Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
The Doris Day Collection Volume 2
Romance on the High Seas(1948)/My Dream is Yours(1949)/On Moonlight Bay(1951)/I'll See You in My Dreams(1951)/By the Light of the Silvery Moon(1953)/Lucky Me(1954)
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: Various
Aspect Ratio: Various
Release Date: April 10, 2007
Two years after presenting us with "The Doris Day Collection" with titles spanning 16 years of her film career, Warner Brothers Home Video is treating us to a second volume featuring six more titles, all of them appearing on DVD for the first time. This latest collection focuses strictly on her initial seven year period with Warner Brothers, including her first and last films made as a Warner contract player.
Romance on the High Seas (1948 - Warner Brothers - 99 minutes)
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Jack Carson, Janet Paige, Don DeFore, Doris Day, Oscar Levant, S.Z. Sakall
"Romance on the High Seas" is a romantic farce, the plot wheels of which are set into motion by suspicions of marital infidelity between well-to-do workaholic Michael Kent (DeFore) and his wife, Elvira (Paige). When Michael cancels on their planned third anniversary cruise due to work commitments (for the third year in a row), Elvira's suspicions of infidelity lead her to concoct a plan where she will allow Georgia Garrett (Day), a local nightclub singer she meets at the travel agency to travel under her name while she secretly stays in New York to spy on her husband. Michael, who is equally suspicious of Elvira, has hired a private detective, Peter Virgil (Carson) to shadow his wife on her cruise. At sea, Peter and Georgia find it increasingly difficult to maintain their charades as they begin to develop a mutual romantic interest.
"Romance on the High Seas" was Doris Day's debut as a contract player for Warner Brothers. Reportedly, the lead role had been slated for a number of actresses starting with Judy Garland and including Betty Hutton. In a story that sounds like the plot from one of her movies, Day was ready to throw in the towel on Hollywood, when she was spotted singing at a party and recommended for the part which Betty Hutton had just declined due to pregnancy. While the Day persona that would define her early Warner years is not fully formed in this picture, it is pretty close. The character is a bit closer to her roots as a swing-era vocalist than much of what would follow, but the smile and physicality that would define her spunky tomboy image do assert themselves from time to time.
The literate script, credited to Julius and Philip Epstein with additional dialog by I.A.L. Diamond is based on an Argentinean film from the previous year. It navigates the complicated much ado about nothing romantic plot deftly while punctuating it with plenty of witty dialog. Director Michael Curtiz blends it all together into a typically assured Technicolor bon-bon with musical interludes that never stay so long as to wear out their welcome. Each port is treated as an excuse for an elaborate production number, and they are all pretty entertaining. Day sings "It's Magic" three separate times in the film, and yet it always works.
Janis Paige does fine work as the suspicious spouse. Jack Carson is an unusual choice for the male lead, but he acquits himself well, and comedy character actor "ringers" such as Oscar Levant, S.Z Sakall, Franklin Pangborn, and John Berkes do what they do best when given the chance. The weakest link in the cast is Don DeFore, but even his somewhat broad, "sitcommy" approach to his character works in context once the wheels of the plot are set in motion.
My Dream is Yours (1949 - Warner Brothers - 101 minutes)
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Doris Day, Jack Carson, Lee Bowman, Eve Arden, S.Z. Sakall, Adolphe Menjou
"My Dream is Yours" is a fairly standard comedy-laced backstage melodrama with Doris Day in the role of Martha Gibson, a talented singer and widowed single mother, who gets discovered by Doug Blake (Carson), a down on his luck agent looking for new talent for a radio show. After achieving stardom, Blake's one and only client, Gary Mitchell (Bowman), leaves him high and dry, along with radio station manager Thomas Hutchins (Menjou) and program sponsor Felix Hofer (Sakall). The rest of the film tracks Blake's efforts to secure a big break for Martha while calling in every favor he has earned, and many he has not, over his career. Events are further complicated when a star-struck Martha falls for Gary.
While this film does have its comic moments, usually provided by Sakall and Eve Arden as a put-upon secretary at the radio station, as the plot progresses, it proves to be more of a romantic melodrama than a comedy at heart. Fortunately, it never forgets that it is a musical, and there are numerous entertaining numbers, including a few oddball nuclear age novelty bits such as "Tic, Tic, Tic" and "Nagasaki" as well as romantic and/or sentimental show stoppers like the title tune and "I'll String Along with You".
The film is probably most famous for an unusual "Easter-night" dream sequence featuring Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, and a few other animated friends interacting with Day and Carson. This bit is awkwardly inserted late in the picture when the plot seems on the edge of resolving itself, and works better as a standalone segment than it does in the context of the film.
