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20th Century Fox presents
State Fair (1945, 1962)

Margie: I have a date.
Jerry: Figures. You booked solid?
Margie: Beg your pardon?
Jerry: I mean, what's playing tomorrow?
Margie: Well, Mother's in mincemeat.
Jerry: Oh, you don't want to blow that.

- Pamela Tiffin, Bobby Darin

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: November 15, 2005

Stars: Jeanne Crain, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Pat Boone, Bobby Darin, Ann-Margret, Pamela Tiffin, Tom Ewell, Alice Faye
Other Stars: Cahrles Winninger, Fay Bainter, Donald Meek, Frank McHugh, Wally Cox, David Brandon, Clem Harvey, Robert Foulk, Linda Heinrich, Edward Canutt
Director: Walter Lang, Jose Ferrer

MPAA Rating: G for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 03:39:01
Release Date: November 15, 2005
UPC: 024543208464
Genre: musical


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BA-A- B+

DVD Review

State Fair arrived in the wake of the immensely successful Oklahoma!, but unique in the career of Rodgers and Hammerstein as it was made expressly for the screen and not the stage. Not among their absolute best, it remains pleasantly entertaining and obviously a must for fans. Fox has gathered two of the three film versions (the first was a non-musical) in their fine new two-disc set, with a generous amount of extras.

The story is fairly simple. Members of the Frake family are preparing for the Iowa state fair, where each has a goal of sorts. The father, Abel, has his beloved prize hog, Blueboy, in competition. Melissa, the mother, is entered in the cooking competition. The kids, Margie (Jeanne Crain) and Wayne (Dick Haymes) have their own agendas. Margie yearns for something beyond the boring farm life, and Wayne... well, Wayne wants revenge on the carnie who ripped him off the previous year. We all need a goal in life, I guess. Needless to say, this isn't life and death material, and there aren't any shocks along the way. The most ludicrous part of the film is Blueboy's sudden bout of ennui upon arrival at the fair, which can only be dispelled by the site of a female hog we are to believe he has fallen in love with. I'm sorry, but these scenes were truly cringe-worthy. Still, at least he doesn't sing to pig, as Tom Ewell must in the 1962 remake. But more on that later.

Personally, I didn't have a whole lot of patience with this; the characters aren't especially interesting, and they don't do much of anything. That leaves the music as the main draw, and there, thankfully, the film does hold up fairly well. Still, the film only includes a handful of songs, including such R & H favorites as It Might As Well Be Spring and A Grand Night For Singing. The cast is a mix of singers and non-singers, but those performing do a fine job. The performances are in line with the material: bland, inoffensive, generally pleasing. The same can generally be said for the 1962 remake, which updates and re-locates the story to Texas. It's a more of a mess, though, with more leaden performances and even more unbelievable romances than the first. The story is the same, with the change being a modern day setting in Texas. The Frake family sets off with their respective goals, another change being Wayne's (Pat Boone) hobby as an auto racer. When he meets Emily (Ann-Margret), he is instantly smitten, and despite her warnings of nothing serious, the next thing you know he's buying an engagement ring. More lifeless and devoid of chemistry is Margie's (Pamela Tiffin) romance with hepcat Pat (Bobby Darin), who woos her presumably with his urbanity, because he is otherwise a lecherous creep. Abel (Tom Ewell) still loves his pig, and even sings an eye-rolling love song to it. Melissa (a dour Alice Faye), boozes up the mincemeat again. Faye came out of retirement to play the role, though it's hard to fathom why, given her sour look at times. I've read she expected Walter Lang to direct the remake, and when he didn't, she wasn't too happy, but in any event, she shouldn't have bothered.

Ann-Margret gets to perform Isn't It Kinda Fun in a number that indicates the makers must not have cared too much for realism, as her bump and grind during the second half with backup dancers dressed like pimped-up beatniks is nothing I've ever seen at a state fair. Her relationship with Wayne is torpedoed in the most ludicrous manner, seemingly because it simply had to end one way or another, and this was the best they could come up with. And like the first movie, Wayne bounces off with his old girlfriend at the end, apparently no worse the wear despite having proposed marriage to Emily in the last 48 hours. Easy come, easy go indeed.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicnoyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1946 film, shot in Technicolor in the Academy ratio, looks pretty good. Perhaps a bit faded, and the brightness level seems to occasionally fluctuate. However, there is nothing here that impedes enjoying the film. For the 1962 version, things look excellent, with very pleasing color and detail. I can't imagine too many people being unhappy with the look of this one.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
4.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 1945 film is presented in original mono and faux two-channel stereo, and both sound fine. The 1962 film has its original 4.0 stereo track, and it sounds clean and clear. A nice job on these.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 56 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Film historian Richard Barrios and author Tom Briggs on the 1945 film, by Pat Boone on the 1962 film
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Singalong Karaoke subtitles (in English)
  2. Still galleries: set design & wardrobe; behind the scenes; lobby cards and posters
  3. Excerpt from TV tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein
  4. State Fair 1976 television pilot
Extras Review: Fox has provided a pretty nice array of extras for a generally unheralded part of the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog. On the 1945 disc, we get a commentary with historian Richard Barrios and Tom Briggs that is solid and informative. Both appear in the documentary From Page to Screen to Stage (29m:49s), which covers the history of the project, including the 1933 version with Will Rogers and Janet Gaynor. I found it informative, though that may not be the case for hardcore fans. A singalong karaoke section is provided, along with still galleries covering design, behind the scenes, and promotional materials. I was somewhat disappointed to not see any color posters or ads, I must say.

On the 1962 disc, the commentary features Pat Boone, who genially discusses his role and the film, although there are a number of lulls. Still, Boone's good nature is evident and fans will want to hear him talk about the film. A mediocre 1976 pilot (49m:55s) for a television series based seemingly only on the title is also thrown in, and it really isn't worth sitting through, unless you really love your mid-1970s TV. Lastly, a clip of Mary Martin performing It Might As Well Be Spring from a 1954 Rodgers and Hammerstein tribute show (00h:02m:22s) is included, and more of this type of material would have been welcome.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

The 1945 film remains highly enjoyable if slight, and the 1962 film, while not the disaster some make it out to be, is rather weak in several ways. Still, both look excellent and Fox has provided some solid extras to bulk this release up nicely. Both films look quite good, the 1962 version especially. If you're a Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, you shouldn't be disappointed with this.

 


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