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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > State Fair - 60th Anniversary Edition

State Fair – 60th Anniversary Edition


Picture: C+/B-     Sound: C+/B-     Extras: B     Films: B-



State Fair began as a non-Musical Comedy/Drama with in 1933 Comedy at Fox with Janet Gaynor & Will Rogers, but when the studio wanted to do the film in color in the mid-1940s, they decided to turn it into a Musical.  Best of all, they managed to get Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to do the music based on their amazing past work and the resulting 1945 film became the only Musical they did directly for the motion picture screen.  Rogers was still around when the studio wanted to remake the film for widescreen and stereophonic multichannel sound, so unsatisfied with the result of the previous film, he wrote new additional songs for the resulting 1962 film with the wild combination cast of Pat Boone, Ann-Margaret, Bobby Darin, Pamela Tiffin, Alice Faye, Tom Ewell and Wally Cox.  Even after his death, the work was upgraded with originally unrelated R&H songs for the stage since.  Fox has issued the two film musicals in the new 60th Anniversary Set and it is one of their best movie-lovers and historically well-rounded sets.


Maybe the 1933 film will be issued later, and from the clips shown in the documentary on DVD 1, likely needs more restoration.  First, to deal with both films.  The 1945 film is still considered definitive by many, though it is not perfect, yet it is a grand production for the time and shows what a major like Fox could achieve when they decided to back up a project.  At the time, they went all out with the three-strip Technicolor production and it was a critical and commercial hit, though it has always lived in the shadow of the Vincente Minelli films it tries to emulate.  However, as we have seen in the past, sometimes imitators when done well can be entertaining.  The songs are performed with great energy and enthusiasm, another reason for its success.


Outside of any imitation, it has not dated as well simply because of the obviousness of the sets alone, but the color and other positive aspects of the production design combine to give it a certain charm.  Add the uniqueness of the productions at each studio in the Classical Hollywood era, and you have a key classic in the genre from the 1940s.  In it, there is the daughter (Jeannie Crain) who is about to go form loneliness to a near love triangle while her mother (Vivian Blaine) is preparing to compete with her chili recipe while father (Will Rogers) prepares Bluebird for his own contest.  Bluebird is a pig dad cherishes very much.


The 1962 remake has Pamela Tiffin in the love triangle with Boone and Darin, plus competition from Ann-Margaret.  Alice Faye is the mom, while Ewell gets stuck with the pig.  Many purists and die-hard fans of the old version write this film off as a mistake and when it did not fare too well at the box office, many may have thought that might be the end of R&H hit films when it was not.  Instead, the big CinemaScope production opens up the film to make it more like a stage musical the way the Todd-AO 70mm Oklahoma (1955) was, which was a monster hit.  The film has camp value the 1945 version could not hope to have, some of the casting is as good as the original and the production design is better than it may get credit for.  The new songs are interesting and the critique of big business and commercialism creeping into the title mom and pop tradition is interesting, funny and honest without being preachy.  Fox Scope productions like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) had the same sly humor.  The racecar angle is especially funny, because state fairs always have formula car races?


No matter their successes or failure, limitations or flaws, both are worth a look.  This is even more valid if you watch them back-to-back, which is particularly recommended to filmmakers so they can get a new angle of what does and does not work for the different aspect ratios.  Walter Lang directed the first and was able to handle both frames well, while the great actor Jose Ferrer shot the latter.  The original was shot in 1.33 X 1 by cinematographer Leon Shamroy, A.S.C., in real three-strip Technicolor, where you had to shoot three different colors of monochrome to come up with the print.  In a majority of the shots, you can see how good the color is, though the DVD cannot totally deliver the impact of how great a dye-transfer print looks.  The remake was shot by William C. Mellor, A.S.C., and by the mid-1950s as owners of CinemaScope, Fox decided to launch their own lab under the now well-known DeLuxe name.  That color can be great and has its moments here, but was not as rich or enduring as Technicolor.  Nevertheless, this anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image has the usual distortions inherent to the older CinemaScope process, but this is a better-looking film than you would expect.  We look forward to the Blu-ray versions, though the 1945 film will suffer by being stuck in the middle of a 16 X 9 TV frame.


The sound is Dolby Digital throughout both discs.  The first has 2.0 Stereo and Mono options, with the Stereo having a slight edge.  The remake has Dolby 4.0 based on the original magnetic stereo tracks (three behind the screen, plus one monophonic surround, which is a step above Dolby Pro Logic) is not bad, while both have 2.0 commentary tracks recently recorded.  They perform as well as could be expected.


Extras on the DVD 1 include a commentary by Richard Barrios and Tom Briggs, fans, historians and even participants in the ever-evolving history of State Fair, while Pat Boone himself does a commentary for the remake on DVD 2.  No, Mr. Boone does not speak throughout, which is usually irritating, but his words are “fascinating’ and a co-star from the film or a fan who knew something really should have joined him.  DVD 1 also has three stills galleries, the original trailer, a sing-along option and From Page To Screen To Stage featurette that covers the history of the musical.  DVD 2 offers a trailer, the pilot to a non-Musical TV pilot from the 1970s that was not a hit, a clip from a 1954 tribute to R&H and its original theatrical trailer.  All this does justice and will insight new interest in a unique Musical work.  More DVDs in the genre, especially when a studio owns more than one version of such a film, deserve the same thorough treatment.


This set is also available in a nice new compact DVD collection with all six R&H titles (eight films in all not including alternate cuts of the main film) in The Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection Box Set.  Like their Mel Brooks Collection (reviewed elsewhere on this site), the DVDs is thicker regular cases are here in slender cases (two each!) for The King & I, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Carousel and State Fair.  Our page links to all six reviews at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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