Rip Smith (Jimmy Stewart) is an entrepreneur who has unsuccessfully attempted to run a big city opinion polling business. Forced to close the place up, it seems that Rip may be out of options – that is, until he discovers a Magic Town called Grandview.
Grandview is a small town, statistically identical to the country as a whole. Rip’s old friend Hoopendecker (Kent Smith) is a teacher there. Excited that he may have just found the perfect solution to save his business, Rip decides to bring his opinion polling to Grandview.
But he can’t just bring it there outright. Rip decides to pose as an insurance salesman and secretly conduct his polls, so the locals don’t get self-conscious and hamper the results. Upon arrival in Grandview, Rip must contend with a local reporter named Mary Peterman (Jane Wyman), who happens to be crusading for changes that could make the town unfit for his business. The two fall for each other in the process, but complications ensue, and with Mary’s snooping skills from her years of experience as a journalist, Rip may not be able to keep up the insurance salesman charade for long.
Magic Town is carried by quite a unique premise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another film based completely on public opinion polling, which, in 1947, was still a relatively new field. This film provides an interesting look into the budding business and bears resemblance to the sociological Middletown studies.
With an interesting premise already working in its favor, Magic Town also gets a boost from the fact that the action is carried out in mostly unexpected ways. As Rip explores the town and gets acquainted with its people the mood is a calm one, but as problems arise for the characters, tension builds and their outcomes are unpredictable. One particularly huge problem arises for the town as a whole, leading to the film’s sentimental and pleasant but also somewhat surprising ending.
The believability of the performances also does a lot for the film. No character seems like he or she is acting. It becomes easy for the viewer to place themselves in the world of this small, increasingly complicated town, because the solid performances make the actors seem like the type of people you would find in such a town. The leads, Stewart and Wyman, are their typical selves: charming despite their flaws, very endearing and very sincere.
In addition, a great and often tension-filled dynamic is built between the characters of Rip and Mary. This makes for an interesting banter and chemistry as they grow to like each other, and makes for fantastic drama when they’re at odds with each other.
All in all, Magic Town is a pretty unique little piece of work. The story shows how much of an effect one person’s actions can have on society, and takes a look at a field of business that isn’t often used as the subject of films. Rotating a pleasant and charming mood with a much more dramatic one keeps the viewer’s interest, and all is wrapped up well in the end. The score: 3.5/5