Jean Simmons Bids ‘So Long’ at the Fair

May 13, 2016 | By

‘A plot that bewildered the world’ and frustrated more than a few earthlings.

In his intro to the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Into Thin Air” starring daughter Pat, Alfred Hitchcock refers to the story of a missing family member as stemming from a classic urban legend, one he recounted in The Lady Vanishes (1938), where two passengers are tasked with investigating the strange mystery of a disappearing woman they know exists.

There’s nothing more unnerving in confronting a group of seemingly disparate people – like a hotelier, maid, and a bellboy – who you know are lying to your face without any logical reason. That’s the similar-themed circumstance little Jean Simmons encounters in So Long at the Fair (1950), a prior version of “Into Thin Air,” where little Vicky wakes up the next morning in Paris to find her brother isn’t just missing, but according to the hotel’s highly unhelpful and unsympathetic staff, never checked in.

It’s a great hook that’s undone by a wobbly and ultimately ludicrous explanation, but then that seems to be the case with many tales where innocents are confronted with an iron-clad charade: the ending just can’t live up to the high-concept hook.

A better variant may be Jonathan Mostow’s Breakdown (1997), simply because it doesn’t rely on a twist: a kidnapper, a pickup truck driver, a supposedly simple man, and a family are revealed in graduate stages, so the hook of ‘Where’s my wife?’ is subjugated by the husband’s brutal experiences that repeatedly yield more details of seething small town corruption rather than further subterfuge.

So Long at the Fair is worth a peek – Simmons is paired with a similarly young Dirk Bogarde – but it’s best taken with a few grains of chunky sea salt.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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