On Moonlight Bay (1951 - Warner Brothers - 95 minutes)
Directed By: Roy Del Ruth
Starring: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Billy Gray, Jack Smith, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Mary Wickes
"On Moonlight Bay" is a WWI-era nostalgia-fest based on the "Penrod" stories of Booth Tarkington. The story focuses on the Winfield family who have just moved to a new home in a small Indiana town where patriarch George (Ames) works at the local bank. The film focuses primarily on the exploits of their Tomboyish daughter, Marjorie (Day), and their imaginative trouble magnet of a son, Wesley (Gray). Their mother, Alice (DeCamp) is there to talk sense into those who need it, and their housekeeper, Stella (Wickes), is there to offer up wisecracks when anyone needs deflating. Marjorie gives up her Tomboyish ways when she develops an interest in new neighbor and college boy Bill Sherman (MacRae), but numerous lightly comic obstacles are placed in the way of their relationship, ranging from Bill's radical ideas to comic misunderstandings brought on by the mischievous Wesley.
In much the same way that people sometimes imagine the 50s as a time of innocent Americana, "On Moonlight Bay" shows that in the 50s, people looked back wistfully to the early 20th century. Director Roy Del Ruth ensures that all of the touchstones for a cozy nostalgic family drama a la "Meet Me in St. Louis" are in place: A strong nuclear family, precocious children, a heartland setting, a boy next door romance, holiday scenes, period songs, Leon Ames as the father...
Even if you are normally not inclined to enjoy such a film, there's a good chance that "On Moonlight Bay" could win you over. There is a gently subversive streak to many of the comic elements that tips the audience off that the filmmakers are aware that the 1910's were not quite as sweet and innocent as they are being portrayed. The temperance propaganda film that Wesley watches and uses for inspiration to get out of trouble at school is a particularly amusing example of this trait.
The film is well cast, with Ames and DeCamp having wonderful chemistry as the parents. The character of Marjorie is custom fit to all of Day's strengths, with tomboyish baseball and snowball antics mixed in with plenty of chances to dress pretty and sing classic songs of the era. Billy Gray steals every scene in which he appears as Wesley, equaling and maybe even surpassing his work in that same year's "The Day the Earth Stood Still". MacRae and Day, in their third feature together in less than a year had an easy chemistry, which is exploited fully here to the point that one is willing to overlook the fact that they are both noticeably about a decade older than the characters they are playing.
Technically, the film is somewhat hamstrung by being studio-bound, using awkward-looking rear projection even for scenes where characters are just walking around their neighborhood.
I'll See You in My Dreams (1951 - Warner Brothers - 110 minutes)
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Doris Day, Danny Thomas, Frank Lovejoy, Patrice Wymore, Mary Wickes
"I'll See You in My Dreams" is a musical biopic of early twentieth century lyricist Gus Kahn. It follows the story of Kahn (Thomas) beginning with his days trying to hawk song lyrics to Chicago music publishers while driving a delivery cart for his day job, through his first hit composition with his future wife, and constant advisor Grace LeBoy (Day), and all of the subsequent personal and professional highs and lows over the next almost four decades.
As biopics go, this is pretty standard stuff, but the inherent access to the Gus Kahn catalog gives it a couple of sleeves full of aces whenever the movie threatens to get dull. Songs performed in the movie include the title song, "Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye", "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else", "It Had to Be You", "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby", "Makin' Whoopee", and many other standards for which Kahn wrote the lyrics.
Kahn's widow reportedly collaborated closely with the film's producers, which likely influenced the approach of screenwriters Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson. Kahn is portrayed as a steadfast but stubborn Midwestern son of immigrants who frequently needs his wife's intervention, openly or covertly, to work his way out of his career funks. Temptations away from the straight and narrow are represented by Frank Lovejoy as songwriting collaborator Walter Donaldson, portrayed as a big city drinker and partier who practically has to be chained to the piano to write a melody, and Patrice Wymore as star Ziegfield girl Gloria Knight, who is morally flexible enough to consider wooing Kahn away from his wife and children halfway across the country.
Kahn resists these temptations better than the subjects of most entertainment industry biopics, so the film's major conflicts emanate from his developing resentment of his wife's manipulations of his career and the changing tides in the music industry as the business shifts away from sheet music sales to radio, records, and motion pictures. [Fortunately, the music industry learned its lessons all those years ago and can now respond lightly on its feet whenever its business model gets shaken. ]
In a change of pace, Day delivers a mostly serious dramatic performance, even staying in character for most of her musical numbers, singing as someone who is trying to sell a song to publishers and producers rather than as an established queen of the pop charts. Danny Thomas is well cast as Kahn, and delivers on his dramatic scenes just as well as the comedic ones for which he is better known. Director Michael Curtiz does allow one cutesy Hollywood musical scene between them when they sing "Makin' Whoopee" to each other in a train car room, but it is a welcome earned moment since the entire film is not composed of such scenes.
