Ben Hecht’s pseudo-reminiscences of a cub reporter in 1910 Chicago emerges on the screen as a lushly staged, handsomely produced, largely unfunny comedy.
Director-producer Norman Jewison seemingly works on the comedic theory that nothing succeeds like excess. The very basic decision to play Gaily, Gaily broadly as possible, lay it on with a trowel, divorces the film from the realities of 1910 Chicago.
Based on Hecht’s book Gaily, Gaily the situations and characters are unbelievable, and because they are, they are unfunny. The paradox is that Jewison sets the stage and Richard Kline photographs it with a lover’s eye for the richness, earthiness, brawling vitality and raw meat of the era. The sets, costuming and resurrected locations in Chicago and Milwaukee are a glorious period pageant.
1969: Nominations: Best Costume Design, Art Direction, Sound