It’s an all American story of boy meets girl, boy tours the borscht belt with girl, boy plays the Hippodrome. Hijinks ensue! Meet the Donahue’s! Vaudeville royalty- they’ve toured everywhere that has a train station. They are a triple threat and Dan Dailey has excellent gluts! This is a favorite film of mine- the music is excellent in the shower, the cast is great and the melodrama- delish!
Here come the little Donahue’s! The family grows like corn!
Soon the Donahues are the 5 Donahues and the kids are touring like indentured Osmonds!
But Mama doesn’t want the kids to grow up backstage with riffraff- helping fan dancers re-glue their pasties and of course, no one ever wants their child around clowns, gees! So they decide to put them in a fancy school while the parents return to the 2 a day! But they are miserable without their parents and its no wonder- they have greasepaint in their blood, I tells you! So mama stays home while Dan-Daddy tours. I’m sure he hates it.
But as it does in musicals, time marches on and the kids graduate, skip college and return to the stage!
**Costume thought- Ethel is pretty much still holding her own here- as long as they keep Mitzi covered- the nip waist is a good look for a women who is part singing walrus. It’s good that the kids grew up quickly in the film- because the next hour is dedicated to showing us how talented they all are in a 4 hour medley of Alexanders Rag time Band.
Oh thanks Irving Berlin- I can’t get that ‘raggy beat’ out of my feet now. Meet Tim-Donald OConnor- who always makes me think he’s wearing a Jack Lalane bodysuit under his clothes. He’s like a tiny Fred Astaire. Or maybe Fred Astaires accountant…….
Here’s Katy! Who has the best costumes! Oy! That’s tuxedo’d lump of brylcreem in the back is Steve. In the Osmonds, he’s Jimmy. In the Jonas’s- he’s Frankie. In the Cowsills, he’s the one with the triangle. I could go on. He’s the singer Johnny Ray- who I always thought was just really method in this, but I’m thinking I’m not the only one who didn’t feel his talents.
Sigh. Let’s get back to this musical number death march. Forgive me 80’s kids, but I just have to.
Ok, so where are we? One more chorus!
Everyone back from concessions? All right. The Donahues are riding high. They have fame, the respect of their theatre peers and cash to burn. Ma and Pa Donahue consider retiring since the kids are all working. But not all is well! Tim has too much time on his hands and also too many chorus girls! He’s out all night drinking and neglecting his glut exercises! That is not Donahue behavior!
One evening while escorting a bottle blonde after the show- Tim gets fresh with the coat check girl- enter Vickie! She gives him no shoulder (with or without tulle) and sends him along.
Vickie is too busy for his tapping shenanigans! She knows a producer is in the audience and she has bribed the manager to let her perform! she’s a cunning, but good-hearted gal.
It’s quite a frock. I’m pretty sure Debbie AND Todd Reynolds tried it on at least once.
Vickie is a crowd pleaser! The producer doesn’t mind her knocking over his ovaltine one bit!
Tim tries his way backstage and she re-rebuffs him! She’s getting a spot in a new show with the famous 5 , um…some Donahues! Untalented Steve- that Jaw with feet has finally come clean to the family. He is
gay and running a bed and breakfast with Rory Calhoun becoming a priest! Yay! No more singing! Now here’s a new twist! Vickie meets Tim at rehearsal and oh my, she didn’t know he was a Donahue and now she’s all kinds of contrite. He doesn’t hold a grudge, he’s still seeing that dress. They make a truce- which he hopes to seal with nookie. He gets a handshake.This drewss is pretty spiffy too.
Vickie is a hard worker and knows she can’t rest on her laurels like Tim!
She doesn’t respect his laziness. Or his sweater vests.
Katy is not getting enough screen time here- Mitzi Gaynor is so talented and her ‘dance togs are splendiferous!
Tim is starting to think that Vickie is moving in on her director- but really it’s Katy who is dating the boss- they’ll be Steve’s first wedding. AWWWWWWWW!
Finally Vickie relents and goes to dinner with Tim.
They have a lovely time and she has a dress with what looks like mums made out of angry birds.
She isn’t ready to put anything but her career first. But they have sparks!
But it’s 1954 and that just makes her look like a bitch. You know how that goes. The show goes on! The Donahues plan their big number in the show with new costumes and pants that sort of fit.
As the French say, ‘Aw, Hell no.’ Vickie has the same idea! But with more dancers and umbilical area.
Wow. Vickie must really be talented! The producers went for her version of Heat wave over the more seasoned theatrical craft of the Donahues! Huh. How strange.
Tim smooths it over with the fam. Note: The Heatwave number is very breathy/swoony/panty. When I saw it before puberty I thought she was having an asthma attack. Movie lore states that DiMaggio saw this being filmed, knew she didn’t have any respiratory issues and was very upset. He left the set.
Tim is getting tired of playing second fiddle to the show- or to the producer he suspects is also a bit of a fiddler! Vickie keeps him waiting while she argues show matters one time too many! She can’t stand her purple dress- heliotrope my aunt Fanny! She won’t wear purple! It’ll be in her next contact with the brown m&m clause.
Tim gets drunk (again) and has a musical number. Like you do- when you’re Donahue. Vickie finds him and harsh words are exchanged. He thinks she’s using that couch on stage a bit more than the script dictates! She tells him to go tap off.
Tim taps off. He gets in an accident with a chorus girl and scares the parental Donahues!
Dad Donahue gives Tim a serious jawing and tells him he’s not a kid anymore and no one appreciates his crap. I paraphrase. Tim runs off and leaves the show and everyone hanging.
Folks, I searched like crazy for a better picture of Mitzi’s killer frock. It’s green and lovely. I also have great respect for the matron of a cosmopolitan cathouse business that
Dan Daily Ethel Merman is wearing. I need to watch the maid in something like that.
Hey, hey- you know what? The show must go on! In a true Lucy eating a ham on rye moment, Mom Donahue announces that SHE will take Tims place in the show- she’s always practicing with Katy! Um, yeah. Ok. Anything- but lets keep her out of the Heatwave number.
This is the YMCA number:
Dad Donahue spends his time searching for Tim in every alley, dog track and night club. The war starts and Father Donahue (the untalented one) joins as a chaplain. Vickie tries to find out about Tim and make peace with the Donahue matriarch, but no go. Won’t even share a cab with her in the rain.
Months go by- no Tim! But the Hippodrome is closing and they need a
hippo Donahue reunion to make the show perfect! Katy makes a daring play to get everyone back together by having them all share a dressing room.
Vickie and Mom Donahue have a heart to heart! She appeals to her as a girl without the Donahue connections that has to fight her way to the top! She loves Tim!
This is so dramatic! Almost the whole family reunited, except for Dad and the stray Tim! But the show must go on! Ethel must perform- tho her heart is breaking! Psst- Ethel- get on stage!
What is this? It’s Dad and he’s found the Prodigal Donahue! He’s been hiding with the sailors!
Come on kids! It’s time for the finale!
Sniff, sniff. There really is no business like show business- it’s like no business I know.
Pan out, pan out!
photo credits: little me.