With 24 Berlin songs to give it melody, 67 elaborate settings, DeLuxe color to add brilliance, a heart-warming story for sentiment and a sextette of stars singing and dancing in their best style, Irving Berlin's There's No Business Like Show Business, a Darryl F. Zanuck presentation had never been more lavish with its production resources than for this opulent musical. The cream of Hollywood's musical comedy stars—Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor were selected to head the cast and 300 chorus girls add their pulchritude to the lavish numbers.
The nostalgic story of the vaudeville team of Molly and Terry Donahue played by Miss Merman and Mr. Dailey and their three children, who make it the Five Donahues, gave Producer Sol C. Siegel and Director Walter Lang the opportunity to present a cavalcade of show business. The title song forms the basis of the finale for the picture. The song actually was from Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun," a song which when 'Annie' was premiering on the stage, Berlin hated and wanted to remove. Since then it has become the staple of show-business songs.
A huge stage equipped with hydraulic lifts and 15 different levels was used for this number in which 300 dancers in addition to the stars give terpsichorean versions of nearly every branch of show business—circus acrobats, rodeo artists, roller and ice skaters, ballet, serpentine dances, Spanish, jazz, jitterbug, drum majors and other dancers, giving a three-ring version of show business. This finale was the most expensive number ever staged at the Twentieth Century-Fox studios, according to Producer Siegel, who likened it to Gene Kelly's "American In Paris" ballet, hitherto the most costly number in movie musical history at the time. The choreography for There's No Business Like Show Business was created by Robert Alton, whose Broadway hits included four "Ziegfeld Follies" shows, "Anything Goes" and "Hazel Flagg," among others. Alton did the hit, "Pal Joey." He used six assistants to help train the dancers for each number. Phoebe and Henry Ephron wrote the screen play from Lamar Trotti's original story and Leon Shamroy was director of photography. Alfred and Lionel Newman supervised and conducted the musical numbers. The production crew boasted experts with 97 Academy nominations and 21 Academy Oscars.
The picture opens with a foreword that vaudeville once played a very big part in American show business, and that the Donahues were a very small part of that very big element. Then it reveals that the story is about two vaudevillians—Molly and Terrance Donahue, who had plenty of heart. Molly (Ethel Merman) and Terrance (Dan Dailey) are seen first singing "Midnight Choo Choo" at the Adelphi Theater in Denver. As the, Donahues progress their family increases until there are five Donahues in the act. When traveling with the brood becomes too much of a burden the youngsters are put in St. Michael's school. They try to run away but are caught by Father Dineen. Molly and Terence decide to take the kids to a new home in New Jersey. Eventually, with now grown-up Steve (Johnnie Ray), Katy (Mitzi Gaynor) and Tim (Donald O'Connor), the Five Donahues headline at the New York Hippodrome. Soon the strong family ties begin to disintegrate: Tim falls for a blonde beauty named Vicky Parker (Marilyn Mondoe), a hatcheck girl at Gallagher's roof, with a burning ambition to be a singer. Katy goes on her first date and Steve decides to go into the priesthood. After Steve goes away to school the Four Donahues are booked into the Miami-Plaza and Vicky is on the same show. The romance between Tim and Vicky flares up again much to Molly's dismay especially after a mix-up in programming gives Vicky the "Heat Wave" number instead of Molly.
The next morning they are proudly reading a letter from Steve when Tim bursts in with news that Lew Harris wants to star Katy, Vicky and him in a Broadway musical. During rehearsals Charley Gibbs, the show's lyric writer, falls in love with Katy. Tim and Katy quarrel over the attention Harris is showing her and on the night of their show's opening he leaves the theater in a drunken rage and is injured in an auto crash. Harris is on the verge of closing the show before it opens when Molly persuades him that she can take Tim's place in the number with Katy. Tim disappears from the hospital and Terrance, now working as a single, spends all his time trying to find him. As the show goes into its 34th week Tim is still missing and Steve has enlisted as a chaplain in the army. When Molly urges Terry to appear at the Actor's Fund benefit he refuses and disappears.
On the night of the benefit he orchestra strikes up "Alexander's Ragtime Band," segues into "There's No Business Like Show Business," in a surprise and heart-warming ending.
Original lobby card set.
