When thinking about quintessential musicals, one that will always come to mind is There’s No Business Like Show Business. It is everything that a musical should be; big, bold, bright and beautiful with a ton of songs, a lot of dancing, drama, heartbreak, comedy and more. At the time it premiered, it was also the very first picture at 20th Century Fox to be filmed in CinemaScope and compared to earlier efforts from the studio, just seemed all that much bigger than the rest. Another thing that the film could boast about was having an all-star cast to help it along with Ethel Merman leading the charge, followed by Dan Dailey, Mitzi Gaynor, Donald O’Connor, famous singing star Johnnie Ray and of course, Marilyn Monroe. When the film was first released, Merman was a powerhouse star along with O’Connor but more than likely you went to see the film because of Monroe who was just coming into her own at the time with a few hits under her belt. Sixty plus years later, most people would more than likely watch this film to see Monroe with little idea who the rest of the actors in the movie are, which is a bit of a shame but is also just the way things work as time passes by.
The film chronicles the lives of a family called the Donahue’s who are a vaudeville team of two that soon end up being a performing family of five and become all the better for it. Starting in 1919 and moving through the years, the kids grow up and become a part of the show, but soon things break down for this idyllic family, much like every family. Steve wants to join the parish as he believes he has a higher calling while Katy who loves performing, soon finds the perfect man and gets herself married. Tim on the other hand, runs into a woman by the name of Victoria and she enchants him like no other and as she throws him for a loop, he soon realizes with a little help that he still has a lot of growing up to do which then sets up the third and final act of the film.
The movie features many popular songs, all of which were written by Irving Berlin, and a few which would become standards due to their popularity. Heat Wave and Lazy are performed by Monroe but had been previously sung by Merman and Bing Crosby respectively in other films, the same as Alexander’s Ragtime Band. There’s No Business Like Show Business, the name of the picture and the title song would prove to be so popular that Ethel Merman would soon adopt it as her personal theme song and make it a part of the shows she would perform in later years. In fact, there was a little something for everybody in this film, whether you enjoy the blustery and over-the-top performances from Merman, the low-key songs by Monroe or those with more panache by O’Connor. It is hard to name off-hand, a musical that has as many different singing styles as this one and overall, it makes this film standout from its peers just a little bit more.
With some fine direction by Walter Lang and some really wonderful cinematography when it came to the musical numbers, There’s No Business Like Show Business turned out to be quite the fun picture. The performances were quite good with Dailey and Merman heading up the pack followed by the rest of the cast and while Monroe was obviously a draw, she almost seemed like a cutaway character at times. She was all right, but compared to the rest of the cast in acting and song, simply not as good which would really end up being the only negative of the film. Still, the film is highly enjoyable and well worth watching if in need of entertainment.