There have been three films released with the title State Fair, all based on a novel by Philip Strong.
The first was a 1933 version, directed by Henry King, starring Janet Gaynor, Will Rogers, and Lew Ayres. In 1945 there was a musical version directed by Walter Lang, starring Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews. This version has music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and it was their only movie not based a Broadway musical, although it spawned a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation in the mid-1990s. A remake of the musical version, starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margret, was released in 1962.
As the Frake family prepares for a trip to Iowa's annual state fair, Abel Frake bets a friend that he and his family will achieve all the goals they set for the occasion. Abel has raised his pig, Blueboy, to become a contender for a blue ribbon. His wife, Melissa, has made mincemeat and pickles for cooking contests. Their son, Wayne, has brushed up his ring-tossing skills. Finally, Abel's and Melissa's daughter, Margy, hopes to find love during her temporary escape from mundane life on the farm. At the fair, Margy's dreams seem to start coming true when she meets a worldly reporter named Pat Gilbert. Wayne, meanwhile, has become attracted to a singer named Emily (her last name varies between versions). As Abel, Melissa, and Wayne rack up prizes, an issue rises: can these new couples maintain their relationships after Iowa's state fair ends for another year?
In the 1962 film, the Frakes attend Texas' state fair, where Wayne plans to win a car race, and Emily works as a showgirl. This version also boasts six additional songs, written by Richard Rodgers.
This work contains examples of:
- The Bet: In the 1933 and 1945 films Abel bets a neighbor $5 that his hog will win the prize.
- Best Served Cold: Wayne was embarrassed by a carnival barker with a hoop-tossing concession at the previous year's fair, wasting $8 to eventually win a fake pearl-handle revolver. He spent the whole year practicing tossing hoops, finds the same barker, and embarrasses him and cleans him out of prizes until the barker gives him his $8 back.
- Beta Couple: Abel and Melissa most prominently, but Blueboy finds love as well.
- But Liquor Is Quicker: In the 1933 film Emily plies Wayne with a drink in an obvious ploy to get him ready for sex.
- Book-Ends: Shots of a billboard for the respective fair more or less begin and end each movie.
- Credits Gag: The 1962 film's opening title zooms out of a billboard advertising the 1945 film. At the end, the same billboard appears once more, and this time "THE END" zooms out of a piece of tape with the words on it.
- Crowd Song: "It's a Grand Night For Singing"
- Disney Acid Sequence: "Isn't it Kinda Fun?" became one in the 1962 version.
- Down on the Farm: The Frakes are farmers. Abel has a prize pig that he wants to put in competition at the fair.
- Driving a Desk: Used in scenes of the Frake family driving to and from the fair, as well as the scene of the 1945 version in which Margy and Pat meet while riding a roller coaster.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Since the 1945 movie predates the advent of widescreen film, it became Rodgers' and Hammerstein's only live-action movie filmed in the Academy ratio.
- The End:
- The Romantic Rain and wind at the end of the 1933 movie causes portions of the "State Fair" poster to peel away. The peeled-off portions reveal another poster below that says "The End".
- In 1962, a billboard worker applies a "The End" banner over a now-dated ad for the fair.
- The Faceless: Blueboy in the stage version, due to the impracticability of keeping a giant pig in a theater every night.
- First Girl Wins: Wayne ends up getting dumped by Emily. After the fair ends, he returns to his previous girlfriend, Eleanor.
- G-Rated Sex:
- Some people watch the 1945's version scene in which Margy and Pat lie together in a field, and consider the implications that Margy lost her virginity offscreen.
- The 1962 version has a song about Wayne and Emily engaging in G-Rated Sex, "Willing and Eager".
- Giant Poofy Sleeves: In the 1945 version, the dresses that Margy wears to the fair all have these.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- "I feel so gay/in a melancholy way/that it might as well be Spring."
- In the 1933 film Margy wonders what people in New York would make of her, and Pat replies that "The men would make love to you and the women would hate you."
- Heroes Want Redheads: Emily has red hair in the 1945 and 1962 versions.
- "I Want" Song: "It Might As Well Be Spring"
- Incredibly Lame Pun: From the 1962 version: "It's Dallas to donuts that our state fair is the best state fair in our state!"
- Intoxication Ensues: After one of the judges at the cooking contest helps himself to leftovers of Melissa's mincemeat.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Pat
- Jukebox Musical: The Broadway version bolsters the soundtrack with songs taken from R&H's most obscure musicals, as well as some Cut Songs from Oklahoma!.
- Musical World Hypotheses: Unusually for Rodgers and Hammerstein, the 1945 version has four of its six songs performed diegetically. Three of those four ("That's For Me", "It's a Grand Night For Singing", and "All I Owe Ioway") are sung as part of Shows Within the Show, while the singers of the fourth ("Isn't It Kinda Fun?") clearly have sheet music in front of them. Only "Our State Fair" and "It Might as Well Be Spring" seem to receive non-diegetic numbers — Both would instead fall under All In Their Heads (unless "Our State Fair" also exists in-universe, which would explain why three different people know it). The 1962 version and the play seem to vary between Diegetic, All In Their Head, and Adaptation, depending on the number.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: "It's the best state fair in our state!" Could have been Truth in Television if only it had been set in Illinois, which has two state fairs.
- Retronym: Some TV broadcasts of the 1945 version used the title It Happened One Summer, to avoid confusion with the remake. Eventually, the remake's critical and financial failures lessened the chance of people mistaking the '45 movie for it.
- Sealed with a Kiss: Margy and Pat kiss during their final scene together.
- Setting Update: The Rodgers and Hammerstein movies take place in the decades of their respective premieres, instead of the '30s. The play takes place in 1946.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: In the 1933 film, after Emily dresses in a kimono, Wayne gasps "I didn't suppose anyone could be so lovely." The film then cuts to the next scene.
- Single Stanza Song: "Our State Fair" has a four-line refrain and no verse, not even an unused one.
- Slip into Something More Comfortable: "I think I'll get into something more comfortable", says Sally in the 1933 film; her seduction of Wayne follows.
- Someone's Touching My Butt: When the 1945 version's Margy and Pat ride a roller coaster car through a dark tunnel, one of the female passengers asks her boyfriend not to touch her, then shrieks.
- Spelling Song: "All I Owe Ioway" has a sequence in which the singers try to spell out, "Iowa".
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The 1962 version's Pat Boone and Ann-Margret as Wayne and Emily, respectively. This has to do in part with the fact Pamela Tiffin acts so bland as Margy. (Pat Gilbert's actor, Bobby Darin, has a tendency to steal the spotlight from her as well.)
- Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: Played with: Melissa refuses Abel's suggestion to sweeten the mincemeat with brandy, so Abel decides to add some without her noticing. After he leaves, Melissa decides to add some brandy herself. Even though the dish ends up having an abnormally high alcohol level, the judges still reward Melissa with a blue ribbon.
- Verbal Irony: From the 1933 film. "You two don't seem like the same youngsters that came to the fair with us." Margy has fallen in love and Wayne has been de-virginated.