The original film State Fair has suffered an ignominious fate, owing -- ironically enough -- to the consequences growing out of the virtues that made it so notable in the first place. The story, by Phillip Strong, was a good one, about a family that finds joys and some unexpected personal trials while attending the Iowa State Fair. Henry King, who'd made his mark on pictures a dozen years earlier with the rural tale Tol'able David, did some of his best sound work in that milieu on this particular picture. And that's not surprising, given that he had the opportunity to work tandem with Will Rogers, Louise Dresser, and Janet Gaynor. King had a light touch as a director, giving his actors room to do what they did best, and they all ran with it, and the results were so impressive that they ended up inspiring Rodgers and Hammerstein to try their hand at film scoring a dozen years later. And that musical version eclipsed the very work that had inspired them in the first place. This movie has many of the same virtues that one found in the other films of Rogers and Gaynor, plus King's ability to move a story along. The warmth of the characterizations radiates from the screen, and even those who have grown up on the more familiar films of the R&H musical version may be impressed with the straight dramatic approach that one finds here.
by Bruce Eder review