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THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS (director: Walter Lang; screenwriters: Phoebe and Henry Ephron/based on a story by Lamar Trotti; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Robert Simpson; music: Irving Berlin; cast: Ethel Merman (Molly Donahue), Donald O’Connor (Tim Donahue), Marilyn Monroe (Vicky Hoffman), Dan Dailey (Terence Donahue), Johnnie Ray (Steve Donahue), Mitzi Gaynor (Katy Donahue), Hugh O’Brian (Charles Biggs), Richard Eastham (Lew Harris), Frank McHugh (Eddie Dugan), Rhys Williams (Father Dineen), Robin Raymon (Lillian Sawyer); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel; 20th Century Fox; 1954)

If you’re looking for a good film that features Irving Berlin tunes, this one is not the film you’re looking for.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Nonsensical big splashy musical about a family of vaudeville performers who span two generations and two World Wars. The music features many Irving Berlin songs. It’s based on a story by Lamar Trotti and is written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron. Director Walter Lang (“State Fair”/”Can-Can”/”The King and I”)keeps it churning with elaborate musical numbers, but is unable to do much with the slight story, keeping it from being so gaudy and getting to elaborate on some character development. If it’s mindless entertainment you’re after and taking in all those Irvin Berlin classic tunes and catching Marilyn Monroe at her sexiest, then this mediocre pic might get your attention. Anyhow, it’s good for some unintentional laughs, to catch up on the outdated vaudeville routines and get, if needed, a snooze between musical numbers.The film’s most ridiculous and mawkish scene has the young adult character played by “sob singer” Johnny Ray telling his vaudeville parents that he wants to become a priest.If you’re looking for a good film that features Irving Berlin tunes, this one is not the film you’re looking for.

It opens in 1919, Terence and Molly Donahue (Dan Dailey & Ethel Merman) are a husband-and-wife vaudeville team known as The Donahues, who send their three youngsters to an exclusive Catholic boarding school in Boston while they travel on the vaudeville circuit. When the children rebel at not being with their parents, they are removed from the school to reside with their parents in their suburban New Jersey home. Skipping to 1937, when the children have grown up and the act is now known as The Five Donahues. After a respite because of the Depression, the act is back in full swing. Mom and dad combine singing and dancing, while their son Steve Donahue (Johnnie Ray) plays piano and sings, the other son Tim Donahue (Donald O’Connor) sings and dances and their sister Katy Donahue (Mitzi Gaynor) also sings and dances.

Tim falls for sexy hatcheck girl, at the Gallagher’s Club, Vicky (Marilyn Monroe), an aspiring singer and actress. They unite and then quarrel over a misunderstanding, and Tim goes on a drunk spree and ends up in the hospital after a car accident. Lyricist Charles Biggs (Hugh O’Brian) marries Katy. And Steve leaves the act to become a priest. After all these overwrought sentimental melodramatics, The Donahues reunite for a vaudeville show benefit and all is right with the world again.

Two new songs Berlin wrote for the film are included: “A Man Chases a Girl Until She Catches Him” and “A Sailor’s Not a Sailor ‘Till a Sailor’s Been Tattooed.” Other songs include Marilyn singing “After You Get What You Want You Don’t Want It,” “Lazy” and “Heat Wave,” and then there are the Donahue songs such as “When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam’,” “Simple Melody,” “You’d Be Surprised,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Remember,” “If You Believe,” A Pretty Girl is Like a Melodyand “Let’s Have Another Cup o’ Coffee.” Merman belts out the title song “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” the film’s show-stopper.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”