Gaily, Gaily
Film poster
Directed byNorman Jewison
Screenplay byAbram S. Ginnes
Based onnovel by
Ben Hecht
Produced byNorman Jewison
StarringBeau Bridges
Brian Keith
George Kennedy
Hume Cronyn
Melina Mercouri
CinematographyRichard H. Kline
Edited byByron W. Brandt
Ralph E. Winters
Music byHenry Mancini
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 16, 1969 (1969-12-16)
(New York City)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million[1][2]
Box office$1 million (domestic rentals)[1]

Gaily, Gaily (released in the United Kingdom as Chicago, Chicago) is a 1969 American comedy film directed by Norman Jewison.[3] It is a fictionalized adaptation of a 1963 memoir of the same name by Ben Hecht and stars Beau Bridges, Brian Keith, George Kennedy, Hume Cronyn and Melina Mercouri.

The film featured two songs sung by Mercouri with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman set to Henry Mancini's music.[4]


Set in 1910, the film's main character is Ben Harvey (patterned after Ben Hecht): serious about seeing the world, he leaves his home for Chicago, where he meets a woman named Lil, who in reality is the madam of the bordello Ben mistakes for a boarding house. He also is friendly with Adeline, one of the prostitutes. While he tries to find work, Ben encounters other people, including a hard drinking reporter named Sullivan, plus two other men, Grogan and Johanson, who are involved in shady doings in city government. Suspecting corruption, both Harvey and Sullivan decide to investigate.



Director Norman Jewison wanted to film on location in Chicago, but found the city too modern for the film's setting: "Chicago has some nice, old streets, but behind every one of them there’s a 70 story skyscraper," he said. Exteriors instead were shot in Milwaukee, where modern skyscrapers were less prevalent, during June and July 1968.[5] The North American title comes from a poem by the Canadian poet, Bliss Carman: "Oh but life went gayly, gayly,/In the house of Idiedaily!/There were always throats to sing/Down the riverbanks with spring."[6]


Margot Kidder as the prostitute Adeline

The film holds a score of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 5 reviews.[7]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a movie of great and exuberant charm, one that pays homage to the classic conventions of American farce by defining them with nostalgia and cinematic wit."[8] Variety declared it "a lushly staged, handsomely produced, largely unfunny comedy. There are a few bright spots, and a certain segment of the audience may find the film amusing, naughty and risque."[9] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, "A good subject, a charming plot, and not too bad a script (by Abram S. Ginnes) have been lost along the way in this overproduced period re-creation that is only moderately entertaining. The director, Norman Jewison, tries hard, but he just doesn't have the feeling for Hecht's Chicago; he uses huge mobs and big locations, but the whole movie seems to be on a musical-comedy stage."[10] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that it "is paled by Hecht's writings, but it stands well ahead of many films, as fine entertainment that will have you laughing."[11] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "a delightful comedy" with "most persuasive" performances.[12] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "By all rights, the material should be great on film, but Jewison, stymied by either a lack of wit or a desire to be too ingratiating, gets the least interesting effect possible. This 'Gaily, Gaily' is a bumptious family comedy rather than the uninhibited but poignant elegy to youth and recreation of a vanished era that Hecht had in mind."[13] David Pirie of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "The script here is a fairly predictable period romp, based loosely on Ben Hecht's novel and only very sporadically funny. Even more disappointing, despite a reasonably distinguished cast and Jewison's proven ability with actors, is that there is barely only one really enjoyable performance in the whole film: only Brian Keith, as a shamelessly unscrupulous and sentimental Irish newsman, is fully successful, and he provides nearly all the film's best comedy."[14]


The film was nominated for three Academy Awards:[15][16]


  1. ^ a b Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 162, ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 193
  3. ^ "Gaily, Gaily". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
  4. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (May 3, 1969). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 74. ((cite book)): |author= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ "When Hollywood Came to Milwaukee: 'Gaily, Gaily' Filmed Here in 1968". Milwaukee Magazine. March 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  6. ^ Norman Jewison, (2004) This Terrible Business has been Good To Me, Thomas Dunne-St. Martin's Press, p. 270.
  7. ^ "Gaily, Gaily". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 17, 1969). "Screen: Nostalgia Warms 'Gaily, Gaily'". The New York Times. 62.
  9. ^ "Film Reviews: Gaily, Gaily". Variety. December 3, 1969. 3.
  10. ^ Kael, Pauline (December 20, 1969). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 70.
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene (January 30, 1970). "'Gaily, Gaily': a bawdy comedy — but not a lesson in history". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 13.
  12. ^ Thomas, Kevin (December 16, 1969). "'Gaily, Gaily' Joins Comedy With Nostalgia". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1, 24.
  13. ^ Arnold, Gary (February 24, 1970). "'Gaily, Gaily': Corny, Corny". The Washington Post. B10.
  14. ^ Pirie, David (April 1970). "Chicago, Chicago". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 37 (435): 71.
  15. ^ "The 42nd Academy Awards (1970) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "NY Times: Gaily, Gaily". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2008.