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  Gang's All Here, The Utterly BananasBuy this film here.
Year: 1943
Director: Busby Berkeley
Stars: Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Phil Baker, Benny Goodman, Eugene Pallette, Charlotte Greenwood, Edward Everett Horton, Tony De Marco, James Ellison, Sheila Ryan, Dave Willcock
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Brazil... that is where the ship that shares its name hails from and has brought the singer Dorita (Carmen Miranda) to New York to perform in one of the city's finest nightclubs. For we're not at the docks at all, but in that club, watching Dorita's act as two new visitors arrive, the enthusiastic Mr Mason (Eugene Pallette) and his companion Peyton Potter (Edward Everett Horton) who is a strictly business type of chap and cannot contain his worries at being in such an establishment. As it happens, Mason's son Andy (James Ellison) is there, too, and highly amused to see this pair, but as he will be sent off to fight for his country soon, what he really wants is a sweetheart...

The Gang's All Here was famed choreographer Busby Berkeley's chance to show off his flair in full Technicolor, and he seized the opportunity with both hands to make one of the most notoriously over the top musicals ever produced. The plot, screenwritten by Walter Bullock, hardly mattered and if you were inclined to watch this kind of thing, just the right side of tacky, then you may well find the romantic interest merely an obstacle to your fix of more tuneful, Terpsichorean entertainment. But even so, for a film that was half wartime propaganda, it still commands the attention.

Alice Faye is the star, and it's her character Edie who Andy meets at a dance for servicemen, most of whom it is pointed out are lonely and missing home - and girlfriends. Andy is not exactly laudable in his efforts to chase after the showgirl, because he is already attached to childhood friend and daughter of Peyton Vivian (Sheila Ryan), but while this provides some soul searching for Edie as the story progresses, it's all wrapped up with such absurd convenience (and speed, for that matter) that you'll be wondering what all that fuss was about.

Better to enjoy those numbers, and with Carmen Miranda as the co-star you can be guaranteed some fun. The film's most famous sequence sees her perform "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat", replete with Carmen in the expected headgear and plenty of dancers holding huge bananas which they just about get away with not making it look too suggestive. Well, maybe not quite, as Berkeley got into trouble with the censors over it and the film was banned in Carmen's native Brazil. What did they expect? They should have stuck to letting her play the xylophone with the fruit... OK, maybe that's not any more tasteful.

But who needs good taste when you can have good bad taste? Particularly when it's as mind-bendingly showy as it is here. Despite this, and overall artificiality of the production, there are a couple of moments of sincerity provided by Faye. This dual nature of tone is best seen where she is asked to sing by Andy, whereupon she asks him if he can hear the orchestra. He wonders where the music is coming from, but she dismisses his concerns with the explanation that he should use his imagination and then launches into a lovely rendition of "A Journey to a Star". The whole shebang climaxes with a polka dot-obsessed finale which rivals the ending to 2001: A Space Odyssey for psychedelic weirdness, including the whole cast getting to sing a line or two (who really wanted to hear foghorn-voiced Pallette croon?!). The Gang's All Here may be vulgar and garish, but fans of purest camp will be in heaven.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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