Christmas Musical Monday: By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)– Musical #174

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Russell Arms, Maria Palmer, Walter ‘PeeWee’ Flannery, Merv Griffin (uncredited)

Plot:
A sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951), the story picks up in 1918 when Bill (MacRae) returns from World War I. Marjorie (Day) is anxious to discuss their wedding plans, as he promised when he left, but Bill doesn’t want to rush into wedlock. This causes a rift in their relationship. Marjorie’s brother Wesley (Gray) is still causing trouble in this film.

Trivia:
-The film is the sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951)
-The fifth pairing of Doris Day and Gordon MacRae. The two starred in five films together.
-Loosely based on Booth Tarkington’s Penrod story
-Leon Ames was dubbed by Ray “Bud” Linn

Gordon MacRae returns home from World War I and Doris Day is ready to get married.

Highlights:
-Mary Wickes giving the introduction
-Thanksgiving sequence
-Christmas sequence

Notable Songs:
-“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” performed by Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames and
Rosemary DeCamp
-“Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee” performed by Doris Day, Gordon MacRae and Russell Arms
-“My Home Town Is a One Horse Town” performed by Gordon MacRae
-“Ain’t We Got Fun” performed by Doris Day and Gordon MacRae
-“Just One Girl” performed by Gordon MacRae

My review:
When it comes to some film sequels, it can be rare that the story flows from the first or that the actors play the same characters. The Gidget series is a good example: All three films had different actresses playing the title role of Gidget.

But in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” -sequel to “On Moonlight Bay“-the lead and supporting characters are all the same and we pick up where the last film ended. In “On Moonlight Bay,” Bill, played by Gordon MacRae, goes off to fight in World War I, and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” picks up with Bill returning home from the war. Margie is still a tomboy and is fixing cars at the beginning, so the writers didn’t omit that since it was a focus in the first film.

While I prefer the story of “On Moonlight Bay” more, I still really love “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” It is just as colorful, cozy and sweet as the first film. And one complaint I had in the first film was that the antics of the younger brother seemed to take over the film, but in the sequel, it doesn’t seem so bad. The only part I don’t like is the King Chanticleer number, performed by Doris Day.

“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” doesn’t span a full year like the first film and mainly focuses on the fall and winter. Thanksgiving is near the start of the film and the film ends with Christmas. This is a bit longer than the first film too.

The film ends with a Christmas-y ice skating scene.

There are some silly plotlines like the children thinking their father was cheating on their mother with a French actress. Also Doris Day’s hair is really bleached compared to the 1951 movie.

As I said last week, I love Day and MacRae as a screen team so much. In these films, Gordon MacRae looks so sweet, fresh and young so I hate knowing that his personal life wasn’t always so sunny. His career dropped off after 1956.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon ends with a Christmasy scene when Bill meets the family at a skating pond and surprises Margie, and the two finally decide to marry after bickering about tit throughout the whole movie.

While not as fun as the first, “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” is a sweet, colorful movie.

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Who’s that turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving from Gordon and Doris.

Several holiday themed TV shows and films have the theme of having a pet turkey that is destined to be Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  Through the months, the turkey has become a friend to the main character so they are reluctant to cover it with cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving day.

Here are two films that show this:

Wesley (Billy Gray) getting nervous at Thanksgiving dinner.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953): This is the sequel of the Doris Day-Gordon MacRea romance “Moonlight Bay” (1951). These films are also based off of Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod” series, which is where Wesley Winfield’s (played by Billy Gray) shenanigans come from.
The Winfield’s have been raising a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and naturally Wesley has gotten attached to the turkey named Gregory. He sets the turkey free and steals another. The family invites Mr. Winfield’s (Leon Ames) boss to Thanksgiving dinner and wants to impress.  Gregory somehow finds his way into the dining room during the meal. You can see what happens in the video below

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Forgotten holiday films I even forgot

Errol Flynn as you have never seen him before

A couple of days ago, I enlightened you with some Christmas movies you may have forgotten. With a couple of days left to spare before the 25th (Where did the season go?) here are a few Christmas movies I even forgot in my last post.

I hope you have time to fit them in before the holiday season ends-Christmas officially ends on January 5 with the 12 days of Christmas- or remember the films for next year. Enjoy!

