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Gaily, Gaily (1969)

To escape sinful impulses, Ben Harvey, a callow youth, leaves his small town for Chicago in 1910. A pickpocket promptly relieves him of his money, and he nearly starves before Queen Lil ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (novel)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Francis Sullivan
Axel P. Johanson
Tim Grogan
The Governor
Lilah Letterby
Dr. Lazarus
Joan Huntington ...
Merie Earle ...
Claudia Bryar ...
Virgil Harvey


To escape sinful impulses, Ben Harvey, a callow youth, leaves his small town for Chicago in 1910. A pickpocket promptly relieves him of his money, and he nearly starves before Queen Lil takes him under her wing, gives him a room in her high-class bordello, and gets him a job at a newspaper. He's so sweet and dumb, he thinks Lil's is a boarding house. He's soon caught up in an electoral struggle between a secretly corrupt reformer and an openly corrupt councilman. Can Ben expose corruption or will he be caught up in allure of power? An alcoholic investigative reporter and the bordello's ingénue try to help him grow up. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Think of All of Life's Pleasures. Double Them. And Live... See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief nudity/sexual content | See all certifications »




Release Date:

23 March 1970 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Chicago, Chicago  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Producer Walter Mirisch originally planned for Avs Gardner to play the Melina Mercouri part of the brothel madame. See more »


In a seduction scene, Melodie Johnson tears open Beau Bridges' shirt, revealing a smooth chest. They are interrupted by George Kennedy who chases Bridges out of the house. When Bridges turns to shout back at Kennedy, his shirt is still unbuttoned but there is hair all over his chest. See more »


Francis Sullivan: Ahh, he's stone cold dead.
See more »


Referenced in The Directors: The Films of Norman Jewison (1999) See more »


There's Enough to Go Around
Lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman
Music by Henry Mancini
Performed by Melina Mercouri (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Promising period comedy doesn't satisfy
5 September 2013 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

At first GAILY, GAILY (1969) seems to have a lot going for it. An excellent cast, a fine director, a script based on a novel by the great screenwriter Ben Hecht, a unique historical setting, and a loose comedic tone. But the story fizzles out halfway through as the trajectory of the plot is never quite high enough.

Beau Bridges plays a naive young man whose "evil" sexual impulses drive him away from his innocent small-town home and into the bustling city in search of his place in the world. There he is taken in by kind-hearted Melina Mercouri (TOPKAPI - 1964), who runs a brothel, although Bridges is too thickheadedly innocent to make that connection (even after meeting all the female "boarders"). Mercouri hooks him up with a job at the newspaper, working with slick sensationalist reporter Brian Keith (in an Irish brogue).

George Kennedy and Hume Cronyn play rival corrupt politicians, with Wilfrid Hyde-White (MY FAIR LADY - 1964) as the corrupt governor. Margot Kidder (SUPERMAN - 1978) debuts as a beautiful young prostitute who sees Bridges as a knight in shining armor who can rescue her from a life she doesn't want.

Bridges eventually has his eyes opened to the sin and corruption in the world and the climax involves a free-for-all scramble to obtain and exploit Cronyn's little black ledger, which details all the political bribery in the city.

The 1910 Chicago setting gives the film an interesting flavor, and the script is full of irreverent comedy and some (quite literal) gallows humor. (At its wildest, the film calls to mind the even zanier British comedy THE WRONG BOX - 1966.) There are flashes of Hecht's "The Front Page" in the scenes involving the newspaper.

One wonders how much Beau Bridges's character ("Ben Harvey", an idealistic young writer) is a stand-in for Ben Hecht himself. Hecht started out as a Chicago newspaperman before becoming a successful playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. The film is almost over-the-top in its comedy, but the original novel must have been to some degree autobiographical.

It would have been nice to see more of Bridges and Keith at the newspaper after Keith takes the youngster under his wing. The movie could have shown Bridges become cynical with his work, ultimately choosing between a dirty career as a newspaperman or a more fulfilling one as an independent writer. But this film opts for a smaller payoff. At the end it feels like something is missing, or as if the story could continue. But the film is content to end where it does and hope viewers had fun along the way.

As it is, GAILY, GAILY is a lot of fun. The cast is splendid and the characters colorful. Melina Mercouri even sings a song. The black comedy is a hoot and the old-time setting gives the film personality. One just can't help thinking the movie could've been more.

Directed by Norman Jewison (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT - 1967).


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