Doris Day and Jack Carson

Happiest of happy birthdays to the movie star and singer who has brought me more joy than just about any entertainer I can think of – the one and only Doris Day, who turns 90 today. I love her movies and watch them over and over. I never get tired of basking in the onscreen sunniness, charm, and delight that is Doris!

I’ve written before about how great Doris Day and Rock Hudson were together, particularly in my favorite of their three films, Pillow Talk. Rock and Doris are one of the all-time great movie couples. However, earlier in her career Day was paired with fellow Warner Bros. actor Jack Carson in three Technicolor musicals – Romance on the High Seas, My Dream is Yours, and It’s a Great Feeling. They too made a fantastic duo.

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Romance on the High Seas (1948)

This was Doris’s screen debut, and what a debut it was! It’s hard to believe it was her first movie, as natural and at ease as she was in front of the camera. In her recent interview with TCM’s Robert Osborne, Doris said that the movie’s director, Michael Curtiz, told her not to take any acting lessons. She didn’t need them! She was that good right off the bat.

Romance-on-the-High-Seas-doris-day-5171996-490-355Doris plays a spunky nightclub singer who’s hired by a society lady (Janis Paige) to pretend to be her while on a cruise. The society gal thinks her husband is cheating on her, you see, so she wants to stay home and keep a covert eye on him. Meanwhile the husband (Don DeFore), who thinks his wife is cheating on him, hires a private detective (Jack Carson) to go on the ship and spy on his wife’s shenanigans. Mayhem, misunderstandings, romance, and hilarity ensue.

In addition to Day, Carson, DeFore and Paige in the lead roles, Oscar Levant and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall have supporting parts and both are great.

sakallDoris is adorable in Romance on the High Seas – sassy and vivacious, with sex appeal to spare. She and Jack Carson sparkle together. Plus Doris gets to sing some of the best songs of her career, including “It’s Magic” and my personal favorite from the film, “Put ‘Em In A Box, Tie ‘Em With A Ribbon (And Throw ‘Em In The Deep Blue Sea)”.  Check out her snazzy outfit!  She wears some great clothes by costume designer Milo Anderson in the movie.

My Dream is Yours (1949)

2438858,YbaW+S0Nk9IrXO0QCnIQawdIBHTqZL2AId_hyIjlV1i5vlLma+InCuf+WGyZGONpFG54BcGDKzs2m9EcdXUIwQ==Doris co-starred with Jack Carson again in this movie, playing another aspiring singer. This time she’s the widowed mother of a young son who must decide between the famous yet smarmy singer she falls in love with and the manager who is always there to support her and loves her son like his own. Some decision, huh? My pro-Jack Carson bias is coming through here, but he’s so sweet and funny as Doris’s manager. For me there’d be no problem deciding which man to go for!

Doris-Day-in-My-Dream-Is-Yours-doris-day-27502691-1067-800There’s a hint of A Star is Born in the film, with the famous singer (Lee Bowman) taking to the bottle and the up-and-coming female talent he’s involved with eclipsing him, but it’s far less dramatic and serious than that movie. In fact, the movie is often very funny and whimsical, as when Doris Day sings an energetic “Tic Tic Tic” to audition for a radio show, or when her son dreams of Bugs Bunny.

doris-bunnyEve Arden plays one of her patented wisecracking best friend roles in My Dream is Yours, portraying Jack Carson’s assistant who gets roped into housing Doris and her son and selling her fur coat when money gets tight, among other things. She’s so funny and a total treat to watch. The movie also features Adolph Menjou and S.Z. Sakall, and like Romance on the High Seas was directed by Michael Curtiz.

 It’s a Great Feeling (1949)

This movie is similar to Hollywood Canteen and other films like that, where there isn’t much in the way of plot, but there’s lots of fun and many cameo appearances by big stars. Superstars like Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, Jane Wyman, Danny Kaye, Eleanor Parker, Edward G. Robinson, Errol Flynn, and others all show up.

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Doris plays an aspiring movie actress from a small Midwestern town. She’s been in Hollywood for a while and has had no luck getting her foot in the door.

Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan, playing goofy versions of their real-life selves, take Doris under their wings and try to get her a job.  The actors, in hilarious frenemy mode as they compete for Doris’s attention, put her through all sorts of silly things while attempting to get her the lead in their next picture.

All three of Doris Day’s movies with Jack Carson are worth checking out – the first two because they’re good romantic comedies, the last because of all the fun Hollywood spoofing and the appearances of so many big stars.

If you only see one of their films, though, I’d recommend Romance on the High Seas. It’s a wonderful movie full of catchy songs, Technicolor eye candy, and a breakout performance by Doris Day that makes it clear why she became such a huge star.

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Fifteen Movie Questions Meme

So much for me posting up a storm here in May!  I can’t believe tomorrow is June 1st.  It’s been a busy couple of months and I’ve hardly watched any movies at all.  Here’s hoping the summer provides me with some quieter moments, so I’ll have more time for watching and writing.  My backlog of unwatched films recorded off TCM is getting ridiculous!

