It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
The Gang’s All Here (1943) – Musical #310
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Busby Berkeley
Starring: Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, James Ellison, Phil Baker, Eugene Pallette, Charlotte Greenwood, Edward Everett Horton, Dave Willock, Sheila Ryan, Jeanne Crain (uncredited), June Haver (uncredited), Adele Jergens (uncredited), Adele Jergens (uncredited), Mary Stewart (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited), Charles Saggau (uncredited)
Themselves: Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Tony De Marco
Nightclub performer Edie Allen (Faye) meets soldier Andy Mason (Ellison) in a night club. Andy falls for her, but gives her a false name. Edie writes to Andy (or Casey which is the name he gave her), while he is fighting in the Pacific. When he returns home a hero, a War Bond benefit is given in his honor starring Edie and the rest of the nightclub performers. The problem is, Andy is engaged to another girl (Ryan).
• “The Gang’s All Here” was Jeanne Crain’s first film role, though it was uncredited.
• Working title was The Girls He Left Behind
• The songs “Sleepy Moon” and “Drums and Dreams” were cut from the film
• Linda Darnell was originally set to play the role of Vivien, which went to Shelia Ryan.
• Other than an appearance in “Four Jills in a Jeep,” this was Alice Faye’s last musical until “State Fair” (1962).
• Alice Faye was pregnant during the filming of “The Gang’s All Here”
• Busby Berkeley’s first full-length Technicolor film
• Benny Goodman singing
• “Stop being like Don Ameche and get me a cab.” – Alice Faye says to James Ellison in reference to her frequent co-star.
• Shelia Ryan and Tony De Marco dancing to “No Love, Nothin'”
• “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” performed by Carmen Miranda
• “Minnie’s in the Money” performed by Benny Goodman
• “No Love, No Nothin'” performed by Alice Faye
• “Paducah” performed by Benny Goodman
• “A Journey to a Star” performed by Alice Faye and reprised for the cast
• “Brazil” performed by Carmen Miranda and Nestor Amaral
Each studio and every era had a different feel and appearance. 20th Century Fox films of the 1940s are just plain fun and also gorgeous to look at.
“The Gang’s All Here” is no exception. Filmed in Technicolor and directed by Busby Berkeley, the musical is outfitted big band music performed by Benny Goodman and some of 20th Century Fox’s top musical stars – Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda.
The plot of the musical revolves around World War II. Wealthy Andy Mason, played by James Ellison, is a soldier in the Army and about to head overseas. Before leaving, he visits a night club with his father (Eugene Pallette) and family friend (Edward Everett Horton), where he meets Edie, played by Alice Faye. Andy falls in love with Edie but gives a false name because he is already engaged. Andy returns from the Pacific as a war hero and to celebrate, his family holds a war bond fundraiser with Edie’s nightclub performing, meaning Andy will have to face both his finance and Edie.
The plot may be light and the film is more about the songs, and some of the infamous musical numbers.
Carmen Miranda has less screen time than in other 20th Century Fox musicals, however, her number “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” is what this film is known for.
The number is reminiscent of Busby Berkeley’s earlier choreographed numbers from his Warner Bros. days. The number is lead by Carmen Miranda and filled with chorus girls dressed in tropical outfits. The choreography features the girls lifting large paper mache bananas that were “as big as canoes,” Alice Faye is quoted in the book Alice Faye: A Life Beyond the Silver Screen by Jane Lenz Elder. The position of the bananas had to be held a particular way to pass the censors in the Hays Production Office, Elder said.
While “The Lady in the Tutti Fruiti Hat” song has titillating moments, a couple of the other numbers are more peculiar and not even as visually pleasing. For the closing number, Alice Faye sings “The Polka Dot Polka” which is followed by “The Polka Dot Ballet,” featuring dancers holding neon pink circles. The number is sort of bizarre in the sense that it’s not as exciting or interesting as “Tutti Fruiti Hat.” Since the film is about World War II, I was expecting a patriotic number.
“Gang’s All Here” ends with the film’s theme “A Journey to a Star” with the heads of each star of the film floating as if they were stars. Bizarre in the way only Busby Berkeley could create.
Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Shelia Ryan are dazzling film leads but the supporting characters are just as spectacular. Eugene Pallette and Edward Everett Horton are as hilarious as always and we even get to hear them sing! Charlotte Greenwood is also fabulous and does her famous long-legged high kicks. Band leader and jazz clarinet player Benny Goodman performs in the film as himself. The true highlight is that Goodman not only plays the clarinet but SINGS two songs, and Goodman sings well! This is so delightful to me.
I wasn’t familiar with comedian Phil Baker, who plays himself. He was a pleasant character and personality but also had very little screentime.
The only downside to me is James Ellison as the lead. I like Ellison in general, but he is out of place with this cast.
With all of the color and extravaganza, it’s also sad to watch “The Gang’s All Here,” knowing that Alice Faye – formerly one of 20th Century Fox’s top stars – is nearing the end of her film career. This was Faye’s last full musical film (aside from an appearance in Four Jills in a Jeep) until 1962. Her last film with Fox would be “Fallen Angel” in 1945.
“The Gang’s All Here” is a dazzling film that is filled with fabulous music and top stars. While it ends on a bizarre note with floating heads, it’s an excellent example of the jiving 1940s musicals of 20th Century Fox.
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I disagree with your assessment of the ending number with Alice Faye singing THE POLKA DOT POLKA to the adorable children and then segueing into the fabulous surreal neon polka dot kaleidoscope sequence. It was Busby Berkeley at his extravagant best. When Alice Faye retired from films, it left a big hole in the musicals of 20th Century Fox.
You describe Alice Faye as “formerly one of 20th Century-Fox’s top stars”. She was still one of 20th Century Fox’s top stars when she made this film in 1943 and remained so until she left the studio two years later. In 1944’s “Four Jills in a Jeep” Faye was top billed in the list of guest stars.