Tuesday, May 8, 2018

There's No Business Like Show Business

Another movie that it's time for me to get off my DVR to make room for something else is the early Cinemascope musical, There's No Business Like Show Business.

Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey play Molly and Terrance Donahue, a husband and wife who in 1919 are going around the country performing in vaudeville as the Two Donahues. Well, at the end of the act they bring out their son for a cameo and call the act the Three Donahues. Time passes, and the act becomes The Four Donahues, and then the Five Donahues. But a life on the road is no place for the children, and Molly wants them in a school.

A long time passes, and now it's the late 1930s, the three Donahue children are all grown up, more or less, and they knew they'd rather be on the stage than in a stuffy Catholic school. Son Timothy (Donald O'Connor) dances along with his sister Katy (Mitzi Gaynor) while the other son Steve (Johnnie Ray) sings a mean tune. And the family has made it big, performing at the Hippodrome in New York.

One night after the show, Tim goes out to a club where he meets hat-check girl Vicky (Marilyn Monroe) with whom he immediately falls in love. Why wouldn't he? It's Marilyn Monroe, after all. But she has dreams of becoming big, and a little guy like Tim is just going to get in the way. Not that she's mean per se; she already has a meeting with a big impresario set up and Tim is just being a jerk.

More time passes, Vicky becomes a success, and for her new show, somebody suggests the Donahues. Tim and Vicky meet again, and although she could fall in love with him, it's going to be a rocky road getting there. You probably know the story, having seen it from a hunderd movies. Other things threaten to break up the act, such as Katy getting married, and Steve deciding to take the priestly vows.

There's No Business Like Show Business is a movie with a well-worn plot, although it's serviceable enough. As a result, the success of such a movie depends on the quality of the music and the performers. Dan Dailey, not to be confused with Dan Duryea, a heavy of the same period, made a lot of light movies at Fox and is one of those people who could always be relied upon to give a dependable performance, if nothing spectacular. Mitzi Gaynor's dancing shows a lot of talent, although she's one of the more minor characters. Ethel Merman is a force to be reckoned with. A little of her goes a long way, and there's a lot of her here. And the lest said about Johnnie Ray, the better. I'm of the age where I remember him better from the reference in the 1980's song "Come on Eileen". I can't stand his singing style, and he couldn't act a bit.

The music is by Irving Berlin, and as with his earlier Alexander's Ragtime Band, there's a lot of it. I'd say that this time, there might actually be a bit too much of it. There's a version of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" early on before Steve joins the priesthood with all five Donahues doing a rendition. It goes on, and on, and on, almost the point of tedium.

Overall, I'd say that There's No Business Like Show Business is definitely worth a watch. Whether you'll want to watch it more than once depends on whether you like the genre.

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