All Mine to Give (1957): This is a Christmas movie, but it’s a real downer. Jo (Glynis Johns) and Robert (Cameron Mitchell) raise a large family, and then they both tragically die. The kids (including Patty McCormack of “The Bad Seed”) try to continue living together, but the town threatens to split them up. However, they somehow are able to fight the greedy townsfolk and stay together. To review: This isn’t a particularly happy Christmas movie, and I only really thought it was okay. But it reminds us that family is important and shouldn’t be seperated.

Never Say Goodbye(1946): Not your typical Christmas film, but you see Errol Flynn dressed up like Santa Claus!  Phil (Errol) and Ellen (Eleanor Parker) Gayley are divorced. Their daughter Flip (Patti Brady) and Phil aren’t very happy about the divorce and hope to win Ellen back from her new boyfriend, Rex (Donald Woods).  All of this takes place during Christmas as Phil and Rex both dress up like Santa and a comedic mix-up occurs. To review: A cute movie that really takes place during Christmas by chance, but still shows the importance of family. This is actually one of my favorite Errol Flynn movies, because we get to see him in a comedic, husband type role in New York, rather than a swashbuckling role in Spain.

Doris Day, Gordon McCrea, Rosemary DeCamp and Leon Ames in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”

On Moonlight Bay (1951)/ By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953):

I put these two films together since they are similar and the second is the sequel to the first. In a nutshell: tomboy Margie Winfield (Doris Day) falls in love with idealistic Bill Sherman (Gordon McCrea) and her parents -mostly her father-disapprove. In the midst of both of these movies, there is Christmas. Margie breaks her leg and can’t go to the Christmas dance with Bill in “On Moonlight Bay“. Margie still manages to limp out on the porch and sing “Merry Christmas to All” with carolers.  In “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,”  Bill meets the family at a skating pond and surprises Margie and finally decides to marry her after bickering throughout the movie. To review: These are both similar to “Meet Me in St. Louis”: it takes you through a year of a family during the turn of the century and manages to fit in Christmas.  Like the others, this is a  really fun, happy family film.  “On Moonlight Bay” and “Silvery Moon” are probably my favorite Doris films. I have always enjoyed her and Gordon MacRea in films together.

Susan Slept Here (1954): Juvinile delinquent Susan Landis (Debbie Reynolds) is sent to spend the holidays with screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell) so he can study a delinquent for a script he’s writing. Lots of comedic events ensue, and the much older Christopher falls in love with the very young Landis. To review: This is a pretty well known Christmas movie, but I feel like it gets over looked as we grab for “Holiday Inn” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Though Powell is 28 years older than Reynolds, its a very cute movie and worth looking into. Also keep an eye out for a much older Glenda Farrel. She is still as beautiful and funny as she was in the 1930s.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960): The Robinson family shipwrecks on a tropical island on their way to New Guinea.  Mom (Dorothy McGuire), Dad (John Mills), Fritz (James MacArthur), Ernst (Tommy Kirk) and Frances (Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran) learn how to live life on an island away from civilized Switzerland. This includes catching baby elephants, fighting off pirates (played by Sessue Hayakawa) and even celebrating Christmas. Surprisingly, yes, this movie does have Christmas in it. Fritz and Ernst return on Christmas to the treehouse after exploring the island for several months. They bring back Roberta (Janet Munro), a girl they rescued from pirates, and fight over who gets to dance with her during the Christmas celebration. To review: Sure they are in the tropics, but they find time to celebrate Christmas. Even if they didn’t, it’s still a really nice family film, and my roommate, Sybil, and her family watch it every Christmas.

Margaret O’Brien crying in Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)

Tenth Avenue Angel (1948):

If you have ever had an urge to see Margaret O’Brien cry, here is your chance. Flavia (O’Brien) feels like everyone is lying to her. Her mother (Phyllis Thaxter) has told her old wives tales that aren’t true. Some of these are that mice turn into money, so that Flavia wouldn’t be afraid of mice (I have never heard, this have you?) and that cows kneel at midnight on Christmas Eve for Jesus. Flavia also finds out that her friend Steve (George Murphey) really didn’t travel around the world, but was in jail. After having a temper tantrum and potentially risking her pregnant mother’s life, Flavia realizes Christmas miracles do come true when she sees a cow kneeling for the Savior and her mother lives. To review: Parts of this movie are fine, but when Margaret starts shedding those tears start getting a bucket to bail out the water. I really like George Murphy, Phyllis Thaxter and Angela Lansbury in this movie, but O’Brien was also getting a little too old to play a six year old girl, when she was really 11.  

Happy holidays! Be sure to check back from one more special holiday post on Christmas day!

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