The story chronicles some twenty years in the lives of the Donahue family, headed by Terence Donahue (Dan Dailey) and Molly Donahue (Ethel Merman). Two of the couple's three grown children - Tim (Donald O'Connor) and Katy (Mitzi Gaynor) carry on the family tradition, while the third, Steve (Johnny Ray), decides to become a priest. There are a few tense moments when O'Connor falls in love with Vicky Hoffman (Marilyn Monroe) and loses all sense of perspective.
Marilyn Monroe did not want to make this film; when she turned the part down, the studio tested Sheree North for the role. Monroe finally agreed after Fox promised her the lead in Billy Wilder's screen version of the Broadway hit The Seven Year Itch.
Marilyn Monroe's voice on the Decca soundtrack album "There's No Business Like Show Business" was replaced by singer Dolores Gray because Monroe's voice was under contract to another record company that would not release the rights for use on the album.
During the filming of the scene where Donald O'Connor and Marilyn Monroe were kissing, there were over 1,000 onlookers who had drifted over from other sets.
"Anything You Can Do" (music and lyrics by Irving Berlin), sung by Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey, was cut from this movie. The song as filmed still exists.
Marilyn Monroe's husband Joe DiMaggio was less than delighted with his wife’s exhibitionism and his pressure tactics began to get to Marilyn. On one occasion, she confided to dress designer Billy Travilla that she felt as if she was loosing her mind. “I don’t want to be seen this way”, she told him. “If I go crazy, please take me away and hide me”.
Gaudy (and seemingly interminable) hokum about a show-biz family, built around catalog of Irving Berlin songs. Entertaining if not inspired, with several expensive numbers designed to fill the wide screen. Merman and Dailey are fine, Marilyn's at her sexiest, and O'Connor is in top form throughout. Then there's Johnnie Ray deciding to become a priest.... Reviewed by: Leonard Maltin of Turner Classic Movies.
Like Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), 20th Century-Fox's There's No Business Like Show Business is a "catalogue" film, its thinnish plot held together by an itinerary of Irving Berlin tunes. Reviewed by: Bosley Crowther of The New York Times.