Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm in Love with Ann-Margret.

I finally picked a Texas movie to write my paper about. State Fair is, as far as I know, the only score Rogers & Hammerstein wrote for a film that wasn't a stage show first. The story is that Fox threw it together quickly to capitalize on the popularity of Oklahoma which was still running on Broadway. The book is pretty lame, and the songs seem almost like very good parody of R & H. A lot of musical themes evoke more developed themes from earlier and later shows of theirs, like South Pacific and The Sound of Music.

In 1961, they made it over, leaving out half the original songs and adding a few new ones by Richard Rogers (I think Hammerstein was dead by then). The remake starred Pat Boone, Ann-Margret, and Bobby Darin, who are all very good. And they moved it from Iowa to Texas, filmed it on location at the fairgrounds in Dallas, just a little over a year before the JFK assassination. I think the general consensus is that it's bad. Parts of it are embarrassingly hokey, but I think it's a pretty interesting film overall. Some of the songs, especially the new ones, are great. Ann-Margret and Pat Boone are really good in it.

I'm arguing in my paper that the movie is Texas's, and by extension America's, fever dream of anxiety about the possible triumph of the modern world over an agrarian innocence we hold as sacred, Texas's final desperate (but unconvincing) assertion of its purity on the eve of a very public loss of innocence in 1963.

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