Doris Day makes a bright, bouncy movie debut. 3.5 Stars

Michael Curtiz’s Romance on the High Seas earns its place in cinema history as the feature film that introduced movie audiences to the winning voice and personality of Doris Day.

Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Released: 03 Jul 1948
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 99 min
Director: Michael Curtiz, Busby Berkeley
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Cast: Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore, Doris Day
Writer(s): Julius J. Epstein (screen play), Philip G. Epstein (screen play), I.A.L. Diamond (additional dialogue), Sixto Pondal Ríos (story "Romance in High C"), Carlos A. Olivari (story "Romance in High C")
Plot: Romantic misunderstandings abound when spouses suspect each other of being unfaithful, and a nightclub singer takes a cruise under a false identity.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 06/16/2020
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 3.5/5

Popular big band singer Doris Day was launched into a two-decade movie career with Michael Curtiz’s Romance on the High Seas. Though a run-of-the-mill musical comedy of no great shakes, Day proved herself to be the real deal: effervescent, sincere, and attractive, all qualities that would serve her well through a series of musicals, dramas, thrillers, and comedies during the next twenty years. Warner Archive has served her debut effort up on a silver platter with a gorgeous visual and audible transfer that brings out all of the film’s most sterling qualities: fetching performers, wonderful Jule Styne-Sammy Cahn tunes, and glorious Technicolor.

Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) has long suspected her attractive husband Michael (Don DeFore) of cheating on her especially with a new secretary (Leslie Brooks) in tow. She arranges for penniless singer Georgia Garrett (Doris Day) to impersonate her on a cruise to Rio while she stays in New York keeping an eagle eye on her husband’s activities. Meanwhile, Michael, equally suspicious of his wife’s flirtatious nature, has hired private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to track his wife during her voyage to see if he has grounds for suspecting her unfaithfulness. On the voyage, Georgia and Peter inevitably fall in love, but they both feel helpless to act on their feelings since neither knows the other’s true identity.

Epstein twins Julius and Philip, partly contributors to the Casablanca screenplay, along with future Billy Wilder collaborator I.A.L. Diamond are responsible for the feather-light screenplay which serves as a handy hanger on which to drape the film’s nine musical numbers. Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn have come up with a succession of winning tunes for Doris Day which go to serve both her perky belt (“I’m in Love,” “It’s You or No One,” “Put ‘Em in a Box,” the latter two paired superbly with the Page Cavanaugh Trio) and her creamy croon (the film’s hit song “It’s Magic” which brought Doris another gold record for her collection and earned one of the film’s two Oscar nominations). In fact, the film finds three places for Doris to sing “It’s Magic,” and each one is a special experience, especially its debut moment in the movie where it’s first sung in Spanish during a Cuba stopover and then taken up in English by Miss Day. While Doris gets by far the lion’s share of the songs, the film does also offer Jack Carson the amiable “Run, Run, Run” in a Trinidad sequence and Sir Lancelot’s introduction to Cuba with “The Tourist Trade.” Versatile director Michael Curtiz keeps the rambunctious mistaken identity movie plot humming along (Busby Berkeley stages the musical numbers with little of the flair he had exhibited in earlier musicals) especially with some brightly staged farce near the end with Michael Kent making multiple trips to his wife’s room in Rio only to find someone surprising behind the doors each time he opens them and the climactic carnival in Rio with the lovers reunited amid a cascade of multi-colored balloons which gives the gorgeous Technicolor a solid workout.

Doris Day wasn’t the first choice for Georgia Garrett. Betty Hutton had been signed but had to bow out due to pregnancy, and Warners was unsuccessful in borrowing Judy Garland from MGM to take over thus giving Day her big break in the movies although she was already a favorite on records and the radio. She makes the most of her debut excelling in the singing, of course, but also showing she could perform wry comedy, earnest longing, romantic angst, and dispirited disappointment with ease. Jack Carson (who would go on to co-star with Day in her next two films) is a neat foil for Doris as the lovesick detective. Don DeFore and Janis Paige are fine as the jealous married couple though their screen time is limited after the sea voyage begins and the focus switches to Day and Carson. (Ironically, not only does Doris replace Janis on the voyage but years later she’d replace her in the starring role in the movie version of The Pajama Game after Paige played it on Broadway.) Oscar Levant hangs around as Doris’ thwarted “boy friend” (though she tells him constantly she doesn’t love him) and gets a brief minute or two to serenade us on the piano with the “Cuban Rhapsody.” S.Z. Sakall does his patented shtick as Michael’s uncle, the head of a drug store chain. Eric Blore has one scene as the cruise ship’s doctor who’s sicker than his patient while Grady Sutton as the ship’s telegraph operator and Franklin Pangborn as a Rio desk clerk play their moments with expected effortlessness.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness (Warners hadn’t yet started hiding Doris’ freckles with too much pancake makeup), Technicolor reproduction, and contrast have all been dialed in expertly in this transfer which is also spotlessly clean and free from artifacts. Flesh tones look especially realistic and appealing. The movie has been divided into 39 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is completely faithful to this era of moviemaking. The Ray Heindorf orchestrations are very noticeable and redolent of the Warners sound of the era, and the songs and background score have been combined expertly with the well-recorded dialogue and sound effects for an appealing mono soundtrack. There are no signs of age-related hiss, pops, crackle, or flutter.

