Monday, September 12, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Romance on the High Seas (1948)

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS is a treat from start to finish: it's visually sumptuous, has a fun, witty script, an Oscar-nominated song and score, and -- oh, yes -- the emergence of Doris Day as a full-blown movie star in her very first film. "It's Magic," indeed.

Day portrays Georgia Garrett, a singer in low-budget clubs who dreams of faraway travel. Socialite Mrs. Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) hires Georgia to take her place on a cruise while Elvira stays home to spy on her hubby (Don DeFore) and make sure he's not having a fling with his secretary. Meanwhile said husband hires a private detective (Jack Carson) to spy on the supposedly cruising wife.

It all gets very complicated, especially when the detective falls for the "married" Georgia/Elvira, and to top it all off, Georgia's would-be boyfriend (Oscar Levant) shows up on the cruise!

It's all a lot of fun, with good performances by the entire cast and familiar faces like S.Z. Sakall, Franklin Pangborn, and Grady Sutton along for the ride.

Day's Georgia starts out as a lot of fun, but definitely a little more exaggerated and brassy than we're used to seeing from her on screen. And then, roughly 40 minutes into the film, she quietly launches into "It's Magic," and it's a moment of such honest, star-making beauty that I teared up.

From that point on, her character gradually relaxes into the charming Doris we know and love. Her other songs include a couple great numbers backed by the Page Cavanaugh Trio. I especially enjoyed "Put 'Em in a Box, Tie 'Em With a Ribbon, and Throw 'Em in the Deep Blue Sea."

The film would also be worth seeing simply for the visuals, starting with the colorful travel brochures at the start of the opening credits. The movie is a Technicoor fantasyland, photographed by Elwood Bredell. I loved the look of the travel agency, Paige's turquoise phone against her pink gown, the stateroom on the ship, and especially the final long pullback shot of the balloon-filled carnival celebration in Rio.

It's fun to note that this movie teams up the women who would star in the stage and screen versions of the great musical PAJAMA GAME. Paige starred in the Broadway production with John Raitt, but when it came time to make the 1957 movie, Day got the role.

This film was directed by Michael Curtiz. The solid screenplay is by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein (CASABLANCA) with additional dialogue by I.A.L. Diamond. The film runs 99 minutes.

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS is available on DVD as part of the Doris Day Collection, Volume 2. It's available for rental from Netflix. May 2017 Update: ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

It's also been released on VHS and can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer, which opens with a musical serenade by Day and Paige which isn't in the actual film, is at TCM.

I don't think I'd seen this film since I was a child. I definitely won't be waiting so long to watch it again!

February 2018 Update: I had a great opportunity to see this film on a big screen at UCLA as part of their Michael Curtiz retrospective.


Blogger mel said...

A wonderful movie. Many decades ago I had a B&W 16mm copy of Romance On The High Seas and, not having previously seen it in Technicolor, loved it anyway. Of course, I now have it in full color.

My favorite song from this movie is "It's You Or No One", which Doris sings twice. I prefer the ballad version. Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn wrote such beautiful songs...

And I love those old character actors - Cuddles Sakall, Eric Blore - there aren't any actors on the Hollywood sound stages today who can hold a candle to them.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Jim Lane said...

Romance on the High Seas is the perfect illustration of Oscar Levant's crack about how he knew Doris Day before she became a virgin -- what a spunky little pepperpot she was in those days! My uncle told me about going to see that picture at the age of 17 at Glendale's Alex Theatre, hardly knowing what to expect -- and certainly never expecting to literally fall in love (his emphasis) with this delightful new star. Anyone who's seen the picture knows exactly what he meant.

10:54 PM  

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