Monday, June 25, 2007

State Fair (1962)

State Fair is one of those rare musicals (by Rogers & Hammerstein, no less) that appeared in film version first (TWICE, actually) before being adapted as a Broadway musical over fifty years later. The 1962 version starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margaret features a passing reference to Scranton.

State Fair began as a 1933 film (non-musical) starring Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers. The film told the story of a farming family (parents, a teenage son, and a teenage daughter) who travel to the Iowa State Fair to complete in a variety of competitions. The two teenagers go off on their own and each finds love.

In 1945, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II (who would later collaborate on the musicals Oklahoma, The Sound of Music. The King and I, South Pacific and Cinderella) were selected to write songs for a musical film version of State Fair; in addition, Hammerstein wrote the screenplay for the film). It is also of note that this was the only time the two songwriters wrote songs directly for a film musical--their subsequent collaborations were first presented on Broadway as stage musicals before being translated into film versions some years later.

The 1945 film starred Jeanne Crain (who would later star in A Letter to Three Wives, which featured a reference to Wilkes-Barre and was directed by Wilkes-Barre native Joseph L. Mankiewicz) and Dick Haymes and featured the song It Might As Well Be Spring, which has since become a standard covered by many recording artists.

Seventeen years later, in 1962, State Fair was remade by director Jose Ferrer (who also won a Best Actor Oscar for Cyrano de Bergarac in 1950). The 1962 version starred Pat Boone and Ann-Margaret (in her feature film debut) as a young couple who meet and fall in love at the Iowa State Fair.

Near the end of the film, after discovering that Wayne's (Pat Boone) parents disapprove of her, Emily Porter (Ann-Margaret) finds herself packing her trunk at her apartment to leave Wayne forever. He arrives and they have the following confrontation that includes the passing reference to Scranton:

Emily Porter: Well, what did you think was going to happen? I warned you. A few days, a few nights. Those were the ground rules. You knew that from the start.

Wayne Frake: But you changed, and after that we talked about the farm and how we were always gonna' be together.

Emily Porter: This trunk won't let us! Don't you understand? There's more than clothes in here! I'M in here, too! Read the labels. Little Rock, Ackron, Scranton, Springfield. That wouldn't leave us much time for the South 40 now, would it?

At the time, 1962's State Fair was considered a critical and commercial flop, but the film is now regarded as a classic today.

In 1996, State Fair was transferred from film to the Broadway stage for the first time. The show starred John Davidson and Donna McKechnie and ran for just over 100 performances. There is no documentation I could find that the Scranton reference was included in the Broadway production. If anyone saw the show in its brief Broadway run and knows if the Scranton reference was retained for the 1962 film version of State Fair, please email me at

The 2-disc DVD of State Fair, which includes both the 1945 version and the 1962 version (which mentions Scranton) of the film, is available to borrow from Albright Memorial Library and Abington Community Library. To place a hold on the DVD for State Fair, click here.

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