Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Pat Boone and Ann-Margret
STATE FAIR (1962). Director: Jose Ferrer.

In this CinemaScope remake of the 1945 State Fair, the Frake family are off not to a fair in Iowa but in Texas. Mom (Alice Faye) and Dad (Tom Ewell) still want ribbons for their mincemeat and boar, respectively, but now the son Wayne (Pat Boone) races cars while sister Margy (Pamela Tiffin), still restless, is bored with her now-handsome fiance, Harry (David Brandon). At the fair Wayne meets up with entertainer Emily (Ann-Margret) and Margy encounters radio interviewer Jerry (Bobby Darin). Now let's see -- Darin  and Boone [Mardi Gras], of course, simply had decades of experience in musical theater (!) but in spite of this they are not as bad singing show tunes as you might expect. In fact, after Tom Ewell, Boone actually gives the best performance in the movie (credit director Jose Ferrer, perhaps). Boone has a nice voice, and puts over such numbers as "That's for Me" and a new song (Rodgers composed several new numbers for this remake), "Willing and Eager." Darin, usually a very different kind of singer, also delivers when he croons "You're Not an Angel." Faye is given a new number that she sings to her daughter, "Never Say No to a Man" and she and Ewell, who obviously can't sing "I Owe Iowa" anymore, perform "The Littlest Things in Texas" instead. The new songs are perfectly pleasant. Unfortunately, "Isn't It Kind of Nice?" is horrendously staged, first as a weird burlesque and then jazzed up with Ann-Margret [Any Given Sunday] tearing at that lobster again while she sings, although she is better when she relaxes a bit doing "Willing and Eager" with Boone. "It's a Grand Night for Singing" doesn't get a big production nearly as good as the one in the original. Unlike Dana Andrews in the first version, Darin plays the character like a cheap and common playboy, making it improbable that Margy would fall for him or vice versa; Wayne's hasty romance with Emily is only slightly more convincing. Wally Cox [The Night Strangler] is funny as the judge who gets inebriated on mincemeat. Alice Faye is okay as the mother, but there are times when you get the impression she'd rather be anywhere else than in this movie. She's given some funny lines -- "[Ewell] won't be happy until that hog shows up in Who's Who" -- but her delivery is always flat. Faye was to play the daughter's role in the 1945 movie but abruptly retired; this was supposedly her comeback. State Fair was finally turned into a Broadway musical in 1996 using songs from both movies and a couple from lesser-known Rodgers and Hammerstein shows.

Verdict: Has some nice moments but decidedly inferior to the original. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Nice cast, I adore Ann-Margret ( met her once!) and don't even mind Pat Boone, but this film seems a bit reactionary, harking back to the "good old days" just as rock and roll took over the airwaves and the Beatles were just ahead on the horizon. I love white bread too, but when I want some, I like you prefer the original.

William said...

I'm sure this flick must have seemed very dated when it came out after the emergence of rock and roll and Elvis.But maybe it was the sensibility more than the music, as Rodgers and Hammerstein certainly had a monster hit with "Sound of Music!"