|Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain|
The Frake family head for the Iowa state fair with a variety of goals: Father Abel (Charles Winninger) wants his boar, Blueboy, to win a prize; mother Melissa (Fay Bainter) also wants to win a ribbon for her mincemeat; restless daughter Margy (Jeanne Crain) has spring fever and is hoping to meet someone more exciting than her fiance, Harry (Phil Brown of Obsession); and son Wayne (Dick Haymes) just seems to want to have fun. Margy meets a newspaperman named Pat (Dana Andrews), who tells her he'll just disappear if if doesn't work out with her, and Wayne encounters singer Emily (Vivian Blaine), who has a little secret. Frankly, the romantic aspects of the movie are a little lopsided -- who really falls sincerely in love in two days? -- and the siblings blow off their respective beaus with casual, if not heartless, ease, but this is standard stuff for the period and since everything is just a framework for some excellent Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes, it doesn't really matter. "Spring Fever," "That's For Me," "I Owe Iowa" are all fine numbers, but the best songs are Haymes [Irish Eyes are Smiling] and Blaine's zesty delivery of "Isn't It Kind of Fun?" and the movie's best song, the beautiful "It's a Grand Night for Singing," a classic Rodgers melody. State Fair was not based on a Broadway show but on the first State Fair film, a non-musical starring Will Rogers made in 1933, although Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the screenplay for this remake (just as he did the librettos for their stage musicals). The acting in this is uniformly excellent, with Donald Meek nearly stealing the picture as a judge who gets drunk on Melissa's brandy-soaked mincemeat. Percy Kilbride scores as the Frakes' pessimistic neighbor, as do Jane Nigh, Harry Morgan, and William Marshall [The Phantom Planet] in smaller roles. Remade in 1962; both versions are in color.
Verdict: As stories go, this is not exactly The King and I, but the performances are good and the songs are all lilting and memorable. ***.