Irving Berlin wrote the words and music for There's No Business Like Show Business and he expounded his credo in these words: "I have been writing songs for the past forty years, so I'm supposed to know something about show business. I don't know all about it, of course—no one does. But there's one thing I do know: Show business isn't just scenery, light, grease-paint, and glitter, it's heart. Because if your show hasn't got a heart, you just haven't got a show. That's what I tried to convey when I wrote the song 'There's No Business Like Show Business.' I know you have heard many times that 'the show must go on!' I don't think it has to, but it does go on. It goes on through good times and bad, through peace and through war. And I guess it always will because some people have it in their blood, to sing and act and dance, and nothing can stop them. Our story is about two people like that — Molly and Terry Donahue. They were typical vaudevillians and they toured the country from one end to the other, they joked, they argued, they had problems raising their family, just as we all have, but they're real 'Show people.'"
A total of 24 Berlin songs are played in There's No Business Like Show Business. The picture is lavishly mounted, making it the most costly musical ever produced by Twentieth Century-Fox. Of course Irving Berlin, whose songs are sung, and Darryl F. Zanuck, head man at Twentieth Century-Fox, were are on the Oscar list. No wonder There's No Business Like Show Business was rated the top musical to come out of Hollywood that year.
On the set.
During the filming of the picture Berlin was called to Washington to receive from President Eisenhower a Congressional Medal in recognition of his brilliant work. He was congratulated by the President on his songs, especially "God Bless America." Berlin considers it his best. The song was written first in 1918 for inclusion in the World War I musical, "Yip, Yip Yaphank," but it wasn't used in the Army show. In 1938 Berlin pulled it out of his trunk, changed the lyrics here and there, and it swept the country at the time Hitler's panzer divisions were raising havoc in Europe. The composer never made a cent out of the song, since he donated all profits to charity. For There's No Business Like Show Business Berlin again dipped into his trunk and came up with three songs for Marilyn Monroe to sing, "Lazy," "Heat Wave" and "After You Get What You Want, You Don't Want It."
Irving Berlin at the piano with Ethel Merman writing the song "There's No Business Like Show Business" for "Annie Get Your Gun."
Irving Berlin's formula for composing a popular song was to write it inside out. "I don't do it consciously It just comes natural that way," he explained on the set, where he frequented. And it must be a pretty good method because Mr. Berlin probably has had more smash hits than any other composer. In There's No Business Like Show Business, the freshness and variety of Berlin's music is evident throughout the film. Irving Berlin, himself, was interviewed on this subject. He was seated at his famous upright piano on which he picked out his melodies with one finger. "I can't read a note of music," he explained. "I just picked up my playing and I guess I do things wrong, but it has been good enough over the years." Never having learned to transpose Mr. Berlin had his piano constructed with a stationary action and a movable keyboard. The white and black keys could be kicked into place so that Berlin could play in any key without having to worry about transposing. The only key he could play on an ordinary piano is F sharp. However he worked mostly away from the piano.
Soundtracks and popular music releases.
"For the last 15 years," Berlin said, "I haven't used the piano much. A phrase of melody comes to me and I work it out mentally. My keyboard is in my mind." In "There's No Business Like Show Business" audiences had their first opportunity to see a full retrospective show of song highlights of his career. Of the 24 numbers in the picture, the songs sung by Marilyn Monroe caused Berlin, who served as adviser on the picture, to remark that now they will be hits all over again. Not only were box-office records toppling in deference to the new marks There's No Business Like Show Business was ringing up, but the recording companies were finding a booming business in albums based on the film. Decca's movie soundtrack album was a best-seller, and so were Marilyn Monroe for RCA-Victor, The Gaylords on Mercury and a Columbia number. Singles, notably Johnnie Ray's for Columbia, and Eddie Fisher's for RCA-Victor, were also selling fast.
Rare studio album promotion for exhibitors
A nostalgic note is struck in the picture with the famed "Alexander's Ragtime Band," which became an international classic since it was written 43 years prior to the film, and "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody," recalls the famous "Ziegfeld Follies" of the '20's. The durability of Irving Berlin is attested by the fact that this is his fifth decade of fame in show business — the business than which there is no other like, in the words of his own anthem to the trade. It was a big year for Irving Berlin in show business, and there had been many. But none to compare with this one, said the Composer-lyricist celebrating the advent of 1955 with two of his biggest movie musicals in release and plans formulating for his greatest Broadway show. He was in his mid-sixties, and Irving Berlin had a lifetime in show business, some forty years-plus.
