Show Business (1944)

Passed   |    |  Comedy, Musical, Romance

Show Business (1944) Poster

A song-and-dance man and his comic partner undergo romantic ups and downs when they team up with a female duo and transition from burlesque to vaudeville.


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21 January 2014 | Bunuel1976
| SHOW BUSINESS (Edwin L. Marin, 1944) ***
Another Leslie Halliwell favourite, this period musical follows the pattern of several others of its ilk – the career from obscurity to popularity, hitting the skids and the climb back to the top of a burlesque/vaudeville troupe (apparently, the former is deemed a low- grade art form and despised by the latter, but there is little to differentiate them in this film and elsewhere!). Incidentally, co-star George Murphy – whom the fall from grace hits the hardest here – had also featured in the very similar (also comparable quality-wise) FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942), where it was Gene Kelly who got on the wrong end of fame and fortune.

The movie under review was actually instigated by comedian Eddie Cantor (who personally produced it): he had had a successful run of star vehicles with Samuel Goldwyn in the 1930s, followed by a couple of well- regarded efforts for other studios later on – Warners' star-studded THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (1943) and this one, made over at RKO (its success even prompted a sequel, named after one of Cantor's best-known tunes i.e. IF YOU KNEW SUSIE {1948}). There is actually an autobiographical element to SHOW BUSINESS, since the character he plays obtains his greatest hit with Cantor's very own "Makin' Whoopee" (which inspired his 1930 star vehicle)! Also on hand is comedienne Joan Davis, whose initial disdain for Cantor grows into a true and almost protective love – frequently breaking the fourth wall to assure the viewer that she cannot help herself; their Cleopatra routine is a hoot!

The film encompasses comedy, songs (notably the standard "It Had To Be You", sung – either alternately or concurrently – by Murphy and love interest Nancy Kelly), romance (the latter broken up by his former partner, in both senses of the word) and nostalgia and, while neither the classic Halliwell deems it to be (conversely, Leonard Maltin rated it a more modest **1/2) nor Cantor's most representative work (that would be ROMAN SCANDALS {1933}), there is no doubt that it offers solid entertainment throughout and, as stated in an after-credits title-card, was conceived primarily as wartime escapism for American audiences, be they at home or abroad fighting.

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