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Thursday, September 1, 2011

End of Summer Film... State Fair

I know that I said we were going to head into fall...  And I've already talked about movies this week...  BUT, I had to throw one more summer suggestion in the mix before it was too late.  And, to be honest, I can't believe that it's taken me this long to talk about it.

State Fair is one of the best summertime films of all time.  Not the 1960's version with Pat Boone, a truly terrible remake if ever one existed.  The real movie from 1945 is the way to go.  One of the things I like best about classic films is color...  Technicolor!  Color by Deluxe!  VistaVision!  Have you ever tried to replicate that kind of color in your home or your own photos?  I don't think it's possible.  But, if I could, I'd live in a Technicolor world.  And, watching State Fair, you can imagine that you do, if for just a little while.

State Fair is about as corny as can be, and that's part of the charm.  From the romances of the farmer's daughter, Margie, (Jeanne Crain), and up and coming reporter Pat (Dana Andrews) to Wayne's (Dick Haymes) ill-fated affair with band singer Emily Edwards (Vivian Blaine), the love just can't be stopped.  There are also appearances by Percy Kilbride (best known as Pa Kettle) as a doom-predicting neighbor, Charles Winninger as Margie and Wayne's prized pig raising father, Abel, and Fay Bainter as Melissa, the perfect wife and mother for farm life.  And this is no ordinary farm!  The enormous white house if filled with dazzling color - a white and red and blue kitchen, every shelf perfectly lined with frilly paper, Margie's blue and pink bedroom, filled with overstuffed chintz chairs and canopied bed, and an well-appointed front hall.  Who wouldn't want to live on this farm?!

This is how we dressed when we were at the Lane
County Fair a couple of weeks ago...
Wayne and Margie - the love that couldn't be

The fun doesn't end when the family arrives at the fair.  Camping out in style, Melissa Frakes treats her family to homecooked meals prepared in her open air, traveling kitchen, right beside the mini-Airstream.   Abel is distracted by the fate of Blue Boy, his prized pig, who is bound for glory as the blue ribbon winner in the hog competition.  There are some tense moments as we see Blue Boy lay down mid-competition, but when he sees his competitor, and love interest, come into the ring, he rights himself, much to the relief of the whole family.

You can't talk about State Fair without mentioning the costumes.  While everyone is relatively well-dressed - every man wears a suit and tie to the fair - you can't beat Margie for sartorial extravagance.  From her starched and frilly blue and white gingham jumper while at home on the farm, to the unbelievable black cherry velvet ensemble she wears to see the results of the mincemeat combination, these are outfits straight out of a 1940's Katy Keene paper doll book.  After you see State Fair, it will be the movie that comes to mind when you think of Hollywood musicals.

Jeanne Crain in one of
the best costumes in
State Fair...  Black cherry
velvet...  Isn't this just what
you'd wear to the fair?

Did I talk about the music?  There are so many catchy tunes in this movie that you'll wonder why you don't know more of them.  "It's a Grand Night for Singing", "Our State Fair", "That's For Me", "It Might As Well Be Spring", "I Owe Ioway" (truly my favorite musical dance moment of all time, except for just about anything in Easter Parade) and a few others will stick with you for some time.  And, that's not a bad thing.

What's rather sad is that a lot of the actors and actresses I've mentioned here, and in other posts, are long forgotten.  But, when you see movies like this, with singers like Vivian Blaine, you might be inspired to look for more of their work.  In the case of Jeanne Crain, she appeared in countless films in the forties and fifties, including, Margie, Cheaper By the Dozen, People Will Talk and another unfortunate teaming with Dana Andrews in the sixties, Hot Rods to Hell.

I know that I speak in superlatives when I write about movies, but there really are so many truly wonderful films out there.  Funny, uplifting, entertaining, inspiring, informative and suspenseful, there was a time when Hollywood turned out movies that, little did they know, would be watched for decades to come.  State Fair is certainly on that list.  I can't recommend it highly enough, so catch it before the summer's over!

P.S.  Watch the mincemeat scene...  It's my favorite!

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