The Gang's All Here (1943) Directed by Busby Berkeley. Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Benny Goodman (103 min.)

Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian Bombshell, is the Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat in The Gang's All Here. This is a movie with very little plot. The small amount of plot there is, is about putting on a show and who the main character (Alice Faye) is going to marry. The only horrible part is the main actor (James Ellison). He is so boring, he has no oomph in him, he looks like a joke next to Carmen Miranda, who is the best.

My favorite part is when Carmen is discussing her investments with Edward Everett Horton. You can't imagine what energy can be put into investments.

The cast includes Benny Goodman and his Orchestra. Benny has got me singing his best song, "Paducah." Carmen even joins in. As for Carmen's best song, take a wild guess. You got it: "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat." Busby Berkeley's banana scene is stupendous. Carmen plays a banana xylophone, and you'd never imagine how bananas sound.

 

Alice Faye is also in the movie. She sings a wonderful song called "The Polka Dot Polka," surrounded by kids. This is the Busby Berkeley film where girls are dancing with neon hula hoops. Coincidentially, the movie begins and ends with disembodied heads.

Note that in the final chorus of "A Journey to a Star" everybody sings a line except the leading man. Even the very minor characters sing one line, but not the leading man. If they wanted his head singing a line they could have dubbed it. It will be one of those lasting questons about the movies.

I love this movie, as will anyone who loves Ladies in Tutti Frutti Hats.

 

Carmen Miranda, director Busby Berkeley and Mickey Rooney (dressed as Carmen Miranda for Babes on Broadway)

 

(Notes by moviediva: I don't think it is a coincidence (as moviediva jr. does) that The Gang's All Here begins and ends with disembodied heads. This is Berkeley at his most abstract, with lines of chorus girls' hands patting the sand in front of other chorus girls' bare feet, and fragmented figures recombining in the mirrors of a kaleidoscope. And, it's Berkeley at his most surreal, too, as giant bananas decend into a ring of giant strawberries and Carmen Miranda's turban elongates to the height of a movie sound stage. Her high, high platform shoes are a special effect in themselves, they were designed and made by Ted Saval...his granddaughter wrote to me and told me so! The leading man is a BIG zero, as moviediva, jr. points out, and Phil Baker, a popular radio star of the day, has a leading role but totally lacks charisma. The older cast members, Eugene Pallette, Charlotte Greenwood and Edward Everett Horton, supply most of the comedy. The Gang's All Here is uneven, (and doesn't measure up to That Night in Rio or Weekend in Havana) but the great musical numbers make it worthwhile. And Benny Goodman sure swings more than Harry James.

 

World War II leather shortages meant that designer Yvonne Wood couldn't find matching shoes for the chorus girls.

 

I recently saw a beautiful dye transfer Technicolor print of The Gang's All Here on the big screen. The intense hues make the film both more real (you can almost reach out and touch the wallpaper) and unreal (all the plants are wired paper). Alice Faye's pompadour hair-do is practically a special effect in itself. The comedy plays well with an audience, especially if they are surprised that Charlotte Greenwood used to be a dancer.

 

Carmen teaching Mickey Rooney how to chicka-chicka boom chick.

 

 

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(Moviediva, jr loved her Marilyn Henry paper doll book of Carmen Miranda, made her own paper doll and copied some of the costumes, and drew others directly from the movies themselves. Photos of Carmen and Mickey Rooney from January, 1942 Silver Screen. Carmen and the chorus from Hollywood Costume Design by David Chierichetti. Color portrait from anonymous movie star scrapbook. The Carmen Miranda Coloring Book was too big for my scanner! The cover costume is from Down Argentine Way, the second one from Greenwich Village, and the third, a flight of fancy?).

c.moviediva2001RevisedSept2002,Feb2005