Saturday, March 03, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Gang's All Here (1943)

As I've written about here from time to time, I grew up regularly watching classic films in L.A. area revival theaters.

One of the earlier films I saw on a big screen, when I was 13 or 14, was THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943), seen at the Vagabond Theater on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. My most vivid memory of that screening -- besides lots of bananas onscreen! -- was the brilliant Technicolor. In fact, it's possible I saw it in a nitrate print, as they were still being shown there in the '70s.

About a year later, I saw the movie again as part of a Filmex musicals marathon at the Plitt Theatres in Century City.

I regularly revisit favorite Alice Faye musicals such as WEEK-END IN HAVANA (1941) or THAT NIGHT IN RIO (1941), yet I can't remember the last time I saw THE GANG'S ALL HERE. I think I must have seen it sometime since the '70s, but it had been long enough I didn't remember the plot, though favorite moments like the song "A Journey to a Star" had lingered in my memory banks.

Of course, part of the reason I didn't remember the plot might have been that there really isn't much of one! Edie (Faye) sings in a nightclub and falls for soldier Andy (James Ellison) -- who for complicated reasons tells her his name is Casey. Edie has no idea Andy/Casey is the son of the wealthy Andrew Mason Sr. (Eugene Pallette).

Andy is sort-of engaged to next-door neighbor Vivian Potter (Sheila Ryan). This leads to complications when the entire nightclub troupe, including Dorita (Carmen Miranda) and Benny Goodman's orchestra, move out to the Mason and Potter estates for a big performance to raise money for war bonds.

That's pretty much it! Oh, and Vivian's mother (Charlotte Greenwood) has a secret past as a performer, which she and her husband (Edward Everett Horton) need to hide from their neighbors, who would be scandalized if they knew...

The fun of the movie is its two leading ladies, Faye and Miranda, plus Goodman in a series of great musical numbers, staged by director Busby Berkeley and filmed in lush Fox Technicolor by Edward Cronjager.

This is the movie with Miranda's famed "Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" number -- the one with all the bananas! -- "Brazil," and more. Besides "A Journey to a Star," Faye's big number is "No Love, No Nothin'," in which she movingly expresses her longing for her sweetheart in the military.

It's also incredibly wonderful seeing and hearing Goodman's orchestra. I really treasure those big band performances preserved on film and smile whenever they start playing.

As thin as the plot is, the movie's hour and 43 minutes could have stood to be shortened up a tad, but all in all it's a good time.

During a pool party sequence, look for Jeanne Crain, very visible in a green bathing suit; she speaks briefly with Greenwood and then stands in the background during a musical number. It was her very first film.

June Haver and Adele Jergens are also said to have bit roles, but I didn't pick them out of the crowds. The cast also includes Phil Baker, Tony De Marco, Dave Willock, and Frank Faylen.

It's widely recognized that the first DVD release of THE GANG'S ALL HERE, in the Alice Faye Collection, had serious color and other issues, and by all accounts that version is to be avoided.

Fox later corrected the problems with its release of the film as part of the Carmen Miranda Collection and as a single title in the Marquee Musicals series.

Even better is the Twilight Time Blu-ray I watched, which is absolutely gorgeous. Fans of Fox musicals and Alice Faye will want this on their shelf.

The Twilight Time Blu-ray includes the DVD commentary track by my oldest daughter's USC college professor Drew Casper, and it adds an additional commentary track with Farran Nehme (who blogs at Self-Styled Siren), Glenn Kenny, and Ed Hulse. I've heard Ed speak many times at the Lone Pine Film Festival, and I'm most interested to hear this track over the next few days.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Beyond the Tutti Frutti hat, I have two takeaways from The Gang's All Here. One is that Harry Warren and Leo Robin's No Love, No Nothin' wasn't nominated for a Best Song Oscar. Two is Edward Everett Horton's line about actors eating him out of house and home. Cracks me up.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

"No Love, No Nothin'" is a great number!!

Definitely some funny stuff in the movie. :)

Best wishes,

1:25 PM  

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