State Fair (Walter Lang, 1945)

I’m so easily manipulated, I’ve been told by many I’m the perfect audience. Quiet, attentive and responsive. I should be paid for my services by a comedian, because if someone tells a joke, I will laugh. Perhaps that’s why I have such an attachment and aptitude for classic Hollywood cinema, I accept the romance, the comedy and the horror that it presents, not necessarily as factual truths, but emotional ones. State Fair (1945) is not one of the all time great musicals, but it’s one of the tender, sweet ones that Minnelli had pioneered just a year before. It’s not about spectacle, riches or stage, it’s about family and the lives of every day people. The magic and tribulations of every day life. Not much happens in the film, at least not in terms of action, emotionally we run through what feels like a lifetime of emotions and every one of them is as sweet and sincere as the last.

Though these types of films are a kind of wish fulfillment, the idea that out there someone is perfect for you, and happiness is possible. It has that same longing for a new life and new love that everyone has no doubt felt at one time or another. The spectacle of the fair allows it to happen, a meeting place of different people and places, a celebration of life at it’s fullest. I was most sympathetic to young Margy’s character transition, as I think I’m near the same time in my life as she is. Actually, watching the film, I wonder how I’ll feel about these films ten or twenty years down the line as so many of my favourites or films that attract or “speak” to me include characters just a few years away from my own. I’m at a point in my life where I’m the “ideal” female target age of popular classic Hollywood cinema, and just a few years off the early 20s woman popular in the new Hollywood vehicle. Will I still feel the same affection? The same kinship? It’s all worth wondering as huge what-ifs, looking down the road at the person I may be, not the person I am. Margy is one of those girls who just feels as lost as I am, her make-up and hair may be done up with a lot more elaborately than my own, but her crisis feels just as real.

Writing this out, I feel so unlike myself as I say I yearn for the simple things in life. I do, and I don’t. I don’t know how to define simplicity, it’s not some conservative ideal of the perfect home, perfect husband and perfect job, but rather the idea that a person can be happy. This film touches for that because that’s what Margy years for, she doesn’t necessarily want a new world, she doesn’t want the old one either… she wants her own. The film is never condescending to the country life, and similarly does not demonize or caricature the city either. The fundamental equation is that people can feel, and we are also capable of change… it’s even necessary. We have to work for what we want, and looking on the bright side of life might just win you a few extra dollars. Even though on those cold and unhappy days where you feel as if the world is a rotten place, I think it never hurts to try and see a little good in it, and the people around you. That at any opportunity something can jump up and surprise you for the better, and it can happen anytime and anywhere.

As I said, I’m a total sap for these kind of films. The songs and the romance always sways me, and leaves my stomach fluttering with butterflies. I’m happy I’m a push-over though, films like this, however momentarily seem to infuse me with an energy to be happy and to be the best person I can be, and I don’t see any harm in that.

4 responses to “State Fair (Walter Lang, 1945)

  1. Pingback: 2008 in Review « House of Mirth and Movies

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