There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Theatrical Trailer-3
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (1:59)
Gallery-One Sheet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 112:25 (Case: 117)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Walter Lang

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Ethel Merman
Donald O'Connor
Marilyn Monroe
Dan Dailey
Johnnie Ray
Mitzi Gaynor
Case ?
RPI Box Music Alfred Newman
Lionel Newman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.62:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Whilst the appearance of Marilyn Monroe singing in a film was by no means an unusual occurrence, There's No Business Like Show Business is the only genuine musical in which she appeared. Whilst her role is not exactly as large as most starring roles she had, suffice it to say that she still manages to get the heat up really well! After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It might not be the greatest musical tune ever written by the immortal Irving Berlin, but when it is sung by Marilyn Monroe wearing one of the most revealing costumes possible whilst still being fully clothed, the thermometer goes berserk. Add into the mix Heat Wave, and you get the general idea that the lady is red hot. Despite the fact that I have to confess to a slight interest in the films of Marilyn Monroe, this is one of her films that I steadfastly avoided. That is because of my general disdain for the musical genre. Having now been "forced" to watch the film, I can only shake my head at my previous ignorant attitude towards the genre and this film in particular. This is actually quite an entertaining film with some great music from Irving Berlin. Sure, it is not to be confused with some of the greats of the genre, but with enough catchy tunes, some great costumes (it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design, Colour in 1955), and Marilyn Monroe mixing her stuff with the gorgeous Mitzi Gaynor, there is enough to satisfy all but the most stuffy of musical lovers.

    The film is basically the story of the Donahues, troupers in the old tradition who started out as The Two Donahues, Terry (Dan Dailey) and Molly (Ethel Merman), and gradually added their kids Tim (Donald O'Connor), Steve (Johnnie Ray) and Katy (Mitzi Gaynor), into the act over the years, thereby becoming The Five Donahues. Over the years the vaudeville act of The Two Donahues segued into a more cabaret-style show as The Five Donahues. The family of course either succeeds together, or dies together. Much of the story takes place in the 1930s and 1940s - just when the kids are starting to perhaps question their place in the business and the rest of their lives. Generally the family succeeds pretty well, at least until Steve drops a bombshell that Terry has no hope of understanding and Tim meets Vicky Hoffman (Marilyn Monroe), who crops up a few years later on a double bill with The Five Donahues as Vicky Parker. Unlike the Donahue kids, who had the stage thrust upon them with relative ease, Vicky has had to fight her way to where she is and has a determination that makes her a little abrasive at times. So when Tim falls head over heels for her, the results are not exactly a fairy tale. The potential for the end of the stage life of The Five Donahues is pretty good, so exactly what will the result of the scenario be?

    Being a little unkind to the genre, the lack of a serious story is not entirely unexpected. Whilst the story is a little on the weak side, the talent engaged here attacked it with a relish that perhaps it did not deserve. The talent chosen for the film might not exactly be the most obvious, however. Solid pro Dan Dailey is just solid as the patriarch of the family, but is overshadowed in every way by Ethel Merman, star of stage. Her strong voice is the dominant of the show in many ways, even if she is not the highlight of the show. Where the strengths are is in the casting of the younger roles. Johnnie Ray, popular singing sensation of the 1950s, makes one of his two film appearances here and as an actor he makes a fine singer. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing though, as his rendition of If You Believe is quite terrific. Funnily enough though, it was his only solo in the film. Seems a bit odd to cast a singer then give him but one song to sing! Donald O'Connor, fresh from Singin' In The Rain, similarly only gets one solo, but what a solo - A Man Chases A Girl (Until She Catches Him). However, it is not his singing that is necessarily the highlight of his performance - he does perhaps the best pure acting job in the film. However, even that is overshadowed by the performance of Mitzi Gaynor - she might not get a solo but she can dance up a storm and is at her seductive, sexy best during the Marilyn Monroe song Lazy. But of course all are but the sideshow to the main attraction - albeit one added to the film only to add star power. Who cares! Looking gorgeous, most especially at her sensual, seductive best during After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It, she sure steams up the glasses pretty quickly. When you add in Heat Wave, which was originally intended for Ethel Merman, it does not take much more to ensure that she is by far the most memorable performer here, and not only for her looks either. She actually does a good singing job in her three solo numbers whilst adding a pretty decent acting performance to boot. Walter Lang does a decent enough job in the director's chair, although he probably stuck quite closely to the instructions the bosses gave him - loads of action, plenty of colour and use the widescreen vista!

