Sunday, July 28, 2013

So Long at the Fair

A search of the blog suggests that I have never done a full-length post on So Long at the Fair before. It's airing again this evening at 10:15 PM, so today's a good day to blog about it.

Simmons stars as Vicky, a young Englishwoman who is traveling to Paris with her brother Johnny (David Tomlinson) to attend the World's Fair. (It's been long enough since I saw the movie that I don't recall whether it's the 1889 or the 1900 Fair; IMDb reviewers suggest both.) They get rooms in a hotel and see some of the sights of the exhibition. What a nice trip! Of course, we know that something's going to happen. The next morning, Vicky goes to her brother's room. Instead of her brother, she finds a bathroom! That's odd. Well, she could have gotten the room numbers wrong; such things have been known to happen. But in this case, she can't find her brother at all! Oh my, that's a problem.

Faced with a brother who's missing, Vicky does what any sane normal person would do. She asks for help. However, the folks at the hotel show her that her brother is not in the register, while that room he was supposed to have has always been a bathroom. How could he ever possibly have taken that room to sleep in? Going to the authorities doesn't help, either, as Vicky is unable to provide any evidence that she even came to Paris with a brother. In fact, Vicky, we're beginning to wonder whether you're sane at all!

This is a premise that has been used in several movies that I've mentioned in the past. Probably most notable is The Lady Vanishes, where Margaraet Lockwood can't prove to anybody that Dame May Whitty existed, at least until Michael Redgrave comes along. In Dangerous Crossing, it's Jeanne Craine on a boat with a husband for whom there's no evidence of his existence. All such movies have one big issue: how to make the conspiracy theory plausible. After all, there has to be some conspiracy if our heroine isn't insane.

In the case of So Long at the Fair, if I think too hard about it, I find that the conspiracy to keep Vicky from learning about her brother is ludicrous. There's no way that many people could pull it off, and no good reason for them to want to. True, they do claim to have a reason at the end, but while it explains the difference, I don't think it explains the motivation for not telling Vicky. That having been said, I think So Long at the Fair is also part of a genre of film that shouldn't be looked at quite as seriously for plot holes. We can enjoy The Lady Vanishes, or any of Hitchcock's "wrong man tries to prove his innocence" movies, despite the fact that most of them strain credulity. And in that same light, So Long at the Fair is really a pretty good movie. Simmons is fine as the woman who can't find her brother, while Dirk Bogarde plays the kind man who eventually starts to believe her. There's nothing too taxing here, but some good entertainment.

So Long at the Fair has been released to DVD in Europe, but I don't know if it's received a DVD release in the US.

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