The Gang’s All Here Screen 13 articles

The Gang’s All Here

1943

The Gang’s All Here Poster
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    The Nation: James Agee
    December 18, 1943 |

    The film highlights Alice Faye singing "No Love, No Nothing," as torturing a piece of torching as the war has evolved, but is mainly made up of Busby Berkeley's paroxysmic production numbers, which amuse me a good deal. There is one routine with giant papier-mâché bananas, cutting to thighs, then feet, then rows of toes, which deserves to survive in every case-book of blatant film surreptition for the next century.

  • It's nothing less than Busby Berkeley's "Lola Montes," the ultimate expression of a very graceful talent at work on often witless material... The problem [with the good-bad movie] for the conscientious critic is how to acknowledge the badness without seeming to condescend to the goodness. To ignore the badness is to indulge the hyperbolic hysterics of the publicists. To rationalize the badness away is to make it one of the constituents of the goodness. "The Gang's All Here" is a case in point.

  • This movie has a lot of so-bad-they’re-awful moments, but you can’t help but laugh. This is not a good musical, but it is still a must-see. You won’t really believe it until you see it for yourself.

  • Busby Berkeley's most audacious film (1943)—an exploration of the possibilities of movement and color that moves into the realm of pure abstraction. The sexual symbolism is at its most blatant (what can you say about a film that features 60 girls waving gigantic bananas?), and Berkeley's tendency to disembody reaches its apotheosis when the heads of all the principals float about on a field of amber and gold.

  • All the players in this overstuffed extravaganza, including a crooning Benny Goodman and an impossibly leggy Charlotte Greenwood as a jiving Westchester matron, give jaw-dropping turns as, in the words of one character, "tenderized ham." But it's Miranda's show, whether she's embellishing American slang ("You are here to kick up some more heels, huh?") or popping out from a cornucopia of leafy produce for her first song and dance.

  • Lavish femininity meets phallic worship in the movie's memorable banana dance with Carmen Miranda. It's sex scene as extravaganza, with a cast of dozens. No one got away with more than Berkeley. Though actually mounted on a crane, the tilting, lurching camera throughout the film feels personally (and drunkenly) held by Berkeley himself.

  • Berkeley had been enduring a dull period at MGM when Fox borrowed him for “The Gang’s All Here,” and his built-up resentment against MGM’s conservative aesthetics exploded in several audaciously conceived and boldly executed production numbers... Where a contemporary movie like “Speed Racer” has the frictionless facility of a video game, “The Gang’s All Here” seems like an ingeniously designed vintage pinball machine: a triumph of mechanical engineering, not electronics.

  • As someone whose delight in Gang is practically inexhaustible, I took the release of a newly remastered DVD version of the film (released June 17 as part of Fox Home Entertainment’s “Carmen Miranda Collection”) as an opportunity to look for moments within that might pass muster with a genuine Surrealist.

  • Time and again, you can’t believe what you’re witnessing: Berkeley’s camera swoops and soars at seemingly impossible trajectories through crowds of extras; Miranda models an expansive fruit headdress; Benny Goodman and His Orchestra perform a hilarious novelty song that encapsulates the film’s fuck-it-all nature (“Paducah, Paducah, / If you wanna, you can rhyme it with bazooka”). But nothing can prepare you for the literally kaleidoscopic finale.

  • In the best tradition of surrealism, the story is just a device that lets the real movie in. Namely, the exhilaration of casting aside any pretense at naturalism—the wildest production design captured in the most hallucinogenic Technicolor this side of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. They really don't make 'em like they used to.

  • This movie is as glorious a piece of loony escapism as exists. Berkeley’s kaleidoscopic imagination runs riot. Talented, butterscotch-voiced Alice Faye was at her zenith; Carmen Miranda stops the show with “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat;” Charlotte Greenwood could still kick high enough to knock out an overhead light; Edward Everett Horton was still playing an improbably lustful stuffed-shirt. All this, plus The Disembodied Head of Eugene Pallette.

  • In the finale, the characters kaleidoscopically dissolve into an erotic whirl of color, presenting personality as merely the human face of inhuman forces. The blend of patriotic sentiment and ecstatic frenzy suggests that the freedom for which Sergeant Mason and his cohorts fight is, above all, sexual.

  • Berkeley makes no attempt to hide, or even downplay, the glorious Technicolor fabrication of The Gang’s All Here. From its very first scene, as an apparent bit of dramatic action is revealed to be an elaborate stage production, which then, in turn, detaches from the platform and enters the audience, the wall between illusion and actuality comes joyously crumbling down. . . . we’re all part of the show when it comes to this 1943 musical comedy, accepting and delighting in its escapist frivolity.

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