There have been three films released with the title State Fair, all of them based on a 1932 novel by Phil 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 is notable as their only movie not adapted from a Broadway musical, although it did spawn a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation in the mid-1990s. A remake of the musical film, directed by José Ferrer and starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margret, was released in 1962.
As the Frake family prepare for their trip to Iowa's annual state fair, Abel Frake bets a friend that he and his family will achieve all the goals they've set for the occasion. Abel has raised his pig, Blueboy, to become a contender for the blue ribbon. His wife, Melissa, has made mincemeat and pickles for the cooking contests. Their son, Wayne, has brushed up on his ring-tossing skills. And their daughter, Margy, hopes to find love during her temporary escape from mundane life on the family farm. At the fair, Margy's dreams seem to be 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, a question arises: can these new couples maintain their relationships after Iowa's state fair ends for another year?
In the 1962 film, the Frakes attend the 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.note
There was also a failed television Pilot Movie in 1976, which changed the family's surname (and a couple of first names), added another son, and had the daughter recently returned to the farm with her young son while separated from her husband. It's only available as an extra on the 2-disc 60th Anniversary Edition DVD of the 1945 and 1962 films, and on the out-of-print Blu-ray of the latter.
This work contains examples of:
- Adaptational Context Change:
- In the 1945 version, Emily sings "That's for Me" diegetically, during a dinner performance. In the 1962 film and the play, Wayne sings it non-diegetically, after developing a crush on Emily.
- In 1945, Wayne and Emily sing "Isn't It Kinda Fun?" diegetically, at a birthday party for one of her band mates. In 1962, Emily diegetically performs a Hotter and Sexier rendition in a stage show. In the play, Margy and Pat sing it non-diegetically when they discuss spending more time together at the fair.
- Advertising by Association: Advertisements for the Rodgers and Hammerstein movies also list off the duo's biggest Broadway hits at the time — Oklahoma! and Carousel by 1945, and Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music by 1962.
- The Bet: Abel bets a neighbor $5 that his hog will win the prize.
- Best Served Cold: At the previous year's fair, Wayne was embarrassed by a carnival barker with a hoop-tossing concession, wasting $8 to eventually win a fake pearl-handled revolver ("It didn't even fire!"). He spent the whole year practising 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.
- The 1962 version shares the same issues, as well as all the scenes in the car races when you can actually identify the drivers.
- 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, and seems quite happy about it.
- Foreshadowing: At a party in the 1945 version, Wayne and Emily sing "Isn't It Kind of Fun". The lyrics 'Maybe you're not a girl to have and to hold / Maybe I'm not a boy who would stay' foreshadow the end of their relationship - Emily can't marry Wayne, and Wayne returns home to the farm.
- 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 ss 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!" It's also the in-universe invention of Pa Frake, meaning it's an early example of a Dad Joke on film!
- 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!, and Flower Drum Song.
- Karma Houdini: Wayne, in the 1945 and 1962 versions at least. In 1945 Emily refuses to leave the state fair and come home with him, and asks him to wait until she comes off stage so she can explain. He finds out from a friendly third party that Emily's already married, though she's been legally separated for a year, and Wayne is the first guy she's shown any interest in since. In 1962 an obviously troubled Emily tells Wayne that they were never supposed to last anyway, and he should go back home and enjoy having a place to belong. In both cases, Wayne storms off and gets very drunk, sulks on the way home then in the last scene is happily driving around with his home town girlfriend. Emily in the 1945 version never gets to tell her side of the story, and 1962 Emily seemed genuinely in love with Wayne, and was willing to come home with him - at least until she stood behind his family at the race track, and heard enough to understand she'd never be more than a showgirl hussy who seduced and stole him away from his proper girl. But no one ever calls Wayne out on the fact he's cheating on his girlfriend at home, who in the 1962 version fully expects to marry him.
- Mr. Fanservice: Pat Boone in the 1962 version, to take advantage of status as a pop star, including at least one Shirtless Scene.
- 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.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Or at least the lyrics. When Hammerstein was writing 'It might as well be spring', it was originally going to be about spring fever... then he realized that all State Fairs at the time took place in autumn. So he changed it to 'It might as well be Spring', and decided he liked it better that way anyway.
- 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".
- 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.