There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

117 mins | Comedy-drama, Musical | December 1954

Director:

Walter Lang

Producer:

Sol C. Siegel

Cinematographer:

Leon Shamroy

Editor:

Robert Simpson

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, John De Cuir

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The film’s opening title cards read: “Darryl F. Zanuck presents A CinemaScope Production Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business. .” At the end of the opening credits, a written prologue reads: “Back in 1919, Vaudeville was a very big part of Show Business. Our story is about The Donohues, a very little part of vaudeville.” Voice-over narration by Ethel Merman and Dan Daily, as their characters “Molly” and “Terry,” is heard intermittently throughout the picture. In May 1951, HR announced that Berlin intended to sign a three-picture deal with Twentieth Century-Fox, for which he would supply the original stories and complete scores. According to Feb 1952 HR news items, Fox paid $500,000 for the use of Berlin’s songs and the composer’s participation in the production, although in Mar 1953, HR noted that Berlin had “called off all negotiations” for the three-picture contract, which “was close to the signing stage,” because he wanted “complete autonomy” for his future projects.
       Although some HR news items stated that Berlin had written five new songs for the picture, only two new songs--“A Man Chases a Girl Until She Catches Him” and “A Sailor’s Not a Sailor 'Till a Sailor’s Been Tattooed”—were in the completed picture. The film's other songs were written by Berlin over the course of more than fifty years, with some written specifically for Broadway shows and earlier Fox films. Some contemporary and modern sources list “If You Believe” as a new song written by Berlin for the film, but according to studio publicity, he had written it twenty-five years previously. The song had never been presented onscreen before, however, ... More Less