The film is kept from greatness by its reliance on certain tired formulas and incredulous liberties (e.g. It is highly unlikely that Kahn would have been kept in the dark about his collaborator on a song until after its actual public stage debut), but it is worth checking out for the music and for fans of the actors, allowing Day to demonstrate acting chops filmmakers normally kept under wraps during this period, and showcasing Thomas in his first leading role before his "Jazz Singer" remake and subsequent television stardom.
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953 - Warner Brothers - 101 minutes)
Directed By: David Butler
Starring: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Billy Gray, Jack Smith, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Mary Wickes
"By the Light of the Silvery Moon" brings back all of the principles from "On Moonlight Bay" for a sequel that picks up almost exactly where its predecessor left off. The plot hinges around the impending marriage of Marjorie (Day) and Bill (MacRae) upon his returning from service in World War I. Bill decides to hold off on setting a date until he can amass a sufficient nest egg. In the meantime, Wesley has developed an interest in detective work, leading to comic escapades involving a purloined turkey and a piece of dramatic censorship mistaken for a love letter that complicates not one, but two romantic relationships.
"By the Light of the Silvery Moon" is very much of a piece with its predecessor, and almost as good. The initial premise of Bill having not quite cold but lukewarm feet about marriage is a bit weak, but the film recovers nicely and even gets some comic mileage out of his subsequent constant reminders of his impending marriage. While at times you feel you are treading the exact same ground as the previous film, the screenwriters at least avoided the pitfall of having the same characters unlearn and relearn the same lessons.
Modern thinking viewers who might have scoffed at the subtext of "On Moonlight Bay" suggesting the limited educational and professional options beyond marrying well for Marjorie because of her gender may be surprised to find it has been promoted to just plain text in the sequel via a conversation between her parents. As with the original film, however, there is a mildly subversive underpinning since Marjorie is shown to be better than her fiancé at just about everything except for singing baritone, inclusive of automobile maintenance. She was working as a proto-Rosie the Riveter mechanic during the time that Bill was at war.
Lucky Me (1954 - Warner Brothers - 100 minutes)
Directed By: Jack Donohue
Starring: Doris Day, Robert Cummings, Phil Silvers, Nancy Walker, Eddie Foy, Jr.
"Lucky Me", the last film made under Doris Day's initial Warner Brothers contract, tells the story of superstitious musical entertainer Candy Williams (Day) who finds herself stranded in Miami with her co-stars Hap Schneider (Silvers), Duke McGee (Foy), and Flo (Walker) when their "Parisian Pretties" revue is unceremoniously canceled. Reduced to working as hotel staff in order to pay off debts, they are encouraged to find out that Broadway songwriter Jack Carson (Cummings) is a guest of their employer. When an innocent misunderstanding with Candy leads to an exposed deception, Carson finds it difficult to prove the sincerity of his personal and professional interest in her while simultaneously promoting his show to a wealthy potential backer, Otis Thayer (Goodwin), with a jealous daughter, Lorraine (Hyer).
"Lucky Me" is a by the numbers musical which gets by strictly on the strength of its cast. It feels like it was rushed through the screenplay and production process, and Warner was probably anxious to re-team Day with writer James O'Hanlon and musical director Ray Heindorf after the success of "Calamity Jane" five months earlier. Its place in history has more to do with it being the first musical feature produced in Cinemascope, and the screen debut of Angie Dickinson (unbilled and brunette as a guest during the party scenes near the end of the film) than anything to do with its actual cinematic worth. The most memorable production number in the film is the opening "Superstition Song", which has Day bouncing along in heels with beyond perfect posture, singing about superstition while the choreography steers her away from passing under ladders and stepping on sidewalk cracks. Whenever she receives a lifetime achievement award, this number should be worked into her highlight reel, because there are not many actresses who could pull it off. Unfortunately, despite game efforts by the cast, this opening number is never topped. Day, Silvers, Foy, and Walker make for a dynamic and charismatic comedy team, but their early comic antics are so much more interesting than the ensuing romance and show-business plot machinations, that they wind up stealing a movie of questionably little value.
