'The Gang's All Here': Best Carmen Miranda Musical?

The Gang's All Here Busby Berkeley

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

Note: A version of this The Gang's All Here review was initially posted in May 2008.

1 Academy Award Nomination

Best Art Direction (Color): James Basevi, Joseph C. Wright, Thomas Little

THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943). Dir.: Busby Berkeley. 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. Scr.: Walter Bullock; from a story by Nancy Wintner, George Root Jr., and Tom Bridges.

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  1. Doni Sacramento says:

    Great post on this movie review. Can anyone tell what we would do without Technicolor to show Carmen Miranda in her lavish performances? Easy. By seeing her in (a few) of her B&W movies, we can't help imagining a rainbow round her anyway – so Technicolor is to give us the complete delight. To know more and everything on Carmen Miranda, please drop by at her website (www.carmen.miranda.nom.br). By the way, I don't speak Mirandese, but I fully understand it. :)

  2. D says:

    I don't think Carmen Miranda is the only one who is a little "Tutti-Frutti".