The film’s opening title cards read: “Darryl F. Zanuck presents A CinemaScope Production Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business. .” At the end of the opening credits, a written prologue reads: “Back in 1919, Vaudeville was a very big part of Show Business. Our story is about The Donohues, a very little part of vaudeville.” Voice-over narration by Ethel Merman and Dan Daily, as their characters “Molly” and “Terry,” is heard intermittently throughout the picture. In May 1951, HR announced that Berlin intended to sign a three-picture deal with Twentieth Century-Fox, for which he would supply the original stories and complete scores. According to Feb 1952 HR news items, Fox paid $500,000 for the use of Berlin’s songs and the composer’s participation in the production, although in Mar 1953, HR noted that Berlin had “called off all negotiations” for the three-picture contract, which “was close to the signing stage,” because he wanted “complete autonomy” for his future projects.
       Although some HR news items stated that Berlin had written five new songs for the picture, only two new songs--“A Man Chases a Girl Until She Catches Him” and “A Sailor’s Not a Sailor 'Till a Sailor’s Been Tattooed”—were in the completed picture. The film's other songs were written by Berlin over the course of more than fifty years, with some written specifically for Broadway shows and earlier Fox films. Some contemporary and modern sources list “If You Believe” as a new song written by Berlin for the film, but according to studio publicity, he had written it twenty-five years previously. The song had never been presented onscreen before, however, and had been performed only in churches. Studio publicity also reported that Berlin would present the following spoken introduction to the film: “Show Business isn’t just scenery, lights, greasepaint and glitter, it’s heart . Because, if your show hasn’t got a heart, you haven’t got a show. That’s what I tried to convey when I wrote the song ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business.’” Although an Aug 1953 HR news item announced that Berlin was filming the introduction, it does not appear in the completed picture.
       Studio publicity announced that the Berlin song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" was to be in the picture, and although modern sources note that the production number, sung by Merman and Dailey, and danced by Donald O’Connor and Mitzi Gaynor, was filmed, it was cut before the picture’s release. Modern sources also note that the songs “But I Ain’t Got a Man” and “I Can Make You Laugh” were considered for inclusion but were deleted before final release. The film's title song comes from Berlin's hit Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun (New York, 16 May 1946), which starred Merman. "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" also came from Annie Get Your Gun .
       The following information comes from HR news items: Lamar Trotti was originally assigned to produce the picture as well as write its screenplay, but after his death in 1952, Sol C. Siegel was named the producer, and Henry and Phoebe Ephron completed the screenplay. Production on the picture was delayed from Jun 1953 until rehearsals began in Mar 1954 due to the illness of director Walter Lang. According to a Feb 1952 Var article, Betty Grable was originally set to star in the picture, with Berlin seeking Fred Astaire as her co-star. Numerous performers were considered for, or tested for, roles in the picture, including Gil Lamb, Van Johnson, Don Crichton, Sheree North and Lila King, although they do no appear in the completed picture. HR news items include the following actors and dancers in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: Eleanor Moore, Buddy Spence, Joanne Jordan, Jean Acker, Dorothy Phillips, Stuart Hall, Lillian Ten Eyck, Betty Rome, Marjorie Jackson, Jean Gale , Cosmo Sardo, Harlan Hoagland, Margot Charlin, Peggy Jean Gordon, Virginia Lee, Betty Scott, Bob McCord, Jerry Lane, Marie Ardell, Joyce de Brott, Fay Antaky, Louise Carle, Charna Haven, Nolan Leary, Vi Petrie, Matt Mattox, Buzz Miller, Wilson Morelli, Frank Radcliff and Jack Tygett. Studio publicity reported that almost 750 dancers were used in the production.
       According to modern sources, Berlin saw a photograph of Marilyn Monroe and specifically requested her for the part of “Vicky.” Monroe, who had been suspended by Fox for refusing to appear in the proposed musical Pink Tights (which was never made), did not want to be cast in another musical, but studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck promised Monroe that if she appeared in There’s No Business Like Show Business , she could have the lead in The Seven Year Itch (see above). Modern sources also note that due to contractual problems, Dolores Gray sang Monroe’s song for the soundtrack album of There’s No Business Like Show Business .
       The picture marked the last Fox film for Sol C. Siegel, who had been under a long-term contract to the studio. Mitzi Gaynor was also released from her contract with the studio during production. A 16 Apr 1954 HR news item announced that Gaynor’s release came at her own request, so that she could pursue a nightclub and Broadway career, but in a modern interview, Gaynor stated that she was fired by the studio. In 1958, however, she returned to the studio to star in South Pacific (see above). Although There's No Business Like Show Business was a box-office success and received Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design (Color), Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) and Best Writing (Motion Picture Story), Berlin never wrote another score for a film. Modern sources add Gene Lester ( Pub stills ) and Red Crawford ( Asst cam ) to the crew and note that Hal Schaefer, who is credited onscreen with vocal arrangements, worked as Monroe’s music coach. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Dec 1954.
---
Daily Variety
8 Dec 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Dec 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1951
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1952
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1952
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1952
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1953
p. 1, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1953
p. 1, 25.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1953
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 1954
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1954
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1954
p. 2, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1954
p. 6, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 54
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 1955
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
25 Dec 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Dec 54
p. 241.
New York Times
17 Dec 54
p. 37.
Newsweek
27 Dec 1954.
---
Time
17 Jan 1955.
---
Variety
13 Feb 1952.
---
Variety
8 Dec 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus supv and cond
Mus supv and cond
Vocal supv
Vocal arr
Vocal arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Dances and mus numbers staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair styling
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Puttin' on the Ritz" by Irving Berlin.
SONGS
"There's No Business Like Show Business," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam'," "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," "You'd Be Surprised," "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee," "After You've Got What You Want, You Don't Want It," "Remember," "If You Believe," "Heat Wave," "A Man Chases a Girl Until She Catches Him," "Lazy," "A Sailor's Not a Sailor 'Till a Sailor's Been Tattooed" and "Marie," music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Irving Berlin's There's No Business Like Show Business
Release Date:
December 1954
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 16 December 1954
Los Angeles opening: 25 December 1954
Production Date:
mid May--late August 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 December 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4456
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
117
Length(in feet):
10,541
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17074
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1919, Terrance and Molly Donahue, a husband-and-wife vaudeville team known as The Donahues, pursue both success and a stable family life, and as the years pass, their act becomes The Five Donahues with the addition of their children, Steve, Katy and Tim. Worried that the children will suffer from their nomadic lifestyle, Molly persuades Tim to send them to a Catholic boarding school, but the youngsters, missing both their parents and the thrill of performing, continually try to run away. Comforted by Father Dineen’s assurances that the children are better off with them, Terry and Molly buy a home in New Jersey for their brood. When the Depression hits, however, Terry and Molly are forced to take whatever jobs they can find, including singing for radio advertisements and working at a carnival. Eventually, movie theaters come to their rescue by providing live stage entertainment before showings, and the Donahues are performing once again. In 1937, Tim graduates from high school, and the act again becomes The Five Donahues, with Katy concentrating on dancing, Steve demonstrating an admirable singing voice, and Tim being an all-around performer like his father. The family is a success and soon are performing in a show at the Hippodrome Theatre in New York, where their extravagent performance of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” thrills the audience. One night after a show, a worried Molly and Tim 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 Gallagher’s, where Tim teases hatcheck girl Victoria Hoffman about the unnatural elocution her singing teacher has instructed her ... +