The transfer for "Romance on the High Seas" offers richly saturated hues with pleasing contrast and solid blacks. Light natural film grain is noticeable throughout. Slight mis-registration of the Technicolor elements is noticeable from time to time, with some color fringing noticeable on the edge of objects like white shirt collars, but it is never too severe. Compression artifacts are negligible. Light speckling due to film element wear and tear is present sporadically, with one severe bit of damage occurring during a scene where Day's character is being treated by a hypochondriac doctor.
The transfer for "My Dream is Yours" seems to favor slightly "peachy" flesh tones, but other than that, is similar in character to that for "Romance on the High Seas" with fewer noticeable instances of mis-registration. Compression artifacts are not noticeable from a reasonable viewing distance, and high contrast edges are free of other types of edge ringing beyond the minor instances of mis-registration.
The transfer for "On Moonlight Bay" is similar in character to that of "My Dream is Yours", but has a little softer/more filtered look to it and more natural skin tones. An anomaly occurs when a brief establishing shot of a movie theater is shown in black and white prior to color footage of Billy Gray's character inside the theater. I am not familiar enough with the film to know if this has always been the case or if it was an error introduced on this release.
The transfer for "I'll See You in My Dreams", the only black and white film in this collection, offers reasonable contrast, but has a slightly soft filtered look. The processing does not erase the film grain completely, but smears it a little along with some fine detail. Occasional light film element wear and tear is noticeable, but not severe. Compression artifacts are minimal, and low-intensity ringing along high-contrast edges only intrudes in one or two shots that I noticed.
The transfer for "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" is a bit of a step down from its predecessor, "On Moonlight Bay", being not quite as sharp and with unnatural flesh tones. Digital video artifacts were few and far between.
"Lucky Me", the only 16:9 enhanced widescreen title in the set, letterboxed to a hair under 2.5:1, also has the most disappointing transfer. It is normally very grainy, and it looks substantially worse whenever there is an optical fade due to the "Warnercolor" lab work, becoming noticeably softer and introducing a weird glow around high contrast objects. When doing the transfer, it looks like the colorist fought a difficult battle against a fading element, and just succeeded in keeping fleshtones from going to salmon, but did not quite get them to look natural.
All of the discs in the collection include an English DD 1.0 track encoded at 192kbps except for "Lucky Me" which sports a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 English track encoded at 448kbps. No foreign language dubs are provided for any of the titles.
"Romance on the High Seas" has the most audible hiss and noise of any of the titles in this collection, but it is not overbearing, and the audio fidelity otherwise is superior to that of the other mono tracks. This is particularly noticeable during the musical sequences. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
The audio track for "My Dream is Yours" has very light hiss throughout. Listening critically will reveal light noise reduction artifacts. Subtitles are available in English only
"On Moonlight Bay" has a very low levels of hiss and noise, with deeper than expected bass extension. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
The audio for "I'll See You in My Dream" is similar in character to that of "On Moonlight Bay", with very low noise levels. Subtitles are available in English and Portuguese.
"By the Light of the Silvery Moon" has a very clean, quiet track with the least amount of audible hiss of all of the discs in the collection. Some noise reduction artifacts are noticeable if you are listening critically. Subtitles are available in English only.
"Lucky Me" is the only title in the set to have a 5.1 stereo track, and the musical passages benefit from it the most with a nice stereo spread primarily between the front three speakers. On rare occasions, dialog seems to be directional, but it is usually anchored to the center speaker. The dialog track seems to carry a lot more noise on it than the music tracks, resulting in an occasionally jarring increase in hiss when musical numbers end or when dialog occurs during a song. Subtitles are available in English only
Each of the discs in the set come with vintage featurettes that are something like a down-sized version of the Warner Night at the Movies features on some other Warner collections.
"Romance on the High Seas" includes an 11 minute vintage musical short from the "Memories from Melody Lane" series called "Let's Sing a Song from the Movies" that offers clips from popular songs from Warner Movies dating back to the earliest talkies followed by on-screen lyrics so the audience can sing along. Also included is a Friz Freleng Warner Brothers cartoon "I Taw a Putty Tat". It is a reworking of Frank Tashlin's "Puss 'n Booty" as a Sylvester and Tweety vehicle. It was the second pairing of Sylvester and Tweety, and the first where Sylvester is called by his proper name (he was called Thomas in 1947's "Tweetie Pie"). Finally, the theatrical trailer for 'Romance on the High Seas" is presented, and is worth checking out due to a unique musical segment from Doris Day and Janis Paige that leads it off, sounding like it was written with the film's original "Romance in High 'C'" title in mind.
