There's no business like show business (film)

There's No Business Like Show Business
File:There's No Business Like Show Business movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Walter Lang
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay by Phoebe Ephron
Henry Ephron
Story by Lamar Trotti
Starring Ethel Merman
Dan Dailey
Donald O'Connor
Mitzi Gaynor
Marilyn Monroe
Richard Eastham
Johnnie Ray
Hugh O'Brian
Frank McHugh
Music by Irving Berlin (songs)
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) December 16, 1954
Running time 117 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,340,000[1]
Box office $5,103,555[2]

There's No Business Like Show Business is a 1954 20th Century-Fox musical-comedy-drama, with a title that is borrowed from the famous song in the stage musical (and MGM film) Annie Get Your Gun.

With a negative reputation for being a box office bomb, the film stars an ensemble cast, including Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Donald O'Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Eastham, and Johnnie Ray. It was directed by Walter Lang and written by Lamar Trotti (story) and Phoebe Ephron and Henry Ephron. It was filmed in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color.


In 1919, Terrance (Dan Dailey) and Molly (Ethel Merman) Donahue, a husband-and-wife vaudeville team known as the Donahues, pursue both a stable family life as well as success with their rendition of Midnight Train to Alabam.

The kids Steve, (Johnnie Ray) Katy, (Mitzi Gaynor) and Tim (Donald O'Connor) join the act one by one, their act eventually becomes the Five Donahues. Molly persuades Terry to send them to a Catholic boarding school, but the youngsters continually try to run away.

Terry and Molly buy a home in New Jersey for their brood, but when the Depression hits they are forced to take whatever jobs they can find.

Eventually, movie theaters come to their rescue by providing live stage entertainment, and the Donahues are back to performing. In 1937, Tim graduates from high school, and the act becomes the Five Donahues once again.

The family is a success and have soon hit the top, thrilling audiences at New York's famed Hippodrome Theatre with an extravagant multi-themed performance of "Alexander's Ragtime Band".

One night after a show, a worried Molly and Terry return home alone while Katy goes out on a date, Steve takes a walk, and the womanizing Tim goes out with an older chorus girl. Katy and Tim both wind up at a nightclub, Gallagher's Golden Pheasant Room, where Tim teases Victoria Hoffman, (Marilyn Monroe) a hatcheck girl about the unnatural elocution her singing teacher has instructed her to practice.

Vicky forgets Tim's wisecracks though, when Eddie, her agent, (Frank McHugh) informs her that he has persuaded famed producer Lew Harris (Richard Eastham) to visit the club. With the help of her co-workers, Vicky gets onstage and impresses Lew and Tim with her singing After You Get What You Want, (You Don't Want It). Backstage, Vicky learns that Tim is one of the well known Donahues but quickly dismisses him in order to talk business with Harris.

Back at the Donahue home, Molly and Terry welcome Katy and then Steve, who informs his family that he wants to become a priest. Terry is distraught over his son's decision, but their discussion is interrupted by the appearance of Tim, who got drunk after he was dismissed by Vicky. Escorting Tim upstairs to sleep it off and nearly drowning him by dunking his head into a large sink to sober him up, Molly worries aloud if he hasn't bitten off more than he can chew. Tim goes to sleep and Molly heads downstairs to deal with Steve's decision to become a priest and Katy's act of being out all night, with her six-dollar and twenty-cent cab ride home.

Katy tells her father not to be so shocked and disappointed, because maybe Steve could end up a cardinal. Wailing in frustration, Terry tells the family that the only cardinal he wants in his family is one who plays ball for St. Louis (the St. Louis Cardinals).

Later, having accepted Steve's choice, the family throws him a farewell party with songs, dances, and impressions, the centerpiece of which is a performance of their parents' old Alabam' act by Tim and Katy. Steve tells the assembly that he hopes everyone will come see his new act when it is worked up in the seminary over the next four years and follows this with an up-tempo jazz-influenced gospel tinged version of If You Believe after which Molly and the gang belt out a chorus of Remember. Molly is crying afterward and Terry is just about to, but they both understand that eventually the bird has to leave the nest and go out on his own.

After the party, the rechristened Four Donahues accept an engagement in Miami. Upon arrival, Tim is thrilled to find that Vicky, now known as Vicky Parker, is also appearing there; however she is performing a considerably more sensual version of the same "Heat Wave" number as the family. After falling in complete lust with Vicky's performance, Tim gives his approval for her to perform the number without checking with the family beforehand.

Vicky is a sensation and, although she gently shrugs off his proposals so that she can focus on her career, Tim falls in love with her as a result. Molly, still irate that Vicky "stole" her song, is further irritated upon learning that Harris is staging a Broadway revue around Vicky, and that Vicky wants Tim and Katy to join her without Molly and Terry.

Realizing what a great opportunity this is, Terry persuades Molly to let the kids go and she agrees, on one condition. They have to take the four expensive Cuban costumes as well, originally intended for the family's version of the "Heat Wave" number they let Vicky perform instead. They all share a laugh, and soon Molly and Terry are performing on their own again while Tim and Katy rehearse with Vicky in New York.

Katy begins dating Charlie Gibbs (Hugh O'Brian) the show's tall and spare lyricist, and after Steve is ordained, he asks whether or not Steve can perform a small wedding ceremony in the near future. Shocked and annoyed, Katy demands to know just whom exactly Charlie plans to marry with her own brother officiating, and Charlie tells her sweetly that she herself is the candidate. Having heard none of this in advance, Katy is pleasantly surprised and they set the date.

