State Fair (20th Century-Fox), a Technicolored, Rodgers-&-Hammerstein tuning-up of the Phil Stong novel, is meant to be as happy as a hayride down the middle aisle of Oklahoma! The spacious, easygoing story:
Iowa Farmer Frake (Charles Winninger), his wife (Fay Bainter), their son Wayne (Dick Haymes) and their daughter Margy (Jeanne Grain) go to the big State Fair. Farmer Frake's heart is set on winning the Grand Award with his titanic boar. Blue Boy. Mrs. Frake's hopes reside in her crock of heavily spiked mincemeat. Wayne meets and falls for a redhead (Vivian Blaine) who sings with Tommy Thomas' band, and Margy picks up with a Des Moines reporter (Dana Andrews).
Blue Boy, melancholic with love for a redheaded sow, acts his age in time to triumph. One of the judges yields to the beast in him when he tastes Mrs. Frake's brandied mincemeat, so she too triumphs. The son and daughter also finally win their hearts' desires. (Good bit: Margy's and the reporter's innocent embrace when "their" horse wins a harness race, their embarrassed withdrawal, their sudden, serious kiss.)
While all this business is going on, the company gives out with four fine tunes by Richard Rodgers (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). The two most likely to succeed: It's a Grand Night for Singing and It Might as Well Be Spring.
Mr. Hammerstein has written a screen play as pleasing and deft as his lyrics. If the picture had delicacy and imagination to match its competence and good humor and if its pastoral charm had real outdoor authenticity, instead of a germless soundstage lookState Fair might have become an entertainment classic. As it stands, it should be a solid hit.
Pride of the Marines (Warner), adapted from Roger Butterfield's true story, Al Schmid, Marine, is Hollywood's most serious attempt yet to picture some of the problems of returning servicemen.
Hero Al Schmid (John Garfield), a 21-year-old Philadelphia machinist, joined the Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor and became a machine-gunner. One night on Guadalcanal, defending a river crossing, he killed some 200 Japanese. Toward morning, a grenade went off in his face and ended the war, for him, in blindness.
For months, doctors worked on Al's eyes without much result and without much hope, while friends, without much result or much hope either, worked to renew his will to live. Pride, bitterness, fury, self-pity, despair engulfed him.
Without letting her know what was wrong with him, he did his best to break off with his sweetheart, Ruth Hartley (Eleanor Parker). But thanks to her love and patience, the pep talks of his fellow marine Lee Diamond (Dane Clark) and the kindliness of a Red Cross worker (Rosemary De Camp), he was finally won back into human circulation.*
Even when it drags, the screen story of Al Schmid has a compelling doggedness and honesty. The cast, especially Messrs. Garfield and Clark, put it over with a notable absence of affectation. The picture's single, sustained combat sequence is keenly written and filmed, fiercely exciting, with its shrilling obbligato of the enemy's "Mreen yoo dyee (Marine, you die!) Mreen tonight yoo dyee!" set against the jabbing technical chatter of the frantically overworked machine-gun crew.