This was Doris Day's first ever acting role, and she was extremely naive about how films were made. She wrote in her autobiography that the first scenes to be filmed would be aboard the cruise ship, and the first day she walked onto the sound stage and asked when they would be leaving for the boat? The crew broke up laughing.
According to her 1975 autobiography, "Doris Day: Her Own Story" (co-written with A.E. Hotchner), Miss Day attended a show-biz party the night before she planned to leave for New York City. Also at the gathering was lyric writer Sammy Cahn who, taking Doris aside, explained that she would be the right match for the Cahn-Jule Styne score of this upcoming film. When, at Mr. Cahn's urging, Doris sang "Embraceable You" (music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin) for the party crowd, she was heard by director Michael Curtiz, who then asked her to test for the role of Georgia Garrett.
There is a running gag about how awful Mrs. Elvira Kent's singing voice is, as she is repeatedly begged not to sing. Ironically, Janis Paige was in fact a musical star in the movies. She would play the lead in "The Pajama Game" (1954) on Broadway, a role Doris Day would later play in the film, The Pajama Game (1957).
For the part of Georgia Garrett, Warner Bros. inquired about borrowing Judy Garland from MGM, but Metro's policy at the time was not to lend Miss Garland to other studios. Mary Martin also had been in the running to play Georgia. Warners then acquired Betty Hutton in a loan-out deal with Paramount, but before filming started, Miss Hutton had to bow out because of her pregnancy.
Although she had 4th billing in this film, her screen debut, audience reaction to Doris Day was so strong and immediate that Warners signed her to a 7 year contract, during which she appeared in dozens of films and became a Top Ten Box Office star.
Because Warner ace director Michael Curtiz owed the government $350,000 in back taxes, the studio set him up in his own production company. When Betty Hutton bowed out, Styne suggested Doris Day without knowing that she had already been turned down by the studio because of a bad screen test. Producer Henry Blanke was persuaded to supervise a second, much more successful test. When Styne threatened to use Day in his own picture, Curtiz acquiesced.
In her autobiography, Doris Day recalled that in her screen-test song, "A Rainy Night in Rio" (music, by Arthur Schwartz, lyrics by Leo Robin), director Michael Curtiz at first instructed her to move around in the frenzied film style of Betty Hutton. Doris then requested to perform the number in her natural, more sedate manner.
When she saw herself in "dailies" early in this film's production, Doris Day claims she was so embarrassed by her own performance she asked director Michael Curtiz to recommend a drama coach. "No, no!" Curtiz replied, "You're a natural just as you are - if you learn how to act, you'll ruin everything."
A jaunty solo by Doris Day from the Jule Styne-Sammy Cahn film score, "I'm in Love," was turned into a duet by Miss Day and her hit-making disc partner, Buddy Clark, on the Columbia Records single. "Put 'Em in a Box, Tie 'Em With a Ribbon (And Throw' Em in the Deep Blue Sea)," another sprightly movie number, teamed Doris with The Page Cavanaugh Trio. On Columbia's 78, Miss Day sang with a full orchestra under the baton of George Siravo.