Tim continues dating Vicky, but one night a wardrobe mistress passes in the hallway with a new dress, telling Vicky that Harris selected it as her opening statement. Feeling that the dress makes the most completely inappropriate opening statement not to mention being the most completely wrong shade of purple as well, she phones back to the club and postpones her dinner date with Tim in order to discuss the matter with Harris. The costume designer, a tall, spare haute-couture man chimes in, correcting her that the color is not purple; it's `heliotrope.' Vicky angrily complains that no matter whether the dress is heliotrope, hydrangea, or petunia it's still the wrong shade of purple for her, not to mention being in the most completely unflattering style. Harris, equally annoyed, reminds Vicky that the dress cost over $1400, which is not heliotrope, i.e. something to throw away.

Vicky loses track of time and stands Tim up, and he in turn, mistakenly assuming that Vicky is having an affair with Harris, gets drunk and comes back to the theatre where he confronts Vicky about her supposed affair. Stung by the accusation and annoyed that a fellow performer who was born to the business of performing, should chastise her for trying to follow her love of the theatre and doing whatever it takes to reach her goals, denies his accusations but also spurns Tim in his drunken state.

Equally hurt, Tim leaves the theatre with one of the chorus girls, goes out and gets even more drunk, and becomes involved in a car accident. Molly and Terry learn of the accident just hours before opening night of the show for which Vicky and Katy have been rehearsing and Terry goes down to the hospital to confront Tim about his conduct. Tim rebuffs the advice, whereupon Terry slaps him across the face and storms out.

In the meantime, Molly has gone down to the theatre to be with Katy in this trying time. Lew Harris is beside himself and trying to decide if he should postpone the opening, but Molly, who has been rehearsing extensively with Katy, convinces Harris that, while having to fake the dancing, a feat with which she's been getting away for decades, she can go on in Tim's place.

After all is decided, the show is a resounding success on opening night. The next day Terry and Molly go back to the hospital to pick up Tim but discover that he has vanished, leaving behind a note apologizing for his behavior. Molly and Terry are both heartbroken but decide to take action.

While Molly continues to perform in the show, the Donahues hire private detectives to search for Tim, and they scour the clubs and bars of New York looking for him. After almost a year, Steve joins the Army as a chaplain, while Molly still blames Vicky for Tim's disappearance.

When Molly tells Terry that the Donahues are being sought for a benefit performance at the Hippodrome before it is closed the following May, Terry shows no interest and instead disappears by train to search for Tim. During the montage, we see him reminisce about all the good times they shared.

Months later, on the day of the benefit, Katy, who has since become close friends with Vicky, arranges for her to share a dressing room with her mother to teach her a well-deserved lesson. Seeing through her daughter's manipulation and highly annoyed thereat, Molly begins to pack up and head upstairs for some peace and quiet, however, Katy not only tells her mother that she'll be doing nothing of the kind, but that she needs to apologize to Vicky for snubbing her at every turn for the past year.

Incensed at this, Molly demands that Vicky speak up for herself about how true and deep her love is for Tim, and after a few harrumphs and other noises of annoyance, Molly buys it.

Finally understanding at last that her Innocent Little Angel had a great deal to do with creating the bulk of his own problems, Molly forgives Vicky, and after the latter leaves to go backstage to get ready for her spot, is also comforted by the arrival of Steve, who, after telling her that Vicky must be quite a girl for putting up with all Tim's shenanigans all this time, tells her not to lose hope. Molly agrees, telling Steve that she was wrong again.

As Molly performs the title song, Steve and Katy watch from the wings; then Tim, wearing a US Navy uniform, appears behind them. Katy sees him first and takes him deeply into a silent embrace. His brother Steve follows and together they try to attract Molly's attention onstage, finally succeeding.

Molly hesitates when she sees Tim but completes the number before running offstage to embrace her son. Tim tells her that he had to work things out for himself. The family is finally complete when Terry joins them a few minutes later, having come to see the benefit after all. Thrilled to be reunited, the Five Donahues, with Vicky holding tightly onto Tim's hand, all go onstage and happily reprise a short encore of their version of "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

The six principals then march down a flight of stairs out of view and a chorus of men and women all in multicolored flowing attire circle around the perimeter going up and down the stairs singing a reprise of the title song. The six principals then come up on a platform in the middle thereof, adding their vocals to the chorus, and the film concludes with their finale.


Production and reception

Marilyn Monroe did not want to make this film and turned it down as well as another Fox project, The Girl in Pink Tights. When she continued to refuse the role, the studio replaced her with Sheree North. However, when Fox promised Monroe that her next film would be a film version of The Seven Year Itch, she reluctantly agreed. Ethel Merman had first sung "There's No Business Like Show Business" in the original Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun in 1946 and would go on to sing it again in the 1967 television broadcast of the musical's Lincoln Center revival production.

Despite boasting a lavish production, There's No Business Like Show Business eventually became both a critical and box office failure. Ed Sullivan described Monroe's performance of the song "Heat Wave" as "one of the most flagrant violations of good taste" he had witnessed. Time magazine compared her unfavorably to co-star Ethel Merman, while Bosley Crowther for The New York Times said that Mitzi Gaynor had surpassed Monroe's "embarrassing to behold" performance. Donald O'Connor drew unfavorable reviews for his "over-acting" and "uncanny flirting" with Monroe on-screen. Dan Dailey and Johnnie Ray favored better among critics, although reviewers stated their performances were "below average".

There's No Business Like Show Business holds a reputation for being a box office bomb upon its initial release, similarly to Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). On a budget of $4,340,000, mainly because of delays in production and the lavish musical numbers, the film made just $5,103,555 at the box office, becoming the thirteenth highest-grossing film of 1954. According to records, Fox was expecting a profit of $2 million, but yet ran a loss of almost $950,000. Over time, the film's legacy has improved and has achieved better reviews from critics and fans.


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • TCM Movie Database
  • Rotten Tomatoes
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