State Fair (60th
Anniversary edition)/ Oklahoma! (50th
Anniversary edition) (DVD-2005)
Century Fox Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski
the new DVD special edition of The Sound of Music which we reviewed earlier in
the program, 20th Century Fox has released two other anniversary edition 2-disc DVD sets of Rogers and Hammerstein
musicals: State Fair and Oklahoma!.
State Fair is the
one musical which did not originate on the stage. Rogers and Hammerstein wrote
it directly for the screen. Based on the novel of the same name, State Fair had actually been made into a black and white non-musical
film in 1933. But the Rogers and Hammerstein musical version of 1945 is in glorious
Technicolor (even the 20th Century Fox logo at the beginning of the
film has multi-colored searchlight beams).
story of the Frake family’s adventures at the Iowa State Fair features the Oscar winning song, “It Might As Well
Be Spring”. An excellent featurette accompanies the film detailing the
story’s transition from book to screen, and finally, in 1996, to a stage musical.
As for the film itself, the transfer to DVD is gorgeous, a celebration of three-strip Technicolor in all its beauty.
State Fair was
so popular, it was remade as a film musical in 1962—this time with the locale set in Texas instead of Iowa. Both versions of the film are included in this DVD set. A splendid commentary track is available for the 1945 film featuring film historian Richard Barrios and
co-author of the Broadway musical Tom Briggs. The 1962 film version has
an informative commentary track featuring that film’s star, Pat Boone. Sing-a-long
karaoke options, still galleries and trailers round out the extras. State Fair is a most attractive and enjoyable DVD package.
The two disc
edition of Rogers and Hammerstein’s spectacular Oklahoma! is special for a number of reasons. Oklahoma! was Rogers and Hammerstein’s
smash-hit musical stage play a full year before State Fair was put on screen. But Oklahoma! was not adapted for film until 1955. When it did reach the screen,
it reached the big screen. Oklahoma! made history as the first feature length film in Todd-AO.
Todd-AO was a widescreen
film process which provided vastly improved image quality projected on a large screen and superior stereo sound. Now, widescreen film, in the form of cinemascope, had debuted
as a process a year earlier. But cinemascope
used 35mm film and an anamorphic lens. Until it was perfected, the huge and wide
cinemascope images were somewhat grainy.
In contrast, Todd-AO used 70mm film—it was more like the experience
of Cinerama. Its image was sharp and
it featured 6 track stereophonic sound. Oklahoma, with its production numbers and wide open-range outdoor vistas
was a natural property to showcase the 70mm process’ virtues.
theatres could not show Todd-AO 70mm. In
order to make a profit, the expensive production of Oklahoma! needed to be shown in 35mm houses as well. At
the time of Oklahoma!’s
release, the technology did not exist to convert the 70mm widescreen film image to 35mm widescreen. So, to protect their investment, the makers of Oklahoma! shot the film simultaneously in both Todd-AO and
in cinemascope. Usually, but not always,
that involved filming each scene twice.
are two versions of Oklahoma! –the
70mm Todd-AO, and the 35mm cinemascope
version. Fans have been comparing the similarities and contrasts between the
two versions for years. Now, with this special edition set, both versions of
the film are available on DVD for the first time, and it is indeed fascinating to compare them.
this set include a commentary track by film historian Hugh Fordin and Rogers and Hammerstein official Ted Chapin, on the cinemascope version, and a commentary by the film’s
star Shirley Jones with film and music historian Nick Redman on the Todd-AO version. Both tracks are interesting, and Shirley Jones reveals that, when they shot her close
ups in Todd-AO, she had to have her upper lip waxed in order to remove the peach
fuzz there—that’s how much detail the sharp 70mm lenses could pick up on camera and project onscreen.
concerning the Todd-AO process, archival television footage, still galleries and
trailers complete the extras.
Century Fox Home Entertainment’s special 2 disc anniversary editions of State
Fair and Oklahoma! are
long overdue and they are splendid and most welcome DVD editions for film fans everywhere.