Original release score sheet music
During post-production, he was working on an anniversary show for New York's Music Box Theater, which he owned in partnership and opened many years ago with the famed "Music Box Revue." This new edition would be a retrospective show of highlights from all his other shows, a memorable reminder of the continuing greatness of Irving Berlin. Actually, no one stage show or film musical can begin to duplicate the hold Irving Berlin's music holds on America's heart. His last attempt at Broadway was a musical titled "Mr. President." The show did not do well on the Broadway stage, directed by Joshua Logan and choreographed by Peter Gennaro, it opened on October 20, 1962 at the St. James Theater, where it ran for 265 performances. The cast included Robert Ryan, Nanette Fabray, Anita Gillette, and Baayork Lee. I personally own a copy of this score and I find it to be full of fun Irving Berlin tunes, but then there are many Broadway scores that sound delicious on CD, but the stories and scripts didn't always work.
Marilyn Monroe's first modeling teacher visited her during the filming of There's No Business Like Show Business and revealed that the nation's number one Feminine Box Office star at the time earned $25 for her first modeling job—which was posing as a passenger on a Douglas plane. Miss Emmeline Snively, who ran the Blue Book Models' School at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, explained that when Marilyn showed up for the three-months' training course six years prior, the blonde couldn't afford the $100 fee for the course, but promised to pay for it out of her modeling earnings.
"Marilyn was a very serious and apt pupil and got enough modeling jobs to pay her fee promptly. Everyone I sent her to liked her and asked for her again," Miss Snively said, adding: "In fact, she was soon promoted to photographic modeling, and also posed for well known artists like Earl Moran. She received $15 an hour for most assignments, and never quibbled about overtime, either. I'm very proud of her success. She worked hard to deserve it."
Marilyn Monroe publicity stills
Marilyn earned a four-figure salary under her new long-term Twentieth Century-Fox contract. She had a special stylist, Travilla, to design her clothes; her personal dramatic couch, Natasha Lytess; a favorite vocal coach, Hal Schaeffer, for her singing chores; choreographers to teach her dance routines; her own hair stylist, make-up man and wardrobe girl to help her look and do her best for the screen. In her modeling days, she did her own hair and make-up, dressed in inexpensive and borrowed finery. The curvaceous Zanuck star's story is a real Cinderella tale. "Except that her fairy godmother was her own conscientious desire to improve herself," commented Miss Snively. Marilyn Monroe weighed in at 122 pounds at the beginning of filming but when the filming was over she was down to 113, so strenuous were her song and dance routines. Eye witnesses report, however, that not an ounce disappeared from any strategic areas.
Marilyn Monroe's costume for the nightclub.
Marilyn Monroe, who used to consider herself lucky if she found an old apple box to sit on between scenes when she started as a "stock girl" in Hollywood, had a number one star suite at Twentieth Century-Fox. Her reception room had gray walls, pinkish-red furniture, draped in gold and red leaf design, a mirrored fireplace with crystal brickettes, crystal candelabra. The walls were decorated with Raoul Dufy's racetrack prints, and a pair of velvet-matted, modern comedy plates. The living-dressing room featured soft green walls, yellow davenport and side chairs, one aqua chair with all blonde wood, including the combination radio-phonograph and coffee table with center fern inset. The mirrored make-up table with its special side and overhead fluorescent lighting had a coral leather make-up chair. Mirrored wardrobe closets, including shoe, hat and bag racks and shelves covered one wall. The other walls were decorated with original water, colors of French scenes by artist George de Bouttillier. Personal belongings which Marilyn brought in were a white woolly Navy goat, a tiny fuzzy toy panda, a vast array of bottles of perfume, and about 50 records.
