Day and MacRae: A forgotten screen team

Doris Day.

The sunny blond who can brighten a day with a smile.

On her birthday, I wanted to remember one of my favorite leading men who starred in five films with her.

But I don’t mean Rock Hudson.

Day and Hudson joined in the late 1950s to create one of Hollywood’s most memorable screen teams.

The two starred in three films together: “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961) and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964).

But before Rock entered into the picture, Day was teamed five times with another tall, dark and handsome actor-but this one could sing.

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

Gordon MacRae starred in five films with Day while she was under contract at Warner Brothers. Day was under contract at Warner from 1948 to 1955 and made 17 pictures, according to her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.” (111)

“With pictures assigned to me one after the other, I found myself performing with the same Warner Brothers actors over and over again,” she wrote. “Three pictures with Jack Carson, five with Gordon MacRae, two with Ronald Reagen, four with Gene Nelson. A major studio was really a big repertory company that constantly shuffled its employees around so as to keep them busy as much of the time as possible.” (111)

"Tea for Two" (1950)

“Tea for Two” (1950)

Her first movie with MacRae was “Tea for Two” (1950).

“It was my first movie with Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson, two cheerful, amusing young men,” she wrote.

Tea for Two” is based off the play “No, No Nanette.” Day, as Nanette, bets her uncle $25,000, played by S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, that she can say to no to everything for 48 hours. If she wins, she can back her boyfriend’s Broadway show.

Of course there are misunderstandings along the way and affect her romance with MacRae.

Doris Day plays a tom boy in "On Moonlight Bay" before she goes on her first date with McCrae

Doris Day plays a tom boy in “On Moonlight Bay” before she goes on her first date with McCrae

“In those Warner Brothers years, the pictures I enjoyed the most (not the scripts but the fun I had making them) were the nostalgic musicals-Tea for Two, Lullaby of Broadway, On Moonlight Bay, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Calamity Jane,” she wrote. “I liked the old songs, and the good old times that those films captured. I guess I’m really an old-fashioned girl at heart.” (117)

Of those films Day listed, Tea for Two, On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon also starred MacRae as her singing boyfriend. Other films they were in together included  “West Point Story” and “Starlift.”

Prior to his films with Day, MacRae starred in a few forgettable films and two June Haver vehicles. “Tea for Two” was his sixth film. Their last film “By the Light of the Silver Moon” (1953) was followed by “Oklahoma!” (1955)-the film he is remembered for today.
My favorite Day-MacRae films are “On Moonlight Bay” (1951) and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953).

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

The two films are a series based on the Booth Tarkington “Penrod” stories but revolve around the sister Marjorie, played by Day. Set at the early 1900s, Day is a tomboy and starts going on dates with Bill, played by MacRae. At first Bill has big, philosophical ideas, saying marriage is stupid.

The first film ends with Bill going to fight in World War I. The second movie picks up when he returns and follows the dilemma of when the two will get married.

The movies are heartwarming and include antics by Day’s little brother Wesley, played by Billy Grey, and her parents, played by Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp.

Though Day and MacRae are not remembered as a great screen team today, I feel they had great chemistry and their voices blended well in musicals.

MacRae’s personal life may have been stormy in his later years, but he had a sunny, boy next door characteristic that worked well with Day’s persona.

Happy birthday to my favorite actress since I was in eighth grade and who consistently puts a smile on my face.

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8 thoughts on “Day and MacRae: A forgotten screen team

  1. Our family loves Doris Day, as do the grandparents. I saw on facebook that Hallmark is hosting a “Happy Birthday” greetings one can send from their facebook page and they’ll make sure they get to Ms. Day. Enjoyed your post!

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  2. I really like “Love Me Or Leave Me”, a much darker musical. She had such a great figure, it was shown to good advantage in that!

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  3. I agree – Day and MacRae had great chemistry together on screen. They made it seem like their movies were a lot of fun to make.

    Doris Day can do no wrong in my eyes. She has so much talent!

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