Day Four of Seven Days of Marilyn Monroe brings us to the fourth disc in the Forever Marilyn: The Blu-Ray Collection set, Irving Berlin‘s There’s No Business Like Show Business. This film follows a couple, Terrance (Dan Dailey) and Molly (Ethel Merman) Donahue, also known as The Donahues, with a propensity for vaudeville and kids as they try to figure out a way to balance showbiz with family life.
Things were going well for the two with the kids part of the act as The Five Donahues. Trying to make sure the kids have a stable life they move into a house outside the City and when the depression hits take any jobs they can get. Though they go through some rough times, they make a huge comeback when the kids, just tiny things at the start, grow up and show an interest in and talent for acting. They become The Five Donahues again when they add their grown children to their show. In short order, Tim (Donald O’Connor), one of the Donhue’s sons playfully harrasses an underutilized curvaceous hat check girl, Victoria “Vicky” Hoffman (Marilyn Monroe). Vicky doesn’t realize Tim is one of the Donhues and blows him off. She stuns in an amazing gown that leaves little to the imagination at Gallagher’s Golden Pheasant Room, where she checks hats, in order to impress Lew Harris (Richard Eastham), a famous producer. She still gives Tim the cold shoulder, even after she finds out who he is.
The same night, Steve (Johnnie Ray), the other Donahue son goes to church while his brother and sister are our gallivanting and reveals to the family he wants to become a priest. An honorable revelation in many families, but not in this showbiz oriented one. Their twisted family dynamic comes to the forefront with this revelation. The elder Donahues claim they might rather see Steve come home drunk as a skunk like his womanizing brother than become a priest. The adult children all still live at home and Molly hilariously puts Tim to bed while he’s three sheets to the wind, after dunking his head repeatedly in a cold sink of water of course. The family takes Steve leaving for seminary hard as close knit as they’ve been for so long. They become The Four Donahues. Tim and Vicky’s paths cross again in Miami where she is working her own show. Tim is completely smitten with Vicky, but she is more concerned with her career than romance. Mom does not approve at all of Vicky, calls her the girl who steals everyone’s material. Lew Harris wants to sign Tim and sister Katy (Mitzi Gaynor) as part of Vicky’s Broadway show, breaking the family up even further. Vicky becomes something of a prima donna after landing the Lew Harris gig, blowing off Tim and arguing over dress colors. Tim does not handle the realization that he is playing second fiddle to Vicky’s career well at all and he tosses insult after insult her direction one drunken night, causing her to throw him out. When Tim is injured after driving drunk and can’t do the show, who but him mom stands in for him. Tim sees the pain he is causing those around him after a speech from his dad, and leaves without telling anyone where he has gone. The war had started and things were staring to get tough again. Katy tries to mend things between Molly and Vicky, citing they both love Tim. When Steve comes home on a twenty-four hour pass, it looks like the family might be on borrowed time. All’s well that ends well when Tim returns just in time for the family to do one last number together for possibly the happiest happy ending of all time.
Berlin’s signature is all over this film and every single musical number. It’s like candy for my ears. The music makes me happy and almost want to get up and dance…I only say almost because with the computer and all the wires I’d have to mess with getting up it would cause an issue for me. Not to mention as I write this review my air conditioning is out and it’s August and I’m in Texas. Suffice to say movement is not an option currently. But, I digress. The performances are spot on, funny as they can be and full of heart. I particularly enjoy Johnnie Ray’s voice, singing voice that is. his speaking voice is kind of creepy. It really is too bad his character opted for the church after all. My favorite number is when the kids (Tim and Katy) imitate their parents (Molly and Terrance) doing the opening number of the film, “Midnight Train to Alabam“. It is an adorable homage to the elder two actors and a testament to the talent and camaraderie of the cast.
This film shows that it’s not all glitz and glamor in showbiz, but there is a lot of real life going on behind the scenes. It also touches on some major family dynamics, particularly how things change, especially in an exceptionally close family as children become adults and have their own paths to follow outside of the family. Berlin shares this well with the audience, as we see Steve go his own way becoming a priest, comically disappointing his parents with the path he’s chosen. Then of course there’s Tim as he falls for Vicky and how difficult his relationship becomes not only with her, but with his family. There is even a touch on addiction and what people with problems like this sabotage themselves as Tim seems to with Vicky, his career and finally, his family due to his drinking. Katy goes on to get married and start a family and The Five Donahues are slowly whittled down to Four, and then they are no more.
The film does a fantastic job of developing these characters. We watch them grow from immature, small acts to adults and something of a big deal. We get to see their evolution, their trials and tribulations and become part of the Donahues at some point in the film. I was fully invested in all of the characters as individuals and as a family by the end of the production. I didn’t even realize how much so until I found myself tearing up at the end of the film when Tim returns. Seeing him and his mommy reunited made me a little heart-achey which just speaks to the true talent involved in all aspects of There’s No Business Like Show Business.
To share a little trivia on the film, it seems Marilyn wasn’t actually interested in this film, but accepted the part after she was promised the lead in The Seven Year Itch for taking part in There’s No Business Like Show Business. It was a trade-off that served her exceptionally well and a brilliant career move. Berlin was actually taken by Ethel Merman and wanted to work with her again. He ensured Merman would perform the title song at the end of the film, though some of her other numbers were given to Monroe. Everyone in the film seemed invested in what they were doing and Marilyn showed nothing but her best on-screen. Missing out on her in the costume from her first number would be a loss that just shouldn’t be, so I’m glad she opted in after all.
I love this film. This is my second favorite film in the collection, the first being Some Like it Hot. You just can’t go wrong with this cast, director and music. It is the ultimate musical film experience and looks just beautiful remastered for Blu-ray. I strongly recommend picking up this set of Blu-ray discs, Forever Marilyn: The Blu-Ray Collection really brings a whole new life to the films and their characters. I would have liked to see more extras, special features on the discs, but the old trailers are a fun addition as well.
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge today is the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s passing on August 5, 1962 at the age of 36. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding her death, a very bright light was snuffed out much too early. I am thankful for the time she had to share her talent and beauty with the world and feel fortunate to be witness to it all. Every film I watch this week makes me love her more and more. We miss you Marilyn!
I hope you’ve been enjoying the series and my small tribute to a woman whose talent I have admired for many years. To read more of Seven Days of Marilyn Monroe, please Click Here. For the latest Pop Culture news, interviews and reviews follow me, @CatEdison and @ScreenInvasion on Twitter.
Leave your favorite Marilyn moments or tributes in the comments.