Marilyn Monroe had arrived as a singer, according to Irving Berlin, who knew as much about how a song should be sung as any contemporary composer. After hearing Miss Monroe's singing of "After You Get What You Want, You Don't Want It" Berlin turned to Director Walter Lang and said, "This is the way it should be sung. If it had been sung that way thirty years ago it would have been a hit then. I didn't realize what possibilities that song had when I wrote it as a ballad back in 1920. Marilyn's interpretation gives it a sexiness I didn't know it had." Marilyn also sings two other Berlin numbers, "Heat Wave" and "Lazy," in the picture. Both songs had stood the test of time but the way she sang them they seemed new again, according to Berlin. Ethel Waters first sang "Heat Wave" 20 years prior in "As Thousands Cheer."
Unlike her real life story which started with a small part in Twentieth Century-Fox's "Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay" with June Haver and Jeanne Crain, which landed on the cutting room floor and led to a dropped option, Marilyn plays the role of a hat-check girl who becomes a Broadway musical star overnight. Fittingly enough, Twentieth Century-Fox gave her the full glamor treatment in the picture. She sings her first number in a specially built $85,000 "Gallagher Roof" night club set. She was gold clad in a $3,500, Travilla-de-signed gown of chalk white leaf-and-flower beaded illusion net over flesh-toned crepe. High-necked, long and slit-skirted, the skin hugging gown gives the illusion of bead-embroidered skin while its sheath crepe lining actually reveals nothing but the Monroe curves.
For Ethel Merman, veteran of 11 Broadway shows and nine previous films, Irving Berlin's There's No Business Like Show Business turned out to be one of the pinnacles of her career., in her own opinion. Not only did she sing many of the 24 Berlin tunes but she had her first real acting role. At a press interview she explained her enthusiasm for the role in these words: "I never before had a chance to do anything as serious as some aspects of this role. Dan Dailey and I play a vaudeville team who raise three kids, Donald O'Connor, Mitzi Gaynor and Johnnie Ray. It's a serious family story as well as a musical extravaganza. And I get Marilyn Monroe as a daughter-in-law, to boot. How can it miss! I've had nothing but good opportunities all my life, but this is the best yet."
Ethel Merman publicity still
Miss Merman also revealed that she had left Broadway for good and would henceforth devote herself to one movie a year and some TV appearances. "I have come to the point in life where it's a clean cut decision between family life and the theater," she said. Startling another interviewer who asked about her ambitions she said she could think of none. In her autobiography, she explains that she was tired of working while others were out on the town dining, and she began to hate eating at midnight in a hotel room. "I am one gal who has achieved all of my ambitions, I'm happily married, have a wonderful husband (at the time Robert Six, president of Continental Airlines) and two wonderful children, a beautiful home in Denver, wonderful friends in and out of show business, and a successful career, any girl who asks for more is nuts."
The film was heavily promoted in magazines.
Miss Merman astounded everyone in Hollywood with her boundless energy. She ate a pound of raw ground steak whenever she felt low. She managed her 26-room house in the Cherry Hill section outside Denver, Colorado, made weekly flying visits home when she was working in Hollywood or New York and kept a weather eye on Ethel, Jr., 12, and Bobby, 9. She answered all her correspondence on her own typewriter (she was a $35.00-a-week secretary by day and a night club singer by night before she became an overnight Broadway star in her first show, "Girl Crazy"). She treasured people more than things and was always getting jobs for others. Richard Eastham, who followed Ezio Pinza in "South Pacific," got his role of Marilyn Monroe's producer in There's No Business Like Show Business at Ethel's suggestion. She was always helping others. Johnnie Ray called her "the most encouraging lady of the theater," explaining that she was forever teaching him how to steal scenes from her during the filming of the picture.
Rare on-set photos.
At the conclusion of filming 'Show Business' Miss Merman felt amply rewarded when Irving Berlin addressed her as "Mrs. Show Business." Ethel Merman played a mother for the first time on stage or screen. The film gave Ethel her first real dramatic role, although she also had plenty to do in the way of singing Berlin tunes. Ethel Merman had been asked so often if Ethel Merman was her real name, and she wanted to set the record straight. "Ethel Merman is part of my real maiden name, which is Ethel Zimmermann, with two 'n's," she explained between scenes. "I dropped the first syllable, 'Zim,' and the last 'n', when I played the Palace in New York because I realized a shorter name would sound better and look better on a marquee. The ham in me was operating even before I hit Broadway in my first show, 'Girl Crazy'!" Just for the record, too, Ethel's father, Edward Zimmermann, was of German extraction, and her mother whose maiden name was Agnes Gardner was of Scottish descent. Ethel's private-life real name, of course, was Mrs. Robert Six, and Ethel Six, who is better known as "Mrs. Show Business.
