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Magic Town 1947
Description: Rip Smith's opinion-poll business is a failure...until he discovers that the tiny city of Grandview is statistically identical to the whole country. He and his assistants go there to run polls cheaply and easily, in total secrecy (it would be fatal to allow the townsfolk receive self-conscious). And of course, civic crusader Mary Peterman gotta be kept from changing things too much. But romantic involvement with Mary complicates life for Rip; then suddenly everything changes.
Released: 07 Oct 1947 Director: William A. Wellman Writers: Robert Riskin (story), Joseph Krumgold (story), Robert Riskin Actors: James Stewart, Jane Wyman, Kent Smith, Ned Sparks Genres: Comedy, Romance
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Magic Town Reviews:

"Magic Town" is a movie about something that we nowadays take as normal but which was a novelty in 1947. It was about the fresh "science" of public opinion polling. This was only understood poorly and not only by the public but by those who now mattered: the politicians who would grow to need them. In 1936 the Literary Digest, a famous magazine of the day, had conducted a poll of it's membership on who would victory the Presidency. It concluded that Governor Alfred Landon of Kansas, a capable man, would beat incumbent President Franklin Roosevelt. Unfortunately the readership of the Digest were upper class, and basically Republican (as Landon was). In November 1936 FDR won one of the largest landslides in political history, with three quarters of the famous vote and all the electoral votes except for those of Maine and Vermont. Literary Digest went out of business shortly afterwords. In the decade since Roper and Gallup had been improving polling techniques, but the full system was still uncertain. In the 1948 election there would be other polling snafu, with most of the polls awarding the election to Governor Thomas Dewey of Fresh York, as opposed to incumbent President Harry Truman. Harry won a remarkable come-from-behind over Tom, and enjoyed showing off a headline from the Republican "Chicago Tribune" telling that Tom won.In the midst of all this there was a classic sociology study entitled "Middletown". Set in the typical mid-American city (it was in the Midwest) the creators (a husband and wife team) showed how it's citizens opinions mirrored what mid-America believed. Ten years soon the same creators published a follow up study of the town, and it turned there was tiny change in the opinion differentials between the city and the country.It is with the "Middletown" study that the background of this movie was based. Jimmy Stewart and his assistants (including Ned Sparks and Donald Meek - in his last role) are pollsters, and Stewart has a theory he has been working on that would save pollsters millions. He believes there is a excellent community in the middle of America that can be used for polling it's citizens. He has been studying the trouble for few years, and he has found a city where the percentages of the opinions of the citizens perfectly mirror those of the American folks as a whole. Stewart goes to the city and sets up there with the intention of using the citizens as his poling guinea pigs, but (as the film progresses) he gets involved with Jane Wyman and the others in the town. When Wyman discovers Stewart's plans she reveals them, and the city goes crazy. Their sudden unofficial power goes to their heads, and instead of giving the sensible polling answers to questions they give outlandish ones. This causes the ruin of their reputation, and the crisis of the film.It is a first rate movie and has some great touches (including Gabriel Heater intoning on the radio). As an early storyline regarding the polling industry it is unique, and the movie is well acted and directed (by William Wellman). Perhaps not a Capra movie, but it is a great one all the same.


Certainly not one of the nice comedies, but charming and rather whimsical in its own way. In this day and age of raucous and crude humour (if you can call it that), a film like "Magic Town" will probably seem hopelessly old-fashioned and dated, but for those who prefer a quieter and more gentle humour, "Magic Town" will fill the bill very nicely. Very Frank Capra-like (not surprisingly since screenwriter Robert Riskin collaborated with Capra numerous times), "Magic Town" reminds us of a by-gone era, a time when living in a tiny city meant knowing your neighbours, pride in your community, and the moral values of common decency and humility were still part of daily life. James Stewart as the pollster who discovers a city full of folks whose opinions exactly mirror the national thinking gives his customary nice performance, as does Jane Wyman as the newspaper publisher who wants to see change in the town. Many well-known hero actors (Kent Smith, Wallace Ford, Ann Shoemaker and particularly Ned Sparks) deliever capable support. A slight offering, perhaps, but quite worthwhile.


Stewart's previous film was "It's a Unbelievable Life", and this one drinks from the same well.It has a powerful underlying moral about being real to yourself, and extols the virtues of honesty, pride in your small-town community. The city appears to be a microcosm of America, but it can only be that while it still has its innocence: once it tries to money in on its status, disaster strikes.It's a gentle, heartwarming tiny movie. Jimmy Stewart and the then Mrs Reagan do the romantic lead bits, and lots of folks with "interesting" faces enjoy "typical tiny city characters", the kids manage to avoid being ridiculously cute, and it's all quite charming.Watch out for the Senator's wife and the ancient employees of the newspaper, who are the most obviously funny characters. This may be billed as a comedy, but it's one to be amused by, and brings smiles to you face rather than guffaws and belly-laughs.If you liked James Stewart in "It's a Unbelievable Life" and "The Philadelphia Story", this one's for you.



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