“You start worrying about your kids the day they’re born, and you never stop. Even after they bury you, I bet you never stop worrying.”
Married vaudeville team Terence (Dan Dailey) and Molly (Ethel Merman) Donahue become “The Five Donahues” when their children — Tim (Donald O’Connor), Katy (Mitzi Gaynor), and Steve (Johnnie Ray) — join them onstage; but Steve’s desire to join the priesthood and Tim’s struggles with alcohol while romancing a sexy singer (Marilyn Monroe) bring challenges to their family’s happiness.
As noted by Time Out’s reviewer, this disappointing 20th Century Fox musical — its first filmed in Cinemascope — features “[Ethel] Merman at her loudest, [Dan] Dailey at his crassest, and [Marilyn] Monroe, thank heaven, at her 20th Century Foxiest”. Indeed, other than its Irving Berlin-ful score, Monroe will be the main draw for most viewers — though her supporting role here seems decidedly shoehorned into the narrative, and she’s paired with the worst possible choice of romantic interests in her entire movie career. (No offense meant to O’Connor; they’re simply utterly mismatched. Ray would have been a much better choice — but his character is sent off into priesthood!) Meanwhile, as pointed out by DVD Savant, “the production is rather garish and empty (an awful lot of wide screens full of billowing, sequined drapes)”, and while “this is supposed to [represent] the gaudy world of vaudeville… the final kiss of death is that a lot of the stuff Marilyn is made to wear here is just plain ugly” (!!). While it possesses a couple of nicely staged and performed Berlin tunes (see “Redeeming Qualities” below), the movie’s sole point of interest for film fanatics is the chance to watch a handful of little-seen cinematic performers — Merman (primarily a Broadway star), Gaynor (primarily a voiceover singer), and Ray (primarily a musician) — onscreen; but the vehicle they’re given is such a clunker that it’s really not worth their efforts, or ours.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Monroe, O’Connor, and Gaynor performing “Lazy”
- Merman and Gaynor performing “A Sailor’s Not a Sailor (‘Til a Sailor’s Been Tattooed)”
No; feel free to skip this one unless you’re a true Monroe completist.