Doris Day: From Hollywood party to leading role

romance on the high seasGeorgia Garrett is a fast talking, cigarette smoking, flirtatious night club singer–and she is the character played by Doris Day in her very first film “Romance on the High Seas” (1948).

While other actresses worked their way up to stardom through bit parts and uncredited roles, Day starred in her first movie.

And she continued starring in all 41 of her films from 1948 to 1968.

In the film, newly married Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) and Michael Kent (Don DeFore) worry that the other spouse is having an affair.

Georgia, a broke singer in a sleazy nightclub, frequents the travel agency and plans trips she never goes on and gets passport photos taken each time. Elvira meets Georgia in the travel agency while booking her trip to South America.

“But you have already had seven passport photos taken,” one travel agent says.

“But never as a blond,” Georgia coyly says.

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

On their third wedding anniversary, the Kents have to cancel a third anniversary trip due to business.  Michael tells Elvira to go without him.

Suspecting that Michael is going to fool around with his pretty new secretary, Elvira sends Georgia on the cruise in her place so she can stay behind and spy on her husband.

Also afraid that his wife is going to fool around on the cruise without him, Michael sends private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) on the cruise to look after his wife.

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Georgia, while posing as Elvira Kent, falls for Peter, and Peter thinks he is going to lose his job.

Romance on the High Seas” isn’t Doris Day’s most well-known film, but it’s my favorite.

While in the 1950s and 1960s Day was known for her squeaky clean, virginal persona, but her character in “Romance” has some sass.

Day started her career as a girl singer in 1939 for big band leaders such as Les Brown and Bob Crosby, brother of Bing Crosby.

By 1945, she had her first hit with “Sentimental Journey” which resonated with soldiers fighting over seas. More hits followed such as “My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time.”

“In a sense, ‘Sentimental Journey’ became the serviceman’s theme song,” Day wrote in her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.

Before heading back East after a visit to Los Angeles, Day was convinced to attend a party at the home of Jule Styne, an American songwriter.

When everyone started performing songs at the party, Day began to get uneasy.

Day as a nightclub singer singing "I'm in Love"

Day as a nightclub singer singing “I’m in Love”

“These people loved singing for each other but I am painfully shy at parties, and particularly shy about performing impromptu,” she wrote.

Day was also going through a divorce at the time with child actress Virginia Weidler’s older brother, George.

She was asked to sing and was convinced to sing the chorus of “Embraceable You.”

The Gershwin tune landed Day her first film role, as the star of a musical comedy.

Styne wrote the score to the Warner Brothers film “Romance on the High Seas.” Judy Garland was originally slated to play Georgia Garrett, but the deal fell through.

Then Betty Hutton was set for the film, but she got pregnant and couldn’t be in the film, according to Day’s autobiography.

“Acting in films had never so much crossed my mind. I was a singer…” she wrote. “They kept telling me how lucky I was to be testing for the lead in a major musical and how many girls would die to be in my shoes, but I was sitting glumly looking out the window, only half listening.”

Her look was made to resemble Betty Hutton and she was encouraged to sing in Hutton’s signature energetic style during the test.

“But when we shot the scene, I did it my own way,” she wrote. “I instinctively understood something then that was to sustain with me through all the years that followed-to thine own self be true. Don’t imitate.”

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Through being herself, Day gives a hilarious performance in the sparklingly musical, comedy which included one of her top hit songs, “It’s Magic.”

After the film became a hit, Day’s option was picked up for more Warner films. However, she wasn’t pleased with the movie. She dressed very casually and didn’t like the ultra glamorous look she had in the film.

Though Day wasn’t pleased with her first film appearance, “Romance on the High Seas” is my favorite Doris Day film—and I have seen all but two of her movies.

Along with the main cast of Jack Carson, Day, Don DeFore and Janis Paige—the movie has top notch character actors. Supporting actors include S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Oscar Levant and Eric Blore.

Paige and Day would later star with each other again in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960). Carson starred with Day in her next two films “It’s a Great Feeling” (1949) and “My Dream Is Yours” (1949).

“Romance on the High Seas” has it all: glamorous wardrobes, sparkling color, hilarious jokes and quality songs written by Sammy Kahn and Jules Styne.

Though Day is best known for her bedroom farce films such as “Pillow Talk” (1959) with Universal, her early Warner Brothers films are some of her best.

Fresh faced films, sunny and shining with Day’s smile.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon. Check here for other posts on Doris Day.

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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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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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Jack Carson is the Easter bunny this year…

Since Easter is tomorrow, I wanted to do a post today and tomorrow. Today’s will be contemporary Easter in films complete with dying eggs, Easter bunnies and large bonnets. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the religious and Biblical aspect of the holiday.

Judy Garland and Fred Astaire posing for the photographers in “Easter Parade”

Easter Parade (1948): Who saw that coming?  This is probably the only feature film that isn’t set in Biblical times that prominately features Easter throughout the movie.  Though the movie really isn’t about Easter and its importance, it begins and ends with the holiday and the prominance of being featured in the newspaper while walking in the “Easter parade” in one’s Sunday best.  The actual film is about show business and how back stabbing dance partners can be when you are trying to hit it big with the Ziegfeld Follies.
This is a great favorite at my house. It has a wonderful cast, several funny scenes and one of the best musical soundtracks you can find. Below is a clip from the beginning of the movie featuring the songs “Happy Easter” and “Drum Crazy.” Unfortunately, Youtube didn’t have the famous “Easter Parade” scene at the end.

