meaning and origin of the phrase ‘all-singing, all-dancing’

The colloquial adjectival phrase all-singing, all-dancing, also all-dancing, all-singing, is used, especially of a device, to mean having a large number and variety of impressive features, often with the pejorative implication that their usefulness or effectiveness is exaggerated.

This phrase originated in formulas such as all talking, all singing, all dancing and all talking, all dancing, all singing used in the early days of sound cinema in advertisements for large and expensive musical productions having many singing and dancing performers.

The earliest instance of those formulas that I have found if from an advertisement for The Broadway Melody, published in the Daily News (New York City, N.Y.) of Thursday 7th February 1929 (Hollywood’s first all-talking musical, The Broadway Melody was directed by Harry Beaumont (1888-1966) and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer):

It’s Funny How Advance Reports Herald a Hit—

You hear it everywhere. “The Broadway Melody” is on the tip of every tongue. Never before in the history of the stage or screen has any attraction enjoyed such widespread advance attention and interest. The box-office of the Astor Theatre is the busiest spot on Broadway.
Imagine! “The Broadway Melody” hasn’t opened yet. Its premiere takes place Tomorrow Night. And yet it is being discussed and written about as no other entertainment in all New York.
The word has seeped through from Los Angeles, following the opening of “The Broadway Melody” at Grauman’s magnificent Chinese Theatre last week. Telegraph wires are humming with extraordinary reports from West Coast correspondents of New York papers. Theatrical circles are agog with excitement. Los Angeles is experiencing the most amazing theatre triumph in its history.
What is all the shooting for? Watch!
Tomorrow night New York will witness a revolutionary development in entertainment. All the miracles of the stage, the beauty, the thrill, the drama, have been brought to the Talking Screen in a marvelous production, ALL TALKING, ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING. You cannot know of its wonders until you See with your own eyes and Hear with your own ears!
Get ready, New York, for the thrill of your lifetime. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer proudly presents the Sensation of 1929—THE BROADWAY MELODY.


This advertisement for The Broadway Melody was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) of Monday 25th February 1929:

advertisement for The Broadway Melody - Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio) - 25 Feb. 1929

presents the supreme achievement of the screen
All Talking, All Singing, All Dancing
Marks a Brand New Era in Screen Entertainment

In the Miami Daily News and Metropolis (Miami, Florida) of Wednesday 20th March 1929, The Broadway Melody was advertised as:

Dramatic Sensation!

The phrase all-singing, all-dancing was also used in advertisements for stage productions such as this one, published in The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, California) of Saturday 2nd September 1933:

'all-singing all-dancing' advertisement for stage show - Bakersfield Californian - 2 September 1933


The earliest figurative use of all-singing, all-dancing that I have found is pejorative; it is from the portrait of a London bus conductor, published in the Manchester Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Thursday 9th April 1959:

He was one of those all-singing, all-dancing, all-knowing conductors. All the male passengers were “Guv’nors,” all the females “Ducks,” and with each ticket an excruciating pleasantry was supplied, gratis. He paused in his patter to hold a fellow-employee travelling as a passenger in conversation. “So I said to this bloke, no I can’t tell yer when the next 88 goes to Merton to-night, neither could the inspector if yer arsked ’im, ’cos the 88s don’t go no more to Merton. Larf? Cor . . .!” So he went on, embarrassing his victim and drawing daggered looks from his captive audience.

The second-earliest figurative use that I have found, also pejorative, is from Sharp-Eyed Look at British Animals and Plants, by Alan Bell, a review of Richard Fitter’s book Wild Life in Britain, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) of Wednesday 28th August 1963:

Th. Huxley, the great biologist of the last century, had good words for those men with the sharp eyes, the natural history students, even though their knowledge might be “incomplete and unmethodised.”
In contrast, amateur observers today are mildly despised.
Failing “zoologist” or “botanist” after their name, they lack the full war-paint which is de rigueur for the present all-singing, all-dancing, non-stop science corroboree.

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