State Fair (1945) – Movie Review
Starring beautiful Jeanne Crain, dashing Dana Andrews, crooner Dick Haymes, and songbird Vivian Blaine, State Fair is comical, dramatic, and delightful.
I don’t know when I first saw this movie but it has been amongst my favourites ever since. The music is superb, the characters lovable, and the plot simple and cute. Sometimes a simple story is all a person needs for entertainment. I enjoy the period, how the clothes are so elegant and stylish, and the lifestyle always seems to be better, more enjoyable, than what we have now. Maybe unreasonable but at least the movie gives you a good feeling.
On a prosperous farm in Iowa, the Frake’s are preparing to attend the annual state fair, where Abel Frake, the father, will show off his hog, Melissa Frake, the mother, will enter her pickles and mincemeat, and their children, Wayne and Margy just have a good time. Right off, Margy meets a handsome reporter who seems to know the world. Meanwhile Wayne makes a move to get back at a vendor who cheated him the year before and meets a lovely young lady because of it. With the festivities and fun around them, the Frake’s spend another lovely week at the Fair, but this time not everything will end as usual.
The Frake’s are all excited and getting ready to attend the State Fair. It’s the height of the summer for the people in Iowa and there is something there for everyone.
Though usually just as excited as her family, Margy can’t seem to get in the spirit. She loves the fair but the status of her life at the moment leaves her feeling a bit down. With a boyfriend whose soul interest is “scientific” farming, she wonders if there isn’t more out there that she might be missing.
In the kitchen, Melissa Frake is putting the finishing touches on her mincemeat. Her husband, Abel, is confident that Blueboy, the hog, will win 1st prize this year and is in good spirits because of it.
After being cheated the year before by a shotty vendor, Wayne Frake takes his mother’s embroidery hoops to the barn to get some practice beforehand in hopes of showing up the troublesome vendor this year. His girlfriend, Eleanor, was supposed to go with them but to his dismay, she phones him and says she can’t make it.
The fair is in full swing and the Frake’s have arrived with their mobile home and are setting up camp. Margy knows how uncertain her mother is over her pickles and mincemeat. She tries to encourage her as much as possible, sincerely hoping this might be the year she wins. Her father on the other hand needs no encouragement whatsoever.
Making a beeline to the troublesome vendor, Wayne succeeds in proving the man a liar and a cheat but only with the help of the chief of police’s daughter, Emily Edwards. Wayne is smitten by the lovely lady but doesn’t manage to get anywhere with her.
Finally after finishing setting up camp, Margy walks to the fair by herself. Like her brother, she has a sure destination in mind. The roller coaster. Having been terrified of it as a child, she wants to find out if she still is. Nervously, she buys a ticket and gets on. She realizes only too late that she is still just as scared and panics. The man in the seat beside her quickly comes to her rescue, allowing her to bury her face in his jacket. Afterward, she politely thanks him and leaves the ride behind, but she can’t help feeling curious about the kind man. To her surprise, he seems just as curious about her and invites her to browse the fair with him.
Margy finds out that he is a reporter by the name of Pat Gilbert. She can’t help but like him immediately, so when he proposes they get together again, she agrees but only after asking him if he’s sure he still wants to. His terms are “Whenever I want to throw in this bunch, I just won’t be around”.
At the Swine Pavilion, Abel checks on Blueboy. He treats him like a king, and it doesn’t take Blueboy long to pick out a queen.
While looking for the chief of police’s daughter, Wayne finds Emily singing with the Tommy Thomas orchestra and realizes he’s been had. But he isn’t angry with her. Instead he takes her to the dance floor and tries to get her to spend the rest of evening with him.
Meanwhile, Margy runs into Pat and the two browse around the fair getting to know each other. Pat tells her about his real dream, working in a big city newspaper, and he’s hoping to get the job real soon. She wishes him the best and secretly imagines how wonderful it would be to live in the big city.
The next day is a big day for Melissa Frake. Anxiously, she watches as the judges taste her pickles. The pavilion is silent as everyone wonders who will be the lucky winner this year and once again she loses to Mrs. Metcalf.
But with the mincemeat it’s a different story. Having previously refused to take her husbands advice and add liquor, Melissa finally gave in. But Abel didn’t know and snuck some in himself. The first two judges obviously dislike it, but the third judge says there isn’t any better and Mrs. Frake wins first prize.
After the nights show, Emily invites Wayne to the party the boys are giving in her honor. Feeling some competition from one of the guys, Wayne doesn’t hesitate to win Emily’s attention. It’s not long before he decides she’s the girl for him. Unfortunately for him, he finds out that she’s already married. Her husband used to be a great guy until he lost his confidence in himself. Those only having known her for a little while, Wayne is crushed.
The more time they spend together the more Margy falls for Pat. Sure, he’s the kind of guy that has his pick of women, she tells herself. But they have such a good time together, how could he not feel the same? What she doesn’t know is that he does but he’s not yet sure he wants to admit it.
It’s Abel’s turn to take Blueboy before the judges. At first Blueboy is reluctant and everything looks bad for Abel, but when Blueboy gets a glimpse of his “girlfriend” he perks up and steals the judges hearts.
The last night of the fair, Pat is in his hotel room about to leave when he is interrupted by his boss. He’s informed that he’s got the job in New York! The only catch is that Pat has to leave that night. He has to make a hard choice between his job or his new feelings for Margy.
Margy waits in front of the roller coaster for Pat to arrive but he never shows. She remembers what he said about calling it quits by “not being around” and figures he must have not felt for her like she felt for him.
For Abel and Melissa, the fair couldn’t have been better: he got first prize for Blueboy like he said he would and she won first prize for her mincemeat. But for Wayne and Margy, it couldn’t have been worse.
As soon as they arrive home Wayne immediately goes for a walk while Margy goes to her room.
Minutes later the phone rings and Margy answers it expecting her boyfriend. Instead it’s Pat! He says he’s on his way there and tells her about the job. He asks her to marry him and go with him to New York. Without hesitating, Margy runs from the house with no explanation to her parents and goes to meet him.
As for Wayne, he sees how foolish he’s been about Emily and comes driving by with Eleanor. They pass Pat and Margy on their way, and finally realize that maybe the fair was better than ever before!
Not only is the story so engaging, but the music is catching and lovely. The movie starts out with a full cast singing Our State Fair, then Jeanne Crain has the opportunity to show off her soft voice in It Might as Well Be Spring. But my personal favourites are the ones Dick Haymes and Vivian Blaine sing: That’s For Me, It’s a Grand Night for Singing, and Isn’t it Kind of Fun?. They’re the typical Rogers and Hammerstein scores sure to make a hit and stay a hit!
As usual for Hollywood, Dana Andrews singing voice was dubbed by Ben Gage. I often doubt their judgement in these areas, giving Dana Andrews’ abilities to sing the benefit of the doubt, but Hollywood will do what Hollywood does. At least in modern days they allow actors to do more of their own singing.
And this concludes this weeks review. I hope you have enjoyed it! Be sure to tell me what you think in the comments below.
(Next review: take a step up to the St. Louis World’s Fair with Judy Garland and, my personal favorite, Tom Drake. See you then!)