Sunday, August 09, 2009

Tonight's Movie: State Fair (1962)

The 1945 musical version of STATE FAIR is one of my favorite movies, so I've always avoided the 1962 remake. The remake stars Pamela Tiffin, Bobby Darin, Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, and Alice Faye in the roles previously played by Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, and Fay Bainter.

Recently I've enjoyed Pamela Tiffin in ONE, TWO, THREE (1961) and COME FLY WITH ME (1963), which made me more curious about her version of STATE FAIR. I watched it this evening and, somewhat to my surprise, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It can't compare with the earlier musical, but it made pleasant viewing.

Tiffin is charming as Margy, though, like Crain, her rendition of "It Might As Well Be Spring" was dubbed. (Anita Gordon did the honors.) I simply find her very likable and fun to watch onscreen.

Bobby Darin's character was updated from being a newspaper reporter to a TV reporter, who is so obnoxious early on that I felt like he and Tiffin might have provided the inspiration for Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell's characters in GROUNDHOG DAY! Darin's character gradually settles down into a more likeable, "real" person, but another scene or two showing this transformation would have been welcome.

One of the remake's flaws, in fact, is that in tweaking the plot, some of the characters' motivations became muddled and less easy to understand. Dana Andrews' Pat was genuinely more worldly than Margy, while Bobby Darin's Jerry just pretends to be a bigshot, creating a different sort of conflict as to whether or not the characters will end up together.

Another plot flaw is that the relationship between Wayne (Boone) and Emily (Ann-Margret) is built up to be so intense, with her accepting an engagement ring, that it's hard to understand his super-quick bounce back after she rejects him. In the original, their relationship doesn't get quite to that level and Wayne's happy reunion with his girl back home is more believable. I also had trouble accepting that a girl as dynamic as Emily would be so easily crushed.

Boone and Ann-Margret do well with their roles as written -- I had never seen Boone on film before and thought he was very handsome and appealing -- and it's fun to see Alice Faye's return to the screen as Melissa Frake. (She hadn't been on the screen since 1945's FALLEN ANGEL.) Besides "It Might as Well Be Spring," the original Rodgers and Hammerstein score includes wonderful tunes like "Our State Fair," "That's For Me," "Isn't It Kind of Fun," and one of my all-time favorite "show tunes," "It's a Grand Night for Singing." "It's a Grand Night for Singing" is simply musical magic.

"All I Owe Ioway" was dropped from this version, as the setting was relocated from 1945's Iowa to Texas. The movie was filmed in Texas and Oklahoma.

Other than weaker story development, the 1962 film's main flaws are Tom Ewell as Abel Frake (the scene where he sings to Blue Boy had me hitting fast-forward on the remote) and additional songs by Richard Rodgers which range from okay ("This Isn't Heaven") to over-the-top steamy ("Willing and Eager") to painful ("The Little Things in Texas," again sung by Ewell, along with Faye). A plus is the nice use of CinemaScope conveying the vast expanses of Texas and the colorful midway at the fair.

STATE FAIR was directed by Jose Ferrer. A fun bit of trivia: in 1979 Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney's son Gabriel married Pat Boone's daughter Debby.

STATE FAIR is available in a beautiful 60th Anniversary Edition DVD set along with the original 1945 film. The plentiful extras include commentary tracks (Pat Boone does the commentary for the 1962 version) and a 1976 TV pilot.

I think some reviewers have been too hard on the film; Leonard Maltin gave it zero stars and labeled it a "Bomb," which I found to be unfair. Using Leonard's 4-star scale, I would have given it around a 2-1/2. While the 1962 STATE FAIR has its faults and isn't on a par with the original, I nonetheless found it to be an entertaining film which is worth seeing.


Blogger James Corry said...

LAURA!! You've NEVER seen "Journey To The Center Of The Earth"?!! ("I had never seen Pat Boone on film before....")
I CAN'T believe THAT!!

Gently and nicely yours,

James (Brad)

6:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I do have it on tape, at least! :) I recorded it (from Fox Movie Channel) for my kids to watch when they were on a Jules Verne kick, plus my eldest is a big James Mason fan. It's on my "to watch" list -- I remember you mentioning it is a favorite.

Best wishes,

6:57 PM  

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