Ethel Merman had to be dry cleaned after being tattooed for the "A Sailor Isn't A Sailor 'Till A Sailor Is Tattooed" number. She was a little afraid of the tattooing process, not being too wise in the ways of Hollywood. "I didn't want to remain a tattooed gal after the number," Miss Merman explained, "and I didn't know how I'd get the tattoo marks off. But the make-up man assured me that they'd just stamp the tattoos on and would take them off with a special dry cleaner. All I would suffer would be a slight skin burn."
Rare premiere photo with Ethel Merman and Rock Hudson
Ethel Merman has been considered the icon of the Broadway musical. Born on January 16, 1908 in Astoria, Queens, Ethel Agnes Zimmerman would become one of biggest stars despite having had no professional training, Merman was known for her powerful, clear voice. After opening in George and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy in 1930, Merman worked in theater for nearly half a century, moving from hits like Cole Porter's Anything Goes (1934) to Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun and Call Me Madam (1946 and 1950) to 1959's Gypsy. She even starred as the seventh and final "Dolly" Hello Dolly! (1970) in a show originally written with her in mind, adding 2 songs that composer Jerry Herman had written for her that were taken out of the show.
Merman's career in film and TV never make a big splash in Hollwyood. The film business never knew what to do with this talented yet loud actress and she only kept her stage role in only one adaptation of her shows, Call Me Madam in 1953. Much of this was due to Merman's performance style, which was deemed too brash for Hollywood. Merman was tough and was even unable physically to aspire to the upper-class glamor required of female film stars of the studio era. Merman introduced some of the most famous songs of the 20th century: I've Got Rhythm, Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries, It's De-Lovely, Blow Gabriel Blow, Anything Goes, Anything You Can Do I can Do Better, You Can't Get a Man with a Gun, There's No Business Like Show Business, The Hostess with the Mostess, and Everything's Coming Up Roses. After retiring from the stage after her 1970 run as "Dolly", Merman performed in concert tours and appeared on many TV shows and in film cameos (including her hysterical turn as Lt. Hurwitz in the disaster spoof, Airplane!). Merman died at the age of 76 in 1984.
Johnnie Ray, famed "Cry" singer, who parlayed his musical tears into a fabulous success, fulfilled his ambition to be an actor with his starring role in There's No Business Like Show Business. He was so thrilled by his CinemaScope DeLuxe color motion picture debut that he gained five pounds and says he should now be called "Laughing Boy." Johnnie, who had been tagged everything from "Mr. Emotion," "The Squealer's Delight" and "Cry Guy" to "Master of Misery," among others, was considered a genuine phenomenon on the artistic horizon. His background and origin, however, were humble. He was born on January 10th in Dallas, Oregon, a tiny hamlet near Salem. He had the usual small-town upbringing. His only claim to distinction lay in the fact that he showed musical talent at an early age. He was two-and-a-half when he picked out "Rock of Ages" on the living room' upright. When Johnnie was about ten, the members of his Boy's Club tossed him too high in a blanket and his head struck the floor, causing him to lose 53 percent of his hearing. For years no one spotted the cause of the change that came over the previously boisterous boy. Eventually, when he was fifteen, the trouble was discovered and he was fitted with a hearing aid. He had worn one ever since.
Johnnie Ray publicity still
During his early struggles to get a foothold in show business Johnnie found surcease from his heartaches by writing 154 songs. Among those songs were "The Little White Cloud That Cried," "Tell The Lady I Said Goodbye" and "Whiskey And Gin." All of them became hits. His songs provided the final stepping stone to that "big break" and he went on to success after his theater-cafe debut in Buffalo in 1951. Proof that there is no top where Johnnie is concerned is that Darryl F. Zanuck, Producer Sol C. Siegel and Director Walter Lang believed in him enough to give him a top acting assignment in There's No Business Like Show Business. Johnnie sings only one solo in the picture, "If You Believe," a spiritual written by Berlin in 1930 and hitherto sung mainly in churches. When Berlin heard Ray's rendition of the song (he sings it straight and then "beats it up") the famed composer said: "I wrote 'If You Believe' 25 years ago. Now, at last, when this picture is released, the way Johnnie sings it, it will be a hit."