Anyway, several people, including Clara at Via Margutta 51, have done the 15 Movie Questions meme recently, and it looked like fun.  If you’d like to do it yourself, consider yourself tagged.

1.  Movie you love with a passion.

There are a lot of these!  Maybe An Affair to Remember.  I’ve seen it so many times and still think it’s the most romantic movie ever.

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2.  Movie you vow to never watch.

Never is a very long time, so who knows?  There was a time when I hated Westerns, after all, but now there are quite a few I love.  But I’m definitely averse to horror movies, especially modern day gory ones, so probably those.

3.  Movie that literally left you speechless.

Leave Her to Heaven – the rowboat scene.  (Starts at about 2:20 below.)  I was so stunned and horrified the first time I saw it, and it still leaves me speechless every time.

4.  Movie you always recommend.

The More the Merrier.  To me it’s a perfect romantic comedy, and yet a lot of people outside of the classic movie fandom have never heard of it – or of Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn.

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5.  Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.

Cary Grant.  I’ll watch anything he’s in at least once!  Obviously I’m not the only one who feels this way, given the recent releases of many of his early ‘30s movies on DVD.

6.  Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.

John Wayne.

7.  Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.

Cary Grant.  I’m reading his daughter’s book now (review to come!), and it’s made me adore him even more than I already did.  I’d love to have known him.  I’d also love to have met Audrey Hepburn, the sweetest lady ever, and Montgomery Clift, because he was so sad and I think he could’ve used a hug.  (And some anti-depressants, bless him.)

8.  Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)

Gary Cooper, no question.  In his prime he was absolutely the sexiest, most beautiful man ever in the movies.  Tall and lanky, with masculine strength and that sweet, shy demeanor, he could wear bespoke European suits or rugged American cowboy gear with equal elegance.  That pretty face and those bedroom eyes, swoon!

He was basically catnip for women, both on and off screen, and continues to be dreamy even to girls born many years after died.  I think I’d better add him to question #7, above!  I’d love to have met Coop, that’s for sure.  Preferably alone on a deserted tropical island.

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9.  Dream cast.

Cary Grant and Barbara Stanwyck in a romantic comedy.  Why did that never happen?

10.  Favorite actor pairing.

Rock Hudson and Doris Day.  They were so much fun together.

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11.  Favorite movie setting.  

Paris.  So many of my favorite movies take place there:  An American in Paris, Gigi, Sabrina, Funny Face, Charade.  Heck, pretty much every Audrey Hepburn movie is set in Paris!

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12.  Favorite decade for movies.

Probably the ‘30s.

9th May 1934: Myrna Loy (1905 - 1993) and William Powell (1892 - 1984) play sleuthing couple Nick and Nora Charles in 'The Thin Man', directed by W S Van Dyke.

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Mr Deeds Goes to Town

Swing Time

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13.  Chick flick or action movie?

Chick flick.

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14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?

Hero.

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15.  Black and white or color?

Black and white, I suppose, although I wouldn’t want to live without all my beautiful Technicolor movies.

Springtime in Italy – Come September

Come September (1961)

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Come September is one of my very favorite movies set in Italy. It’s also one of the best of the spate of racy yet innocent “bedroom comedies” that came out in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, following in the wake of the super successful Pillow Talk in 1959.

In fact, for my money it’s the best one, with the exception of the three Doris Day and Rock Hudson did together.  It’s so much fun.  Rather than give a detailed recap of the plot, I’ll just mention some of the things I love most about Come September.

Rock Hudson

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With his entrée into comedy in Pillow Talk, Hudson proved he could carry a movie not just as a handsome leading man, but as a very funny one, too. Here he plays a wealthy American industrialist who visits his Italian villa once a year, in September. That’s also when he visits his Italian girlfriend, to whom he won’t commit. When he decides to visit earlier in the year than usual, little does he know that his girl’s on the verge of marrying someone else and his major domo is running his home as a hotel – and pocketing the profits.

His response to all the craziness he encounters is fantastic. He’s especially good in his scenes with Bobby Darin, Sandra Dee and the other youngsters in the cast, amusingly illustrating the “generation gap” that was beginning to appear in the early ‘60s and would grow so wide by the end of the decade. Hudson was a great, subtle reactor and comedy straight man. Plus, he was soooo good looking!

Gina Lollobrigida

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No wonder she was one of the stars most associated with 1950s va-va-voom! What a gorgeous lady. She was also a very funny one in this movie, driving Rock Hudson crazy with her fiery temper, incredible curves, and sympathy for the teenagers suddenly overrunning his home. Call me crazy, but if forced to choose which Italian bombshell I like the most, I’d pick Gina over Sophia, based entirely on my love for her in Come September.