"My Dream is Yours" includes an 11 minute Joe McDoakes comedy short called "So You Want to Be an Actor" where Joe strives with minimal success to make it in the theater world. It has a pretty good spoof on John Barrymore's "Svengali". Also included is a vintage 12 minute dramatic short starring Chill Wills called "The Grass is Always Greener" that was actually quite amusing. I think I liked it even better than the feature on this disc. Also included is a Robert McKimson Warner Brothers cartoon "A Ham in a Role" in which a dog with serious theatrical aspirations quits the cartoon business, but is troubled by the Goofy Gophers when he tries to hone his craft by rehearsing Shakespeare. Finally, the theatrical trailer for "My Dream is Yours" is included, and it is pretty standard stuff, playing up the comic angle of the movie with plenty of clips from the musical numbers.
"On Moonlight Bay" includes another "Memories of Melody Lane" featurette called "Let's Sing a Song About the Moonlight". Running just under nine and a half minutes, it focuses on the stories behind some early 20th century moon-themed songs with a performances followed by audience sing-along segments with lyrics and choral voices. Also included is the Chuck Jones Warner Brothers cartoon "A Hound for Trouble" documenting the troubles Charlie the Dog has ingratiating himself with his prospective new owner, a restaurant proprietor in Italy. Finally, the theatrical trailer for "On Moonlight Bay" is presented, promising that you will be sailing along with a song in your heart on waves of happiness.
"I'll See You in My Dreams" includes a nine minute short called "The Screen Director". It demonstrates the responsibilities of a studio motion picture director through the various stages of a film's production via narration and dramatized sequences. Gordon MacRae appears in one of the dramatized segments taking direction. Also included is the Robert McKimson Warner Brothers cartoon "Lovelorn Leghorn" in which Foghorn Leghorn must contend with the husband-hunting and rolling-pin-armed chicken Miss Prissy. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer includes newly recorded promotional footage of Day, Danny Thomas, Patrice Wymore, and Frank Lovejoy shown as inset pieces with the standard film clips and narration.
"By the Light of the Silvery Moon" includes not one, but two separate Joe McDoakes comedy shorts starring George O'Hanlon. "So You Want to Learn to Dance" has Joe looking for a cure for his two left feet at the insistence of his boss, with lots of opportunities exploited for physical comedy, and a dismissal of the series continuity about his wife, Alice. "So You Want a Television Set" follows the travails that ensue when Joe buys a television set at the insistence of his wife. An amusing surprise gag at the end makes it a perfect fit as a supplement for "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". Also included is one of my favorite Chuck Jones Warner Brothers cartoons, "From A to Z-Z-Z-Z", which follows the daydreams of imaginative young Ralph Phillips as he has trouble paying attention to his elementary school teacher in class. Finally, the theatrical trailer for "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" includes some unique footage of Mary Wickes in character introducing the characters with optical effects where family portraits on top of a player piano turn into scenes from the film.
"Lucky Me" includes "When the Talkies Were Young", which is a collection of clips of early appearances by future movie stars like James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, and John Barrymore. Every movie featured is spoiled terribly, so consider yourself warned. Also included is the Friz Freleng Warner Brothers cartoon "Sandy Claws" that has Sylvester pursuing Tweety at the beach, with additional complications when Tweety's cage is isolated by the rising tide. Finally, the theatrical trailer for "Lucky Me" is presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen including some unique promotional footage of actors from the film at the beginning.
The six films are packaged in individual slimcases with covers derived from vintage promotional art. This is very nice as usual from Warner, but they did us one better this time. The slimcases are clear on the interior, and the cover inserts are double sided with chapter listings printed over still photos from the films visible when you open them. For some strange reason, my copy of "Lucky Me" came in a double-disc slimcase, even though it is a single disc release. I guess I could throw a Doris Day hits CD in the case to customize the set with even better supplements, but I'm not that ambitious. The slimcases are enclosed in a thin cardboard box with a picture of Day in a blue dress with pearls on the front cover and small pictures of the individual title covers arranged on the back and spine of the box.
Hardcore Doris Day fans have probably been lining up for this set since the first volume came out, and they will not be disappointed. The films are presented with decent to very good transfers, with limitations that are mostly tied directly to the film source elements used. All are accompanied by excellent audio presentations. "Lucky Me" appears letterboxed and with a 5.1 mix for what I believe is the first time on home video on both counts (edit: I believed wrong - there was a letterboxed laserdisc per discussion below), although the element used for video transfer is far from pristine. Even casual fans may want to at least check out "Romance on the High Seas" and the "...Moon..." films, particularly if you are interested in musicals that are witty farces or warmly evocative nostalgia.