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There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Musical | 6 January 1955 (Uruguay)
2:45 | Trailer

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Molly and Terry Donahue, plus their three children, are The Five Donahues. Son Tim meets hat-check girl Vicky and the family act begins to fall apart.


Walter Lang


Phoebe Ephron (screenplay), Henry Ephron (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Ethel Merman ... Molly Donahue
Donald O'Connor ... Tim Donahue
Marilyn Monroe ... Vicky Parker
Dan Dailey ... Terrance Donahue
Johnnie Ray Johnnie Ray ... Steve Donahue
Mitzi Gaynor ... Katy Donahue
Richard Eastham ... Lew Harris
Hugh O'Brian ... Charles Gibbs
Frank McHugh ... Eddie Dugan
Rhys Williams ... Father Dineen
Lee Patrick ... Marge
Eve Miller ... Hatcheck Girl
Robin Raymond ... Lillian Sawyer
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ed Oliver Ed Oliver ... Bandleader (as Eddie Oliver)


Molly and Terry Donahue, plus their three children, are The Five Donahues. Son Tim meets hat-check girl Vicky and the family act begins to fall apart.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


With Love and Kisses from 20th Century-Fox...Straight from the Shoulder, Right from the Heart Comes...The Musicavalcade and the Personal Story of the Greatest Business on Earth!


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

6 January 1955 (Uruguay) See more »

Also Known As:

Irving Berlin's There's No Business Like Show Business See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (optical prints)| 4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Recording) (magnetic prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Ethel Merman had no objection when Marilyn Monroe was added to the cast, telling a friend, "Hell, she's the one we need to sell the picture." However, Merman chafed at Monroe's lack of professionalism, including her constant tardiness and her over-reliance on her acting coach, Natasha Lytess, instead of director Walter Lang. Mitzi Gaynor, who played Merman's daughter in the film, found ways to break the tension. "Whenever Marilyn wouldn't come out of her dressing room, I gave Ethel a wink, hinting that something naughty was going on in there. Of course that wasn't true, but if Ethel thought maybe some hanky-panky was going on, she could enjoy the situation." See more »


In the "Heatwave" number, Marilyn Monroe accidentally pokes her finger in the eye of a dancer standing between the branches of a prop tree. Its pretty obvious and more so on the DVD in slow motion. The dancer jerks his head and looks down, but otherwise stays in character and continues with the number. Then Marilyn performs a twirl, sticks her head between the branches of the tree and gives him a kiss. The kiss may have been part of the choreography because she kisses another dancer before this. But it's possible it was an impromptu apology on Marilyn's part to make up for the eye poke. See more »


Molly Donahue: [speaking of their children] I want them to have an education, a real education. They have to learn arithmetic and spelling and geography.
Terrance Donahue: You never went past the sixth grade. And it was probably the fourth grade, because you said it was the sixth.
Molly Donahue: My age is the only thing I lie about, and I don't add on, I take off.
Terrance Donahue: All right, the sixth grade, but there's nothing wrong with your arithmetic. You can whistle 'Mandy', do an 'Off to Buffalo', and count the house at the same time, and tell me within...
See more »


Referenced in ABC Stage 67: The Legend of Marilyn Monroe (1966) See more »


Alexander's Ragtime Band
Written by Irving Berlin
Performed by Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Donald O'Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, and chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

BIG musical with a highly contrived plot
19 June 2006 | by III_Max_IIISee all my reviews

this is a film for people who love big song and dance numbers (as well as Marilyn Monroe and Mitzi Gaynor fans). it almost is 'pre- reminiscent' of Bollywood in how it moves from one song to the next, with only the most meager connections between song and storyline. the storyline itself is thin enough, that in slow moments i was struck by how contrived the plot was. the purpose of this movie seemed to be to have several Irving Berlin songs choreographed into vaudeville-like song and dance numbers. what better way to do this than by following the lives of a couple of old vaudeville stars who met, married, had babies, and stayed on the road all the while. it all leads to the climactic scene (here's the spoiler, if this film can be said to have one) of ethel merman paying homage to herself and her role as Annie Oakley by singing 'there's no business like show business'. pay attention to how they managed to jigger the storyline such that ethel got her solo for that number (remembering that the family had five members plus a confounding love interest at that point, and the script writers had to somehow get all of them but ethel off the stage). another number, where johnny ray sings a gospel tune, has 'vehicle' written all over it. and as mentioned by the reviewer above, Marilyn Monroe was hot enough property that she was given two 'vehicle' numbers--although her character does not appear to have been penciled into an otherwise completed script, as suggested above. Marilyn's character is critical to the unfolding of the plot, such as it is. notice also how the script writers cleverly played upon Marilyn's reputation for a breathy, contrived diction.

so if you like BIG musicals with huge song and dance production numbers and little plot, this is for you (9 or 10 stars). if you do not, skip this one (1 or 2 stars, this is a bomb). averaged out to about a 6, but really more likely a 'love it' or 'hate it' movie. but then again . . .

there was something in the 'exposed ducts' construction that made me curious enough about how and why it was made the way it was, that i looked up the answers to many of my questions. were the songs composed specifically for this, or a jumble of odds and ends? (the latter). why was ethel merman given the climatic solo? (as mentioned, she was reprising a big number from her signature role as Annie Oakley in 'Annie Get Your Gun', which was one of the most successful Broadway shows ever at the time). who was that guy who played Steve Donahue, and please explain the strange juxtaposition of his commanding stage presence when singing, and that effete concealment of androgyny when not--as well as the 'cast-to-type' plot twist that sends him into the clergy . . . ? (look up a biography of johnny ray). so, if you want a peek into the movie-making process at the tail end of the studio-system era, this movie has a barely concealed super-structure that reveals how a hoped-for 'blockbuster' was constructed in those days.

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