My Dream Is Yours  (1949): You may think: What? Isn’t this a Lee Bowman-Jack Carson-Doris Day remake of “Twenty Million Sweethearts”? Why yes, yes it is, but there is a VERY humorous scene where Doris Day’s son, Freddie has a dream the night before Easter. Doris and her soon to be boyfriend Jack Carson are dressed up like Easter bunnies and singing and dancing with Bugs Bunny. I really like this movie, Doris looks beautiful and the plot is a bit more serious than “Twenty Million Sweethearts.”  However,  singing like Easter rabbits is a bit silly. Before the dream, Freddie and Doris also dye Easter eggs, and that’s about all there is to the Easter references.

Other than those two films, there aren’t many films that focus a significant amount of time on Easter in contemporary time. I searched Easter as a keyword on IMDB, other films that feature the holiday are:
What Price Hollywood (1932): In this “A Star Is Born” take off, I think Constance Bennett’s husband either tries to commit suicide or dies on Easter, but I don’t remember clearly.
Holiday Inn (1942): This should come as no surprise. Bing sings Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” song in the film that features every other holiday under the sun.
Peyton Place (1957): I think Allison goes to pick up Selena for Easter service, and Selena’s step-father was trying to make a move on her.

It’s disheartening that Easter is in so few films. I know Lent isn’t as exciting a holiday season as Advent, but Easter is a much more important holiday than Christmas. We will explore this more tomorrow in the Biblical representation of Easter in films.

Stay tuned for tomorrow!

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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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Actress Beauty Tip #6: Soft Doris Day skin

This is the sixth installment of our monthly classic actress beauty tips that I have read about AND tested.

Doris Day was the quintessential girl next door with a sunny smile, blonde hair and flawless skin.

Doris Day showing off some skin

How did Doris Day keep her skin so smooth and clear looking?

In her autobiography “Doris Day: Her Own Story,” Day said that once a month she would cover her body with Vaseline before she went to bed to soften her skin. She would wear gloves, sock and pajamas that would make sure the Vaseline stayed on her skin and didn’t get all over her bed.

I haven’t specifically used Vaseline, but I have used coco butter on my skin over night which is a similar consistency.  I’ve had issues with dry knees, ankles and elbows and the coco butter worked relatively well.

However, over coco butter, I’ve found that baby oil and Nivea work best for softening skin over night.

To review: I haven’t used Vaseline overly much but I’m substituting coco butter for my experiment. It moisturizes well but Nivea and baby oil work much better.

Check by in December for installment number 7!

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“Don’t make me go all Bette Davis on you”: Actress moods

We all have bad days sometimes. (Bette Davis in “The Letter”)

 
We all go through a series of moods or feelings. Each mood I have, I relate it to an actress. For example, I may think, “I am in a very Greta Garbo mood right now.”  Below you will see my different mood names and their descriptions. I tried to post a photo of the actress that would correspond with the mood.

Garbo in “As You Desire Me” (1932)

Greta Garbo mood:  Sometimes I get down,  sad and just want to be alone. This is what I call my “Greta Garbo mood.”  Garbo’s character Grusinskaya in “Grand Hotel” (1932) says, “I want to be left alone. I think I have never felt so tired in my life.”  I sometimes get in this same mood the reclusive ballerina  in the movie does .  I want to just run away lock myself in my room and be alone.  Garbo has this same attitude in her personal life. Not many people were able to get close to the very private Garbo, and those who did had to tread lightly.

Doris Day

 

Doris Day mood:  Don’t think that I am always angry or down in the dumps. Sometimes I feel very sunny and happy, so much that I sing while I clean my room or shower. This is what I call my sunny, girl next door “Doris Day mood.” Sometimes if I am a particularly good mood, I wish I had a ukulele and could skip around campus like Doris Day does in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” Doris Day almost personified happiness and joy just with her stage name,  roles and bright, cheery songs.  Though her personal life may not have been so happy, her films put a smile on movie-goers faces.

Bette Davis/Joan Crawford mood: We can all get in vindictive, revenge seeking moods. This is what I call the “Bette Davis or Joan Crawford mood.”  Both of these ladies have bad off-screen reputations (which I think is poppy cock, but I’ll discuss that in another post). I’m referring to the on- screen personas of Crawford and Davis. Who can forget Bette Davis walking down the stairs and shooting her lover at the beginning of “The Letter“?  Remember when Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen gets the last juicy word in “The Women“?  When I’m angry about something, I just imagine what Bette or Joan would do to someone and take on their same attitude.

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Star Collector

 

Anita Page in the 1920’s. At one point she had more fan mail than Greta Garbo.

Not only am I old-fashioned in my movie tastes, but I am also pretty passe as a movie fan.

I write fan mail.

You may be thinking, “Who does that anymore?” A surprising amount do continue to write to stars like Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis and Elizabeth Taylor. No one writes the stars of today, though, like Angelina Jolie, Orlando Bloom or Jennifer Aniston. Why is this? Because they won’t answer…that is if you can even find an address to write to.

I get my fan mail addresses from an autograph database called StarTiger.com. On the website you can search virtually any movie star, singer or sports player. Each star has their own profile page. On this page there is a list of addresses that you can contact them.

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