First Time Watching… State Fair (1945)

This second of three versions of the musical (1933/1962) is charmingly light entertainment – with of course a fantastic score. 

Having already heard the score performed thanks to the London Musical Theatre Orchestra‘s wonderful performance at Cadogan Hall last year, I was instantly charmed by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score and I was curious to see what the film (or at least one interpretation anyway) was like.

Filled with iconic songs such as ‘It Might as Well Be Spring’ and ‘It’s a Grand Night for Singing’, all of which are engagingly performed by all of the cast, State Fair is all about love affairs with all the fun of the fair in its background.

Yes there is no getting away from the fact that perhaps the story hasn’t dated as well as some other musicals of the same period, but it is a warmhearted and undeniably charming film to watch.

Walter Lang directed this version of the musical and it looks and sounds as though he captures the spirit and elegance of the story by using a delicate touch that allows the music to really soar and take centre stage.

He also managed to get together an excellent cast – even if it feels as though the characters have been lightly drawn and never really allowed to shine as they could. However, the likes of Vivian Blaine as Emily Edwards, Jeanne Crain as Margy Frake, Dana Andrews as Pat Gilbert and Dick Haymes as Wayne Frake all have a nice chemistry within their couples. But (for this viewer at least) the real standout performance comes from Charles Winninger as Abel Frake who has great comic timing, warmth and depth to his character.

But it is the music that the audience really falls in love with – particularly with numbers such as ‘It’s A Grand Night for Singing’ and ‘All I Owe Ioway’ adding a sense of celebration and joyfulness to proceedings. It is a score though that is instantly recognisable as Rodgers and Hammerstein work, filled with lush romantic moments that rise and fall with grace and style.

Overall, the music is a delight and despite the almost vagueness of the story and the thinly created characters it is a film worth watching even once to cheer you up.

State Fair is available to buy through Amazon now. 

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