Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Fay Bainter, and Charles Winninger
Based on the novel by
Oscar Hammerstein II