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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Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Between Remember the Night and Christmas in Connecticut, it just wouldn’t be Christmas for me anymore without Barbara Stanwyck.

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She’s at her most gorgeous in Christmas in Connecticut, playing an unmarried career woman who poses as a married expert on domesticity, gloriously bedecked in mid-’40s finery designed by Edith Head. (Head was borrowed from Paramount to dress Stanwyck; the other costumes were by Warner’s Milo Anderson.)

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Dennis Morgan was handsome and dreamy in his uniform, plus he had the most beautiful singing voice. I would’ve fallen for him like a ton of bricks, too.

 

Stanwyck’s attempts at homemaker perfection are hilarious. You could probably discuss this movie in terms of the end of the war, women being forced out of the working world as men returned from overseas, and the coming feminine housewife ideal of the 1950s, if you were so inclined.

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I’m not so inclined at the moment, however, since Christmas in Connecticut is silly and romantic, and features S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall frequently slapping his chubby cheeks and saying things are “hunky dunky.”

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I highly recommend seeing the movie if you haven’t already. It streams for free on Amazon Prime and will air on TCM this Friday night.

This morning I also watched a fluffy but entertaining 1946 comedy of remarriage set mostly at Christmastime, Never Say Goodbye, starring Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker. (And S.Z. Sakall! He was in so many movies.)

Errol Flynn was beautiful. How is it that men were dashing with thin mustaches then — Gable, Flynn, Niven, Powell — but would look bizarre with them today? And why oh why did we let dressing up, supper clubs, and dancing cheek-to-cheek disappear? There’s no romance in the world anymore.

 

I don’t see any upcoming airings of Never Say Goodbye on the TCM schedule, but the movie is available from the Warner Archive.