Don't bother with the plot. Just fast forward to the bananas.
Mar 29, 2011
The only problem with The Gangs All Here is the plot. It keeps getting in the way of the production numbers. Busby Berkeley manages to shoehorn four major numbers in the just the first 30 minutes, and he doesn't let up much after that. These numbers include everything Busby Berkeley could think of, from Benny Goodman swinging "Minnie's in the Money" to Alice Faye singing "No Love, No Nothin'" to some bizarre extravaganzas featuring lots of thighs, bananas and Carmen Miranda. You'll want to hit the fast forward button at regular intervals to get past the dull parts between them.
The story is corny, the romantic misunderstanding is...yawn... and the acting is often weak (James Ellison as the male lead) or prissily unfunny (Edward Everett Horton). Still, the Technicolor is as garish as you could want and the songs by Harry Warren and Leo Robin work well.
There's little time to think of anything except the numbers and what Berkeley does with them. Says one film commentator, "[Berkeley] was a dance director who couldn't dance. In a Berkeley production it was the camera that danced." I'm not sure anyone could watch "The Lady with the Tutti Frutti Hat" and not be in awe of how Berkeley not only made use of all those chorines with the giant fruit, but how he kept the action going using his camera in intricately plotted movement. If you watch the Tutti Frutti number a second time, see how many of the chorus dancers you can spot wearing grim determination, not smiles, on their faces as they lug those giant bananas around and struggle to hit their marks while the camera swoops and turns.
The story? Alice Faye is a showgirl. James Ellison is a soldier, the son of a wealthy family soon off to the Pacific. They fall for each other, but he has a sort of girl friend. His parents and the girl's parents think they should get hitched. Will Alice and Jim work things out? They do after approximately 100 minutes. Among the relatives and friends are Carmen Miranda, Eugene Pallette, Charlotte Greenwood and Horton.
There are a number of reasons to watch this movie, especially if you're interested in Busby Berkeley. It turned out to be his swan song as a major force in the movies. For me, the production numbers are a lot of fun, but the best reason is that classic song by Warren and Robin that Alice Faye introduces...
No love, no nothin' Until my baby comes home. No fun with no one, As long as baby must roam.
I promised him I'd wait for him Till even Hades froze. I'm lonesome, heaven knows, But what I said still goes.
No love, no nothin' And that's a promise I'll keep. No sir, no nothin' I'm getting plenty of sleep.
My heart's on strike, And tho' its like An empty honeycomb, No love, no sir, no nothin' Till my baby comes home.
This became one of America's great songs of longing during WWII. If you want to hear more of them, you can't do better than listening to Jo Stafford on her CD, G.I. Jo - Songs of World War II.