A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is an old-fashioned musical film that reflects the simple innocence of the 1940s Midwestern farm community. There are a few scenes of drunkenness played for comic effect. A leading character loses his temper and socks another man in the jaw. In one short roller coaster scene the heroine is very frightened. A number of passionate "movie" kisses indicates that the characters are falling in love.
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What's the story?
The annual state fair was the biggest, most fabulous, most anticipated event in mid-20th century Iowa. There were hogs to judge, pies to bake, pickles to pickle; and music was in the air.... most of the time. The Frake family is alive with excitement and promise. Pa Frake (Charles Winninger) wants Blue Boy, his special boar, to win best in show. Ma Frake (Fay Bainter) works tenaciously on her mincemeat and sour pickles. Restless Margy Frake (Jeanne Crain) hopes to meet the man of her dreams so she won't have to settle for the dull but suitable boy-next-door. Amidst the sounds and colors of the midway, the magical music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the sturdy downhome values of America's agrarian community, the Frakes make some missteps, face some obstacles, but ultimately find "local fame," love, and contentment at their state fair.
Is it any good?
It's old-fashioned, it's a fairy tale; the characters are earnest but far from complex. The conflicts are trivial, and the resolutions are simplistic. Still, given the fact that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote only one original movie musical and this is it, STATE FAIR retains some of its early appeal and is a treat for lovers of this genre. Highlighted by such standards as "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "It's a Grand Night for Singing," the music is classic.
Kids will like the bright colors, wonderful costumes, and bouncy energy throughout. Audiences will appreciate the return to the purity and innocence of the mid-20th century, even if it never existed quite as shown here. It's a sun-drenched departure from the edgier, sophisticated musicals which have evolved over the years.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the period in which this movie was made, just before the end of World War II. Do you think this simple musical story of romance, happy endings, and state fairs helped make people feel better during that difficult era? What kinds of movies do you like to see when you want to be entertained and not worry about real life? How is the Frake family like your own family? How is it different? Besides the most obvious differences (like hairstyles, clothes, and music), how has the art of making movies changed since this film was made?
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