Sandra Dee

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Oh, how I love sweet, spunky Sandra! I have such a soft spot for her movies, especially the romantic comedies. She’s cute as a button, with great comic timing. I hate that she’s mostly associated with the song from Grease, because there was a lot more to her than the virginal teenager she sometimes played. (See her as an adorably mischievous French-American minx in If a Man Answers, for instance.) I love the scene in which she uses her Psych 101 knowledge to play therapist to Rock Hudson, thinking he’s a shell-shocked former soldier. Hilarious!

Bobby Darin

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What a multi-talented guy. In addition to starring in Come September, Darin also wrote the movie’s catchy theme song, which plays over the opening credits, and sings another song he wrote, “Multiplication.” Darin and Dee met and fell in love while filming in Italy and were married soon thereafter. They have great onscreen chemistry, which you can see more of in their other movies – the aforementioned If a Man Answers, as well as That Funny Feeling, both of which have a certain Junior-Rock-and-Doris feel to them.

A great supporting cast

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The supporting cast includes Walter Slezak as Hudson’s sneaky major domo, Brenda De Banzie (best known to me as one of the kidnappers in Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much) as the chaperone of Sandra Dee’s tour group, and a young Joel Grey as one of Bobby Darin’s troublemaking pals.

Pretty, pretty dresses

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Everyone in Come September looks lovely! Sandra Dee and the other girls wear sweet sundresses, pretty formals, and kicky Capri pants. Gina Lollobrigida wears a series of gorgeous dresses and negligees that emphasize her every curve. The men look pretty nice too! I love that clean-cut, early-‘60s look so much. The clothes in classic films are a huge part of their appeal for me, and this is one of my favorite movies when it comes to fashion.

Pretty, pretty scenery

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More than pretty, in fact. Shot on location in Rome, Milan and Portofino, Come September is a joy to look at. I swear, there must’ve been some special magic in Italy in the 1950s and ‘60s, because it looks absolutely enchanting in movies of that time. Maybe it’s the combination of gorgeous scenery with the (to me) more aesthetically pleasing clothes, hairdos and cars of the era. Maybe it’s the Technicolor.  Whatever the case, it’s delightful to see!

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Come September is the perfect lighthearted comedy to get you in the mood for Spring.  It’s available on DVD and of course you should check it out.  After all, any  movie that features a scene like this one just has to be good!

Top Ten Reasons I Love Pillow Talk

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1.  Doris Day displaying how good she is at absolutely everything.  Annex - Day, Doris_20Is there anything this multi-talented lady can’t do?  I’ve loved Doris Day’s music and movies since I was a little girl.  She was pretty, perky and funny, could sing, dance and act, and was so warm and loveable onscreen.

Miss Day has starred in more movies I love than just about anyone with the exception of Cary Grant: Romance on the High Seas, Young at Heart, Calamity Jane, Love Me or Leave Me, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Teacher’s Pet, Pillow Talk, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Midnight Lace, Lover Come Back, That Touch of Mink, The Thrill of It All!, Move Over Darling, Send Me No Flowers, The Glass Bottom Boat, With Six You Get Eggroll.  I simply adore her!

Pillow Talk is my favorite of her performances.  She’s incredibly funny as Jan Morrow, an interior decorator driven to distraction by the obnoxious, womanizing other end of her party line.  Doris Day’s blend of primness and sexiness is irresistible.  She’s a lot like Jean Arthur in that way, now that I think of it.

2.  Rock Hudson debuting his not inconsiderable comedic abilities.  Prior to playing Brad Allen (a/k/a Rex Stetson) in 1959’s Pillow Talk, Rock Hudson was known for his roles in dramas like Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows and Giant.  He was nervous about taking on the comedic role, but he did a fantastic job.  Here’s one of my favorite scenes.  The way he switches back and forth between Brad and Rex is so funny.  Poor Jan.  He just reels her right in.  “Like a potbellied stove on a frosty morning.”

Hudson always gave Doris Day credit for teaching him how to play in onscreen comedies.  I’m sure he did learn a lot from her, but given the results it seems like it all came to him pretty easily.  He was such a natural that it’s hard to believe this was his first comedy.  He did many more after Pillow Talk, including two more with Doris Day.  He’s especially hilarious in Send Me No Flowers, as a hypochondriac who tries to find his wife a new husband when he mistakenly thinks he’s going to die.

3.  Tony Randall.  Talk about funny!  Tony Randall’s turn as Jonathan Forbes, Brad’s wealthy best friend and Jan’srock-doris-tony luckless suitor, is a huge part of why Pillow Talk comes together so perfectly.  Randall had  especially great chemistry with Rock Hudson.  Their scenes together work so well, with Randall as the neurotic little guy always talking about his inferiority complex and Rock as the cool, successful playboy.

It’s no wonder Randall starred in the other Day/Hudson movies – he was just as necessary to their collaborations’ successes as Rock and Doris were themselves.  I can’t imagine those movies without him.  All you need to do to see what a difference it makes to have the real Tony Randall in the “Tony Randall part” is watch Gig Young as Cary Grant’s assistant in That Touch of Mink.  When it comes to bedroom farce sidekicks, accept no substitutions!

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