[Editor’s Note: This review is excerpted from Judge Barrie Maxwell’s Precedents column, Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection.]
Released just before Christmas in 1954, There’s No Business Like Show Business was one of the last of the really big Hollywood musicals. It relied on both new and old Irving Berlin songs to sustain its two-hour length, with a lavish version of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” a highlight. The story, that of the travails of a show business family from vaudeville days to the Second World War, is pretty routine, but the cast is not. Starring are Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey (as the parents), and Donald O’Connor (as one of their sons), with support from Mitzi Gaynor (the daughter), Johnnie Ray (another son) and Marilyn Monroe (as O’Connor’s girl). With their enthusiasm and fresh legs, the real strengths are O’Connor and Gaynor. Donald O’Connor has some fine dance opportunities, particularly “A Man Chases a Girl” wherein he dances with statues that have come to life. Ethel Merman (who is an acquired taste) belts out her signature song, the title tune. At the other end of the spectrum, Johnnie Ray looks distinctly uncomfortable when he has to do anything other than sing. He should be cut some slack; however, for he does have to cope with a plot angle that has him giving up show business to become a priest. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it just comes completely out of left field.
Marilyn has three song and dance numbers in the film: “After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It”; “Heat Wave”; and “Lazy.” She handles all of them quite effectively, and her very sensual approach to “Heat Wave” goes over very well. Personally, I liked the first of the three the best due to the combination of the playful lyrics, the smooth choreography and Marilyn’s assured delivery.
The DVD provides a very good looking transfer of the film. It’s presented in 2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen preserving the original Cinemascope ratio and utilizes 28 scene selections. The colour by De Luxe is generally luxurious in its richness and vibrancy, skin tones are accurate, and the image is virtually free of any scratches or other blemishes. The image does look a little soft and fuzzy from time to time, however. Edge enhancement is non-existent. By all reports, the original source material was in pretty good shape, but Fox’s attention to detail in making the image look as good as it can be is commendable.
Two different sound tracks are offered — a Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround and a 2.0 Stereo one. The former provides a slightly more expansive feel to the music numbers in the film, but on the whole, there’s no great difference between the two. Either delivers a satisfying audio experience of the film — clear and distortion-free.
The main supplements are several theatrical trailers and a restoration comparison.