Special Features: 2.5/5

Song Selection: a menu for the movie’s musical numbers offers instant access to eleven musical placements in the movie.

Hare Splitter (7:09, SD): Bugs Bunny cartoon

Let’s Sing a Song from the Movies featurette (10:43, SD): four songs from Warners movies are shown in film clips followed by sing-along lyrics: “Am I Blue?” “By a Waterfall,” “Some Sunday Morning,” “My Little Gal in Calico.”

Theatrical Trailer (2:21, HD): Doris Day and Janis Paige sing the introduction to the trailer, the only time on the disc that we hear Janis Paige sing.

Overall: 3.5/5

Michael Curtiz’s Romance on the High Seas earns its place in cinema history as the feature film that introduced movie audiences to the winning voice and personality of Doris Day. The movie itself is above average entertainment, but Doris makes each of her songs special, and it’s for those and the disc’s outstanding video and audio transfer that it earns a hearty recommendation.

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Matt Hough

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Rob W

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Carson is a lot of fun in his next film with Doris Day ; I actually like It's A Great Feeling much more than Romance ( although I still plan on picking this up. )
 
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Mark-P

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Latest Warner Archive podcast is about this release. They said it was restored by the same process as Ultra-resolution but they don’t use that term anymore because in this age of super high definition the term Ultra-resolution is misleading.
 
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moviepas

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Known as It's Magic in Australia and UK and on record labels in those countries. Couldn't have romance on the high seas could we!!!!!
Got my first email in over 4 weeks from DD(not even a receipt for my 30-title order but goods have been arriving at my dooor from it) and a box of 4 titles has this in it. I have the Laserdisc double still buried away. Might not play now.
 

Will Krupp

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Farley Granger tells a cute story in his autobiography about this movie. When they were doing location work for ROSEANNA McCOY, they were put up in a hotel in the mountains that was attached to a movie theater playing this film. His room, he felt, must have been adjacent to the auditorium speakers because he heard 'It's Magic' so many times through the wall that week that, as much as he came to love Doris Day, it remained a song he would have been completely happy to never hear again in his lifetime.
 

filmnoirguy

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Carson is a lot of fun in his next film with Doris Day ; I actually like It's A Great Feeling much more than Romance ( although I still plan on picking this up. )
Really? It's a Great Feeling is my least favorite Doris Day musical. I think the other one she made that same year, My Dream Is Yours, is much better. But Romance on the High Seas beats them both for me.
 
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Rob W

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Really? It's a Great Feeling is my least favorite Doris Day musical. I think the other one she made that same year, My Dream Is Yours, is much better. But Romance on the High Seas beats them both for me.
It's the comedy that sells Great Feeling for me - I don't think any of them are any great shakes as musicals. I especially like the Hollywood setting, the cameos, and especially Jack Carson hamming it up and sending himself up wonderfully. Haven't seen Romance in a very long time, so maybe it will grow on me.
 

Rob W

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Picked this up today ( at a brick-and-mortar store yet ! ) and the disc is indeed perfection. Also remembered one of the reasons I like it less than It's A Great Feeling. Growing up, I only knew Don De Fore from his sitcom Hazel, and it was years later before I found out he had a theatrical career before that. But it just cemented my impression that he is truly the dullest leading man to ever appear before a camera.

Also forgot Oscar Levant was in this, which 100% makes up for De Fore...
 

John Skoda

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I especially love Doris in the first part of the movie, where she's a wisecracking, street-wise lady. She's good at it, and it's unlike anything else she ever did.

Also interesting how Doris and Janis Paige crossed paths so many times. As Matt mentioned, there's this and THE PAJAMA GAME, but they were also both in PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES.
 
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Colin Jacobson

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I never saw this - or knew it existed - until the BD. Didn't expect much but really liked it! It's got a darker side than I expected, and it throws out a lot of funny lines...