"Magic Town" is a film about something that we nowadays take as normal but which was a novelty in 1947. It was about the new "science" of public opinion polling. This was only understood poorly and not only by the public but by those who actually mattered: the politicians who would grow to need them. In 1936 the Literary Digest, a popular magazine of the day, had conducted a poll of it's membership on who would win 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 biggest landslides in political history, with three quarters of the popular 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 another polling snafu, with most of the polls awarding the election to Governor Thomas Dewey of New 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" saying that Tom won.
In the midst of all this there was a classic sociology study entitled "Middletown". Set in the typical mid-American town (it was in the Midwest) the authors (a husband and wife team) showed how it's citizens opinions mirrored what mid-America believed. Ten years later the same authors published a follow up study of the town, and it turned there was little change in the opinion differentials between the town and the country.
It is with the "Middletown" study that the background of this film 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 perfect community in the middle of America that can be used for polling it's citizens. He has been studying the problem for several years, and he has found a town where the percentages of the opinions of the citizens perfectly mirror those of the American people as a whole. Stewart goes to the town and sets up there with the intention of using the citizens as his poling guinea pigs, but (as the movie progresses) he gets involved with Jane Wyman and the others in the town. When Wyman discovers Stewart's plans she reveals them, and the town 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 crash of their reputation, and the crisis of the film.
It is a first rate film and has some nice touches (including Gabriel Heater intoning on the radio). As an early story regarding the polling industry it is unique, and the film is well acted and directed (by William Wellman). Perhaps not a Capra movie, but it is a nice one all the same.
Comedy / Romance
Comedy / Romance
Rip Smith's opinion-poll business is a failure...until he discovers that the small town of Grandview is statistically identical to the entire country. He and his assistants go there to run polls cheaply and easily, in total secrecy (it would be fatal to let the townsfolk get self-conscious). And of course, civic crusader Mary Peterman must be kept from changing things too much. But romantic involvement with Mary complicates life for Rip; then suddenly everything changes... —Rod Crawford
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
July 13, 2021 at 02:28 AM