Costumes used in the film created by Travilla and Miles White
Johnnie's gratitude for his good fortune in finally making the movie grade was not merely verbal. He celebrated his first film assignment by making two more grants for the Johnnie Ray Foundation for the Deaf. The only flaw he could find in his career is that to him, it was lonely life. There's No Business Like Show Business marked Johnnie's film debut, parlaying his success in recordings, television, night clubs and vaudeville. He was already dickering with Twentieth Century-Fox for a second in CinemaScope. Johnnie Ray, famed for his "Cry" singing, was the only member of the cast who didn't have a crying scene in the picture. His co-stars Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey and Mitzi Gaynor all weep at one time or another in the story.
Minstrel Man Dan Dailey
Life begins at 30 pictures for Dan Dailey, Hollywood's prolific song and dance man, who signed a brand new seven-year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox at the beginning of There's No Business Like Show Business. Dan, who has been in every branch of show business since he first sang and danced in a minstrel show at the age of six, says that the story of There's No Business Like Show Business reminded him of his own life. As Terence Donahue in the film he teamed with Ethel Merman and their three children, played by Donald O'Connor, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor, to form a vaudeville combo that plays circuits throughout the country with Broadway as their goal, winding up at the famous New York Hippodrome. The role gave him the top singing and dancing role of his career.
Dan Dailey publicity still
Dailey's new contract was an all inclusive one and gave him a chance to direct. Although he claimed no aspirations toward directing, he thought idleness was anathema to all actors and wants to utilize his between-pictures time helping young players on the lot by coaching them for and directing their tests. His real ambition, he claimed, is to write, a talent which he proved long ago when he wrote, directed and acted in 20 plays over the Borscht Circuit when he started out as social director at a Catskill Mountain lodge. Dan's hobby was horses and his only frustration during the filming of There's No Business Like Show Business was that he was unable to ride his jumpers at the Santa Barbara horse show or watch his thoroughbreds run at Del Mar. Following completion of the musical in which he performed his share of the 24 Irving Berlin songs that formed a major part of the nostalgic story, Dailey was loaned to MGM for a role with Gene Kelly in "It's Always Fair Weather." The role marked his first return to that studio where he was formerly under contract and played bits and heavies. In There's No Business Like Show Business Dailey also appeared for the first time in a picture with Marilyn Monroe, who was the sixth member of the star sextette in the picture.
Publicity stills: Monroe and O'Connor, Gaynor and Monroe.
In an on-set interview on archive, of her role in the film, Mitzi Gaynor said, "Always before, I've played the youngest member of the cast, somebody's younger sister or a mere child with the ingenue angle always emphasized. But in this picture I play Donald O'Connor's older sister and am I happy to get out of pigtails. I am a hep and happy girl in this picture, go to night clubs and wear sophisticated dresses. For once I play a girl older than my age." Mitzi was only 22 but her years in pictures had given her sufficient poise to characterize the more mature role. The dancing star, who was raised on a diet of Saturday matinees at the Russian ballet, and made the movie grade via her starring role in the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of "The Great Waltz," also renewed her professional acquaintance with Dan Dailey. She played opposite him and Betty Grable in "My Blue Heaven."
Mitzi Gaynor publicity still
In There's No Business Like Show Business Miss Gaynor sings and dances her share of the Berlin songs that form the musical background for the picture and is one of the sextette of stars. The picture was her last for Twentieth Century-Fox under her expired contract and she expected to spend most of her time in New York. She had several offers to star in Broadway musicals, among them a musical production of "Seventh Heaven." Mitzi Gaynor, always a teenager on the screen, played her own age for the first time, sings in French for the first time on the screen in the picture, and has a scene showing how to handle a wolf, also for the first time.
Then one of Hollywood's busiest stars, O'Connor had a five year plan all his own. He started on it immediately after he did his last dance step in There's No Business Like Show Business. During the following five years he expected to write two books, one the life story of his family, the O'Connors of vaudeville fame, and the other his autobiography. For his TV shows he was his own producer and director, with his associate Sidney Miller, and he wrote his own music as well as stars. All of this he figured would take him well into 1956. Then there was a European trip on the schedule for the purpose of selecting locations for a film his own Donald O'Connor Productions planned to make. In between all these activities he also planned to make more pictures in Hollywood.
