Review - State Fair/ Oklahoma! (DVD-2005)
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State Fair (60th Anniversary edition)/ Oklahoma! (50th Anniversary edition) (DVD-2005)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski


Along with 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). 


The heartwarming 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. 


But most 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. 


So there 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. 


Extras in 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. 


Several featurettes concerning the Todd-AO process, archival television footage, still galleries and trailers complete the extras. 


20th 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. 



2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski



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