So Long at the Fair

So Long at the Fair (US re-release title The Black Curse) is a 1950 British thriller film directed by Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough, and starring Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde. It was adapted from the 1947 novel of the same name by Anthony Thorne.

So Long at the Fair
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerence Fisher
Antony Darnborough
Produced byBetty E. Box
Sydney Box
Written byHugh Mills
Anthony Thorne
StarringDirk Bogarde
Jean Simmons
Music byBenjamin Frankel
Edited byGordon Hales
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
  • 31 May 1950 (1950-05-31)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£132,000 (by 1953)[1]


The general story is a version of what appears to be a 19th-century urban legend, The Vanishing Lady [2], which has inspired several fictional works.

The first of these was probably German author Anselma Heine's novel Die Erscheinung (1912), which was filmed as a segment in Unheimliche Geschichten (1919, remake 1932). The German film Covered Tracks (1938) was also based on the story, here with a script by Thea von Harbou.

On television, both the episode "The Disappearance" (1967) of the TV-series The Big Valley as well as the episode "Into Thin Air" (1955) of the anthology-series Alfred Hitchcock Presents were based on the same tale. Later followed "Maybe You Will Remember", a variation told in Alvin Schwartz's book Scary Stories 3 (1991).

The film's title derives from the nursery rhyme Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?.


In 1889, young Englishwoman Vicky Barton (Jean Simmons) and her brother Johnny (David Tomlinson) arrive in Paris to see the Exposition Universelle. This is Vicky's first time in Paris, and after checking into a hotel, she drags her tired brother to dinner and the famous Moulin Rouge. She finally retires for the night, while Johnny has a late-night drink. When English painter George Hathaway (Dirk Bogarde) drops off his girlfriend, Rhoda O'Donovan (Honor Blackman), and her mother (Betty Warren) at the hotel, he asks Johnny for change for a 100 franc note to pay a carriage driver; Johnny loans him 50 francs and gives him his name and room number.

The next morning, Vicky finds a blank wall where Johnny's room used to be. When she questions hotel owner and manager Madame Hervé (Cathleen Nesbitt), the latter claims she arrived alone. The room number now adorns the common bathroom. Madame Hervé's brother Narcisse (Marcel Pontin) and the day porter (Eugene Deckers) back up her story.

Frantic, Vicky goes to see the British consul (Felix Aylmer), followed secretly by Narcisse. She has no proof of her brother's existence, so the consul can only suggest she find a witness, Nina (Zena Marshall), the hotel maid who attended her. Nina had informed her that she was going up in a balloon with her boyfriend at the Exposition that day, so the consul takes her there. Tragically, she is too late. Before she can talk to Nina, the balloon ascends, bursts into flames, and plummets to the ground, killing the two passengers.

Vicky tries the French police commissaire (Austin Trevor). He questions Madame Hervé and her brother, but can find nothing amiss in their story. Since her room has been reserved for only two nights, Vicky has to leave the hotel. Madame Hervé offers her a ticket home to England, which she is forced to accept, as she has little money left. However, unbeknownst to either party, Rhoda O'Donovan has been asked by George Hathaway to deliver a letter containing his loan repayment to Johnny. Not finding his room, Rhoda slips the envelope under Vicky's door, where she finds it.

Vicky goes to see George. When he confirms having met her brother, she bursts into tears. He offers his assistance. George notices there are six balconies, but only five rooms on the floor, and finds the missing hotel room, the entrance having been covered over to be part of the wall.

Under questioning by the police, Madame Hervé reveals where Johnny has been taken. It turns out that he became sick with the Black Plague during the night. The news would have been disastrous for the Exposition, so he was secretly taken away to a hospital. George brings along Doctor Hart (André Morell), who tells Vicky her brother has a chance of living.



The music, by Benjamin Frankel, includes a sequence accompanying a ride in a carriage which went on to become a popular light concert item under the title Carriage and Pair.


Betty Box was appointed producer at the last minute when Antony Darborough was held up on The Astonished Heart. The film was to cast Francoise Rosay but she dropped out to go to Hollywood.[3][4]

It was shot at Pinewood Studios. The film's sets were designed by the art directors Cedric Dawe and George Provis.


The film performed solidly at the box office.[1]


  1. Andrew Spicer, Sydney Box Manchester Uni Press 2006 p 211
  2. "Legend: The Vanishing Lady and the Vanishing Hotel Room". QuoteInvestigator. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  3. "FILM NEWS". Bruce Rock-Corrigin Post, Narembeen-Kondinin Guardian (WA : 1948 - 1954). WA. 11 August 1949. p. 6 Supplement: MODERN WEEKLY News. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  4. "FEMININE INTEREST". Warwick Daily News (Qld. : 1919 -1954). Qld.: National Library of Australia. 19 September 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
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