Donald O'Connor publicity still
O'Connor's role in There's No Business Like Show Business was the most strenuous of his career. In one number, "A Man Chases A Girl 'Till She Catches Him," Berlin wrote the song especially for him to sing and dance after he gets a kiss from Marilyn Monroe. This imaginative dance required him to leap over bridges, fountains, dance up a tree and over the roof-top of Marilyn's hotel, leap up walls and turn on wheels which start the fountains flowing. He even gets conked on the head with falling coconuts, all as the result of his exuberant reaction to the goodnight kiss. After all this the nine Grecian statues in the garden come to life and dance with him. The dance, which was conceived by Choreographer Robert Alton, forms one of the high spots in the picture. Donald O'Connor, who had done practically every other kind of dancing, does his first Highland Fling in There's No Business Like Show Business in the Scottish version of the "Alexander's Ragtime Band" number. On the set, he was said to be a very friendly down-to-earth actor who would accommodate anyone, and showed no anger or frustration at re-takes. In fact, his biog dance number was filmed over the course of only two days, showing his professionalism and dance experience.
Thanks to Marilyn Monroe, Keith Maclvor, University of Kansas graduate, and now a graduate student and assistant teacher of geology at U.C.L.A., won a two-3 year-old bet and a new suit, just by having his picture taken with Twentieth Century-Fox's number one box-office star. Maclvor, son of Mr. and Mrs. D. H. Maclvor of 240 South Crestway, Wichita, Kansas, was at Al Hack's University Tailor Shop, at Lawrence, Kansas in 1953, glancing through the Esquire magazine featuring the Monroe picture layout, while deciding he couldn't afford a certain suit he wanted. Knowing he was heading for U.C.L.A. after his graduation from U. of Kansas, he commented he'd like to meet Marilyn. "If you do, and get your picture taken with her to prove it, I'll send you this suit," the tailor shop proprietor told him.
After a year-and-a-half in Hollywood, Maclvor discovered he was living next door to a Hollywood correspondent, told him the story. He was taken to the set of There's No Business Like Show Business set at the Twentieth Century-Fox studio where he met and was photographed with Marilyn Monroe. Then he wired Hack that he was forwarding the picture, and received a return telegram saying the suit would be sent to him. "I don't care about the suit," Maclvor, who also held a geologist's job with Union Oil Co. said, "but meeting Marilyn and finding her as sweet and friendly as she is beautifully stacked, made me glad I made that bet. I was able to spend the day on the set and I was stunned at how Hollywood worked. It was the best day of my life. The director, producer and cast members were all so kind to me."
An accident jinx which plagued Director Walter Lang during filming did not prevent him from completing the picture on schedule. Eleven times during the filming the director was obliged to re-arrange his shooting schedule due to ailments and accidents of the six co-stars. Marilyn Monroe was out of the picture three times with attacks of virus. Donald O'Connor was out once with influenza and another time suffered shock from a too-realistic blow during a scene with Dan Dailey. Dailey suffered an attack of laryngitis plus bronchitis which prevented him from recording his "Show Business" songs for three weeks. Johnnie Ray was absent for five days on crutches as a result of stepping barefoot on a toothpick in an accident at a Las Vegas resort. Mitzi Gaynor was hospitalized twice, once for 10 days with virus and another week with a sprained ankle. Ethel Merman had an appendicitis attack which kept her idle for a week.
More of the film's costumes
Henry Ephron, who wrote the screenplay in collaboration with his wife Phoebe, had been awarded a producer's berth at Twentieth Century-Fox. Darryl Zanuck was so impressed with his script writing on this musical (and for the forthcoming "Daddy Long Legs") that he decided to enlarge his job at the studio. Ephron would then produce his own scripts as well as those of other writers in his new capacity but his wife was not again associated with his duties as a producer.
Walter Winchell has a bit part in the picture, The famed Broadway columnist acts as a commentator and only his voice is heard while his hand is shown on a telegraphic oscillator. Such participation is known as a "trademark" appearance.Winchell previously appeared in two Twentieth Century-Fox pictures. Back in 1936 he was a co-star in "Wake Up and Live" and "Love and Hisses."
