Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


The technicolor finale of There's No Business ...

Molly Donahue (Ethel Merman) and her husband Terence (Dan Dailey) are long-time vaudevillians who have three children who join their act: girl-happy Tim (Donald O'Connor); pretty Katy (Mitzi Gaynor); and jazz baby Steve (Johnnie Ray), who actually prefers to enter the priesthood. Tim falls hard for a sexy lady named Vicky (Marilyn Monroe), but a misadventure with her sends him running off from a role in a Broadway show on the eve of WW 2. Is this the end of the Five Donahues? Aside from the title tune (which actually comes from Annie Get Your Gun), you'd be surprised that the music is by Irving Berlin, as the new numbers are pretty terrible and the older ones are ruined by inappropriately jazzy arrangements. As Steve, Johnnie Ray over-sings everything and makes faces, and his rendition of "Alexander's Ragtime Band," which he butchers, has to be seen to be believed. Ray also delivers the pious "If You Believe" (while mimicking Elvis' movements!) while the Adorable One -- La Monroe -- sexes up "Tropical Heatwave" in her inimitable style, although she's dubbed by Delores Gray and the number is otherwise not especially memorable. Although Monroe isn't quite up to her more "serious" scenes, she's positively luminescent in this and delivers her comedy sequences with her usual panache. As for the rest of the cast, Merman is terrific, with fine support from Dailey, Gaynor [The Joker is Wild] and O'Connor; Ray is fairly pleasing when he isn't singing. Hugh O'Brian [Rocketship X-M] shows up briefly as a theater man who falls for Katy; Robin Raymond [The Glass Wall] is the crude Lillian, who dates Tim; and Chick Chandler and Lee Patrick hardly get any lines as a couple of old vaudevillians at the Donahues party. The ending is nicely sentimental, and the last production number is a positive riot of brilliant technicolor.

Verdict: It would be all too easy to quibble about this picture's general mindlessness and often hokey numbers, but it all plays in spite of it. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - perfect review of this entertaining though very slight film...a real Fox mishmash but very fun. Love to see Merman dominate the screen (wish she had played Gypsy on film) and sing those great Berlin songs.

You are so funny about Johnnie Ray--he really does queen it up a bit, but I enjoy him a lot. I always sing along with him when I watch this.

One point of contention about Miss Monroe--she does do all her own singing in this one, according to all my research. The Delores Gray recordings of Heat Wave and After You Get What You Want were substituted on the record album released of this film because of Marilyn's contract dispute with Fox in 1954-55. Monroe was occasionally dubbed or augmented in portions of songs, notably the high operatic trills at the beginning of Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend (thank you Marni Nixon).

And yes, Bill, I always sing along with Marilyn, too, when I watch this! (I can't sing over Merman though!!)


William said...

Who could! Thanks for the info on Marilyn's singing. I did think it sounded like her but there was confusion because of the recording and the contract dispute.

Ray apparently did not have an easy life, with several factors, including his sexuality, combining to more or less destroy his career. Poor guy. This was his only theatrical movie.