So Long at the Fair – 1950


So Long at the Fair CoverOriginal title: So Long at the Fair
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Year: 1950
Director: Antony Darnborough, Terence Fisher
Duration: 86 min.
Genre: Drama, Mystery

Urban Legend

So Long at the Fair tells a story that supposedly is an urban legend. The urban legend tells the same story, except it is of a mother and her daughter. In this case, I guess the film in its early stages needed a male counterpart to Jean Simmons. So we get the same story, but with a brother (David Tomlinson) and sister instead. I would like to tell about the urban legend, but it would kind of spoil the entire film, so I’ll just leave that be. Instead, the first parts of the story should be more than enough to make anyone want to see the film.

So Long at the Fair

So Long at the Fair

We start off with a young couple – brother and sister as we now know – traveling from Naples to Paris. The girl (Vicky Barton) is kind of nagging to go visit places while her brother (Johnny Barton) has work to do. They talk about the world fair and the Eiffel tower. Once they arrive at their Paris hotel, Johnny realises he forgot one of his suitcases outside. Vicky finishes registering while he is going back outside to get it. She then leaves the desk to go upstairs to her room when Johnny returns. They are given rooms 18 and 19. An important piece of information, as it turns out.

Johnny is rather tired at this point, but Vicky talks him into enjoying the Paris nightlife for a while. When they get back, Vicky goes to her room (18). Johnny stays downstairs a little while to have a drink. He lends a man (Dirk Bogarde) some money to pay for his ride, talks to him some more, and then also retires. The next morning, no Johnny. When Vicky goes out to look for him in his room, there are only rooms 18 and 20. Room 19 turns out to be the bathroom. Well gosh darn, what just happened? And where did Johnny go? Pretty sure his room was 19…

So Long at the Fair

Where’s Johnny? We had to wait until 1980 for that one…

Downstairs we go, to the hotel manager. That seems like a solid idea. She looks a little jumpy, but tells Vicky there is and never was a room 19 on her floor. It is the toilet. What’s more, she doesn’t remember her having anyone with her. As far as she’s concerned, Vicky checked in alone and doesn’t have a brother. Room 20 turns out to be occupied by different people so it wasn’t a matter of mixing up room numbers. Also, Johnny’s name doesn’t turn up in the hotel’s register. But he didn’t sign, because he was getting his luggage. Right?

Similarly to the hotel staff, a man at the British Consulate tells her she might not be well, or that she is making it all up. People disappear, hotel rooms do not. Either way, proof is needed to get anyone to help her. So now it’s a matter of tracking down someone who remembers. We know there is at least one man (carriage fare guy) who knows. But Vicky doesn’t know about this. Will she find him, or someone else perhaps, who can help?

So Long at the Fair

Vicky heads off to find various people trying to get a sliver of evidence that her brother was actually with her the previous day. In the meanwhile, no one in the hotel seems to be able to remember Johnny. Not even the boy who helped with their luggage. Luckily, Vicky is nothing like Gaslight’s Paula Alquist. Ingrid Bergman, this is how you deal with annoying people telling you that you’re imagining things!

Vicky persists in her story, and tries everything to find Johnny. It even takes her to the world fair to track down a maid. As an audience of course we know that Johnny’s room was indeed room 19. So what happened? Where did he go? And why is the hotel staff acting so strange. Of course we learn the truth after some prying, prodding, sneaking around and climbing down windows. Did NOT see that coming. But then again, if you think about it, it does make some sense. But, film’s over, take off your tin foil hats and continue your day.

So Long at the Fair isn’t spectacular in terms of directing or music. The acting is solid and the scenery is nice, but to me it is the story that makes it so enjoyable. Well, and Jean Simmons, who is just amazing, but that’s not entirely objective. At the very end, when all is revealed, it makes you think. Could anything like this ever really have happened? Or could it ever happen today? At the very least, it seems a whole lot more credible than a faked moon landing or Jesus in my crazy neighbour’s corn flakes.

So Long at the Fair

 

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