From the moment The Gang’s All Here opens with a nightclub production number presented on a stage as big as a football field, Busby Berkeley’s fast-paced Technicolor musical delivers the goods.
There is dreamy-eyed Alice Faye, handsome eye-candy James Ellison, craggy-voiced Eugene Pallette, fussbudget Edward Everett Horton, Carmen Miranda at her daffiest, Benny Goodman singing “Minnie’s in the Money,” and the high-kicking Charlotte Greenwood, whose opening scene is hilarious: the phone rings and she accidentally picks up the cat instead.
You first realize that The Gang’s All Here is going to be totally absurd when you see Miranda teaching Horton how to dance the “Uncle Samba.” What follows is sheer wartime delirium, courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The plot, in fact, is as over-the-top as Berkeley’s outlandish musical numbers. (Nancy Wintner, George Root Jr., and Tom Bridges were credited for the story; Walter Bullock for the screenplay.) Ellison is slated to marry his childhood girlfriend (Sheila Ryan), but they don’t really love each other. So, when chorus girl Alice Faye comes along all sorts of misunderstandings ensue. Needless to say, everything is ironed out before the final credits.
But no matter how wacky the plot, the film’s highlight is a musical number featuring giant bananas while Carmen Miranda sings “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat”:
I wonder why does everybody look at me,
And then begin to talk about a Christmas tree.
I hope that means that everyone is glad to see,
The lady in the tutti-frutti hat.
And the production numbers only get campier in the finale, “Polka Dot Polka.”
The creative personnel behind The Gang’s All Here made many other musicals during this period, but it all comes together seamlessly in this quintessential Hollywood-in-the-forties masterpiece. The characters are at their most well-defined, while Busby Berkeley was at the apex of his cinematic prowess.
Forties musicals don’t get any better than this.
© Danny Fortune
The Gang’s All Here (movie 1943) cast & crew
Director: Busby Berkeley.
Screenplay: Walter Bullock.
From a story by Nancy Wintner, George Root Jr., and Tom Bridges.
Cast: Alice Faye. Carmen Miranda. James Ellison. Phil Baker. Benny Goodman. Charlotte Greenwood. Edward Everett Horton. Sheila Ryan. Eugene Pallette. Tony De Marco. Bando da Lua.