Saturday, June 10, 2006

Last Night's Movie: State Fair (1945)

The 1945 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's STATE FAIR is one of my favorite musicals: it stars two of my favorite actors, Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews; it's a brilliant example of Fox Technicolor; and it has a wonderful score, including one of my all-time favorite R&H songs, "It's a Grand Night for Singing." The movie leaves you with a smile on your face, whistling a happy tune. :) What's not to love?

STATE FAIR was previously filmed as a non-musical in 1933. The 1945 version was Rodgers and Hammerstein's only original film musical. It tells the simple story of the Frake family, who go to the fair seeking blue ribbons and romance. The film also stars Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Charles Winninger, Fay Bainter, and a host of memorable character actors, including Percy Kilbride, Harry Morgan, Will Wright, and John Dehner.

The movie was directed by Walter Lang, who would later direct another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, THE KING AND I. 50th anniversary editions of THE KING AND I and another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, CAROUSEL, are expected to be released on DVD later this year.

Fun trivia for film fans: Dana Andrews was an accomplished singer who had trained in opera but kept quiet about this talent when he came to Hollywood as he didn't want to be typecast as a "boy singer." He is said to have not mentioned his singing ability when he was cast in STATE FAIR as he figured the guy dubbing for him needed the job. The singer was Ben Gage, who was once married to Esther Williams and is remembered by some TV fans as Marshal Mort Dooley in MAVERICK'S famous "Gun-Shy" spoof of GUNSMOKE.

STATE FAIR is available in a beautiful 60th Anniversary Edition DVD. The 2-disc set includes the inferior 1962 version of the film starring Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, Bobby Darin, and Alice Faye, as well as the 1976 pilot for a proposed TV series starring Vera Miles and Linda Purl.

STATE FAIR is also available in a DVD edition without extras, other than a trailer, and on video.


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