    Following on the review pile after one of the most important films in the career of Marilyn Monroe, it has to be said that There's No Business Like Show Business is not one of the lady's most important films. As a piece of entertainment however, it is perhaps an underrated film and if you have not checked this one out before, you might well be pleasantly surprised as I was. Just to make it doubly worthwhile, Marilyn Monroe probably looks better here than in most of the other films making up the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection.

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Transfer Quality


    This is another of the very widescreen colour films of Marilyn Monroe that has been given a pretty fine restoration job, resulting in a generally very good quality transfer. It certainly allows the colourscape afforded the film a wonderful chance to excel.

    Another of those CinemaScope films, the transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.62:1 (measured) that is 16x9 enhanced. This is just a little wider than the theatrical release but you would be hard-pressed to notice it I would think.

    There really is little wrong with the transfer in a general sense. It is quite sharp and very well defined, with oodles of detail if you want to check it all out. The shadow detail is good and there is nothing in the way of grain to impede the transfer in any way. Indeed, in all the films I have thus far reviewed out of the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection, this is perhaps the most consistent, satisfying looking transfer of the lot. There is nothing in the way of low level noise in the transfer, and overall clarity is very good.

    The colours here are extremely well handled all things considered. Just occasionally they a little muted, probably more to do with the age of the source material than anything else, as the general look is quite vibrant and colourful. Perhaps the transfer is lacking a little in the way of solid blacks, but the transfer features no blatantly obvious signs of either under or over saturation. This is very nice looking colour from the generally more steady Deluxe process as opposed to the more garish Technicolor process.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Where the transfer really falls down is in the greater presence of film-to-video artefacts, most notably the presence of aliasing. This can be found to various degrees throughout the transfer, with clothing (check out the coat at 6:40) and a particular door (such as at 78:07) being the prime culprits. There were film artefacts floating around the transfer but in general these were not a distraction to the film.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming during the black scene change at 53:32. Once again it is not disruptive to the flow of the film and was unnoticeable on my player.

    There are thirteen subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts sampled are good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtracks with a L-C-R-S configuration. Since there are no other options, naturally enough I listened to the English soundtrack.

    The audio transfer is good and in general the vocals and dialogue come up well and are easy to understand. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Alfred Newman and Lionel Newman, for which they copped an Oscar nomination. Whilst it is pretty good, it is of course subservient to the songs provided by Irving Berlin. Perhaps not up to the finest stuff he ever did, there are nonetheless quite a few decent songs here to suggest that it is a better collection than generally regarded. Or was that because the cast managed to carry off the material far more than it deserved? Whichever, I liked the show so the music and songs must have done their job pretty well indeed.

    Lacking any use of the low frequency channel, and with very limited if any use of the rear surround channels, the soundtrack ends up being a little more frontal than perhaps would be expected. Not that this is altogether bad as it does emphasise in some ways the stage nature of the film. A couple of times there seemed to be some fluctuation in sound levels but that would be the only complaint that could be justifiably thrown at the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Another light load of extras rounds out this release.


    Fairly basic efforts, although reasonably decent looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (4:15)

    Two overriding impressions of this effort are just how many film artefacts there are and how dirty looking the whole thing is. Makes you realise how good the feature looks! Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with reasonable but not great Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2:41)

    One overriding impression of this effort is just how many film artefacts there are, albeit way less than the lengthier trailer above. It also has slightly more muted colour, which makes this somewhat better looking for some reason. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer - Portuguese (2:42)

    Identical in basic content to the above, it is similar in all respects barring the voiceover language.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (1:59)

    We have seen plenty of these and they have been consistent in presentation, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that maybe a more formal, extended featurette might have been a better presentation for the overall collection. This effort features two screen comparisons after the self-running notes about the restoration. The first comparison is between the original film restoration and the original film elements with video restoration. The second compares the previous video master with the original film elements with video restoration.

Gallery - One Sheet

    Comprising one One Sheet, this is not exactly exciting stuff.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is again nothing significantly different between the two releases, so another comparison that ends up a draw on points.


    Perhaps coming to this film sight unseen aided my thoughts somewhat, but in the end I was more entertained by There's No Business Like Show Business than I thought I would be. That has to be a good thing and therefore the overall quality of the film and the transfers must be better than anticipated. If you tend to avoid musicals, then give this one a whirl in the DVD player. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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