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USA 1954
Directed by
Walter Lang
117 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

There's No Business Like Show Business

This lavishly staged, somewhat brash, musical tells the story of fictional vaudeville family, The Donahues: parents Molly (Ethel Merman) and Terence (Dan Dailey) and their children (played as adults by Donald O'Connor, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor. Despite calling on the full complement of 20th Century Fox's production resources it  is very much in the old-fashioned “backstage” style although  the main narrative thread which is heavily sentimentalized in the manner of the period is rather oddly skewed to showcase the lubricious charms of Marilyn Monroe. Although she was billed third after Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor as Fox's biggest attraction she gets all the attention.

A hodge-podge of elements, the film trundles from a miscegenated version of “Alexander's Ragtime Band” done in a variety of “national” styles including O'Connor in a kilt singing in faux Scots to a gaudily colourful grand finale that comes out of nowhere. In between, Ray delivers a bravura gospel number of sorts, O'Connor performs a calisthenic dance routine with statues that come alive, Monroe lays down two classic cheesecake performances, “Heatwave” and “After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It” and Merman, of course, belts out the title song. Taken as a whole the production doesn't cohere but the individual numbers have plenty to enjoy.




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