Movie merchandise for exhibition promotion.
Trade Magazine review
Here is a review from an industry trade magazine written after the premiere of There's No Business Like Show Business: Irving Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business" is an aural and optical delight made so by the lilting Berlin tunes and the opulent settings Twentieth Century-Fox provided for them on the CinemaScope screen in DeLuxe color. The audience at the premiere, which opened yesterday, frequently broke into applause to show its appreciation of this splendid production presented by Darryl F. Zanuck. It was a happy combination of song, dance, story and spectacle played captivatingly by a stellar cast headed by Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor. It is easy to understand how the film company spent millions to transfer this phantasmagoria of show business to the screen. From the time the Darryl F. Zanuck CinemaScope presentation opens with a brief foreword about the history of vaudeville until the smashing climax in New York's famed Hippodrome Theater the screen is alive with excitement. Miss Merman plays the role of Molly Donahue with the verve and explosiveness for which she is famous and Dailey gives his role of her philandering spouse an exonerating charm. Donald O'Connor and Mitzi Gaynor sing, dance and enact their romance with inspired skill. Special accolades must be reserved for Marilyn Monroe. Her performance in this picture cinches her position as the most unusual personality to reach the screen in modern times. The way she sings "Heat Wave," "Lazy" and "After You Get What You Want, You Don't Want It" will send you. She's truly the Blonde Bombshell, with a sensuous and torrid style all her own.
From Fox to exhibitors: Trailers available for the film.
The smashing finale for this lavish CinemaScope production is something to behold. Producer Sol Siegel and Director Walter Lang, who keeps the music and story beautifully balanced throughout, reserved two of Berlin's most popular numbers, "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band," the international jazz piece that has held its popularity for 43 years, for this blazing finish. It's a 15-ring dancing and singing circus of show business. For this, Choreographer Robert Alton really splurged. The "Alexander" number is interspersed with a middle Europe version and a Scotch, French and Carnegie Hall version, which Johnnie Ray sings. The settings, 67 of them, give the picture a lavishness seldom achieved in a musical and Lamar Trotti's story, which Phoebe and Henry Ephron fashioned into script form, furnishes a heart-warming pattern for this really spectacular production. Our chapeau is doffed to Twentieth Century-Fox for "There's No Business Like Show Business," in particular to the genius of Irving Berlin, the vision of Darryl Zanuck, the talents of Walter Lang, Sol C. Siegel and their Twentieth Century-Fox crews, the dazzling six stars and the wonderful cast.
There was a lot of talent behind the scenes that the public seldom heard about for the production of There's No Business Like Show Business. A breakdown from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that the production staff on the picture boasted 21 Oscars and 97 Academy nominations. Among the Oscar winners who contributed their talents to the musical were the late Lamar Trotti, who wrote the story; Alfred Newman, musical director; Lyle Wheeler, art director responsible for the 67 elaborate settings in the film; Leon Sham-roy, cinematographer; Charles LeMaire, wardrobe director; Travilla, costume designer, and Lionel Newman, co-musical director, to mention a few.
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Writing, Motion Picture Story
(Lamar Trotti), Best Costume Design, Color (Charles Le Maire, Travilla, Miles White) and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Alfred Newman, Lionel Newman). It was also nominated for Best Written American Musical (Phoebe Ephron, Henry Ephron) by the Writers Guild of America but lost to MGM's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." It was a tough year in awards competition for musicals, pitted against "Carmen Jones," "The Glen Miller Story," "A Star is Born," and "Brigadoon."
Photos from the premiere
There's No Business Like Show Business opened on December 16, 1954 for the holiday season. It was the perfect time to release this cavalcade of entertainment for the entire family. Shot in 35mm 2.55:1 Cinemascope with 4-track stereo, the $5.2 million budgeted film sadly did not earn its production costs back. This was near the end of the era of the big screen musical, and the last few years of MGM's successful Arthur Freed unit. The film did enter the profit stage with home video versions, and today, many call this a "musical classic." The film certainly does have substance, beautifully choreographed musical numbers, a recording made at the exceptional Fox Sound Department, a multitude of talents performing music of one of the most successful composer/lyricists of all time. The colors, choreography, star-power, orchestra and voices of There's No Business Like Show Business shine on Blu-ray disc!
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