In 1919, Terrance and Molly Donahue, a husband-and-wife vaudeville team known as The Donahues, pursue both success and a stable family life, and as the years pass, their act becomes The Five Donahues with the addition of their children, Steve, Katy and Tim. Worried that the children will suffer from their nomadic lifestyle, Molly persuades Tim to send them to a Catholic boarding school, but the youngsters, missing both their parents and the thrill of performing, continually try to run away. Comforted by Father Dineen’s assurances that the children are better off with them, Terry and Molly buy a home in New Jersey for their brood. When the Depression hits, however, Terry and Molly are forced to take whatever jobs they can find, including singing for radio advertisements and working at a carnival. Eventually, movie theaters come to their rescue by providing live stage entertainment before showings, and the Donahues are performing once again. In 1937, Tim graduates from high school, and the act again becomes The Five Donahues, with Katy concentrating on dancing, Steve demonstrating an admirable singing voice, and Tim being an all-around performer like his father. The family is a success and soon are performing in a show at the Hippodrome Theatre in New York, where their extravagent performance of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” thrills the audience. One night after a show, a worried Molly and Tim 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 Gallagher’s, where Tim teases hatcheck girl Victoria Hoffman about the unnatural elocution her singing teacher has instructed her to practice. Vicky forgets Tim’s wisecracks when Eddie, her agent, informs her that he has persuaded famed producer Lew Harris to visit the club. With the help of her co-workers, Vicky gets onstage and impresses Lew and Tim with her singing. 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 leaving Vicky. Later, having accepted Steve’s choice, the family throws him a farewell party, and The Four Donahues accept an engagement in Miami. Tim is thrilled to find that Vicky, now known as Vicky Parker, is also appearing there, and gives his approval for her to perform a number that Molly had planned for the Donahues to do. Vicky is a sensation and Tim falls in love with her, although she gently shrugs off his proposals so that she can focus on her career. 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. Realizing what a great opportunity it is, Terry persuades Molly to let the kids go, and soon Molly and Terry are performing on their own again while Tim and Katy rehearse with Vicky in New York. Katy begins dating lyricist Charlie Gibbs, and after Steve is ordained, he agrees to perform their wedding ceremony. Tim continues dating Vicky, but one night, she postpones their dinner in order to discuss a costume change with Harris. Vicky loses track of time and stands Tim up, and Tim, mistakenly assuming that Vicky is having an affair with Harris, gets drunk and becomes involved in a car accident. Molly and Terry learn of the accident just before the show is to open, and while Molly, who has been rehearsing with Katy, goes on in Tim’s place, Terry goes to the hospital. There, he discovers his son only slightly injured but greatly embittered, and when Terry lectures him on his responsibilities, Tim’s snide reply prompts Terry to slap him and storm out. The next day, Molly and Terry go to the hospital to pick up Terry but discover that he has vanished, leaving a note apologizing for his behavior. While Molly continues to perform in the show, the Donahues hire private detectives to search for Tim, and 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. Terry shows no interest when Molly tells him that the Donahues are being sought for a benefit performance at the Hippodrome before it is closed, and instead disappears to search for Tim. Weeks later, on the day of the benefit, Katy, who is close friends with Vicky, arranges for her to share a dressing room with Molly, and Vicky convinces Molly of her genuine love for Tim. Finally forgiving Vicky, Molly is also comforted by the arrival of Steve, who tells her not to lose hope that Tim and Terry will come home. Steve and Katy watch from the wings as Molly wows the crowd with a rendition of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” then gesture wildly to her as Tim, wearing a Navy uniform, appears beside them. Molly rushes to embrace her son, who tells her that he had to work things out for himself, and the family is complete when Terry joins them. Thrilled to be reunited, The Five Donahues, with Vicky holding Tim’s hand, go onstage and happily reprise their version of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”



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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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