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Though it doesn't match the captivating staging of Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me in St Louis as a nostalgic period musical, both this charmer and its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon, based on Booth Tarkington's delightful Penrod stories, are very much in the same mold as the Minnelli classic; both films provide ideal vehicles for the multi-talented Doris Day, seen here at her most fetchingly tomboyish with her frequent on-screen partner at the time, Gordon MacRae. Their combined vocal talents bring genuine class to the turn of the (last) century tunes, providing a veritable cornucopia of some of the era's most recognizable standards. The pair create an easy chemistry mercifully free of the self-conscious projection so prevalent in many contemporary "feel-good" movies. Billy Gray, as Day's younger brother in his pre-Father Knows Best days was a likable and unspoiled child performer, who brought terrific comic timing in the delivery of his misplaced energies. Mary Wickes as the no-nonsense maid who acts as a kind of chorus to the action, is another notable scene-stealer, in a film which like so many of the early Doris Day musicals leaves this viewer with a warm glow.
Here's a nice little piece of cheerful entertainment from Warner Bros. with
their number one sweetheart, DORIS DAY, doing her best to be a believable
tomboy who turns to dresses when she spots the boy next door, GORDON MacRAE.
With some perky period songs (it's from a Booth Tarkington story of
small-town life in rural America), an ingratiating cast (Rosemary DeCamp and
Leon Ames are perfect as the put upon parents), and Billy Gray as a bratty
little brother, it's a nice bit of Americana spruced up by picture postcard
Doris Day and Gordon MacRae are clearly too old for the roles they play but here it doesn't seem to matter--their courtship scenes are charming and both display their unique vocal abilities in a number of songs. Especially good is Jack C. Smith as Hubert, Doris' persistent suitor who won't take no for an answer. And Ellen Corby is a delight as a schoolteacher intent on straightening out the misbehaving Billy Gray, who all but walks off with the film as the kid brother from hell.
Very pleasant family film, very much in the tradition of others like MARGIE, LIFE WITH FATHER and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, with its own brand of charm. Good light entertainment, the kind of musical not made these days, unpretentious and sometimes wickedly funny. Mary Wickes, as a maid who is constantly dropping the silverware, gives zest to her role as a cook who can make her one-liners sound inspired.
The decade which gave us the First World War seems an unlikely subject for
nostalgia. On Moonlight Bay, however, is a film which approaches the 1910s
in a sentimental, nostalgic way, trying to persuade us that, whatever was
happening on the battlefields of Europe, it was a time of a kinder,
America. The film centres upon the Winfield family, prosperous citizens of
an unnamed mid-western town, and especially on the romance between their
daughter Marjorie and her boyfriend William Sherman.
William is something of a radical, with advanced views about politics and the institution of marriage, but as he is the sort of well-scrubbed middle-class radical who always wears an impeccably-tied bow-tie and calls his girlfriend's father `sir', we know that in the end he will turn out to be a thoroughly respectable young man, eager to do the right thing by Marjorie and his patriotic duty to his country. (The fact that he has the same name as a famous general is perhaps a giveaway). The film deals with America's involvement in World War One in the traditional flagwaving manner; it was made at a time when the Cold War had recently become a hot war in Korea, so there is an obvious political subtext.
Set against this romance is a series of sub-plots involving Marjorie's mischievous younger brother Wesley, a sort of American Just William. Wesley is very well played by a young actor named Billy Gray, and his antics provide the film with its most amusing moments.
The film is a musical, and the songs are pleasant enough, although the tunes are not particularly memorable and the lyrics are clichéd in the best `Moon-in-June' style. The film as a whole, although it has nothing of any depth to say and even the political themes are dealt with rather superficially, makes agreeable entertainment, especially on a wet Sunday afternoon (which is when I saw it on TV). 6/10.
I just happened across this one Sunday morning on Turner Classic Movies, and I loved it. What a cast: Doris, Gordon, Billy Gray (of "Father Knows Best"), Ellen Corby (Grandma of "The Waltons"), Mary Wicks (from the "Sister Act" movies) and others who made this a total trip down memory lane. I can hardly wait for the second movie, "By the Light of the Silvery Bay" (1953) to come on!
This is a collection of warm, human and often humorous Booth Tarkington
stories, strung together, of a perceived or recalled pre-WWI America. It
had all happened half a century before this mid-20th Century production. It
was, perhaps, the last clarion call of the sweet, sentimental ballad of the
turn of the last Century as Rock and Roll was starting to impact as the
popular music of the West.
The production values of this film are strictly 1950s studio. It was shot on tri-exposure Technicolor with the lighting a bit flat but, all in all, a loving tribute to the era complete with many of the top song hits of the time, some that are still celebrated today, in the 21st Century.
I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Jack Warner saw how well MGM
did with Two Weeks With Love, a nostalgic gaslight era musical that
starred Jane Powell. I'm sure Warner then got the idea to do a musical
for his reigning musical star of the moment Doris Day from the same
era. And save a whole lot of money because nearly all the material is
in the public domain.
On Moonlight Bay is the title of the film and one of several songs sung by Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, and Gordon's rival for Doris, Jack Smith all from the era before America's entry in World War I. Hollywood has done a lot to glamorize that era of Norman Rockwell and Grant Wood as America likes to see itself. Certainly none of the social problems the USA had in that era seem to intrude on Milbern, Indiana the fictional location Booth Tarkington had for the Winfield and Sherman families whose son and daughter find each other.
Of course if you paid a ticket to see social problems in a Doris Day film as that other Warner Brother icon would say, what a maroon. Doris as the tomboy first baseman hasn't quite discovered men yet, that is until she almost shoots Gordon MacRae. After that you know how this film will go.
One original song was done for On Moonlight Bay, the Christmas Story which Doris and Gordon sing with accompanying carolers. It blends nicely in with all the nostalgic material.
On Moonlight Bay and its sequel film, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon is based on the Booth Tarkington Penrod stories. Billy Gray who later was Bud Anderson in Father Knows Best plays Doris's younger brother Wesley (Penrod). He's one mischievous kid and whatever trouble he doesn't get into here is saved for the next film.
Doris, Gordon, and Billy all appear in the next film along with her parents Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp and maid Mary Wickes who always has a sharp word for the goings on.
I confess I have a fondness for the songs of this romantic era myself, so I'm prejudiced about On Moonlight Bay. But try it you young folk, you might like it.
Its not often I give a film 10 of out of 10 but Doris Day movies consistently rate that high for me. If you are in a depressed or foul mood, her smiles, her singing, and the cast members around her always can lift you to another place. This is much like a Technicolor Judy Garland film in a lot of ways, with homespun family values and courting. At first, I had a problem with the leads, who seemed too old, playing teenagers. The actors grow on you, especially Doris. The actor playing her annoying kid brother is terrific. The parents are well portrayed and protective. The housekeeper is a wiley classic. Even the family dog gets in the act in several scenes. I recommend the film heartily especially if you want to smile and sing along. Doris Day is and has always been a national treasure. I am very glad I got a chance to spend the afternoon with her in this film.
This is the first of two movies about the same characters. Doris Day
and Gordon MacRae play young sweethearts in this turn of the century
inspired by the stories of Booth Tarkington. The story is told from her
point of view and her home life with her mother, father and bratty
brother are central to the film. Of the family members, the most
memorable is Billy Gray ("Bud" from FATHER KNOWS BEST), as he is a
terrible little brat that is a lot like Dennis the Menace and the
Problem Child all rolled up into one. In particular, the portion of the
film where he tells a HUGE lie to his school teacher is a riot!
The romance between the two is sweet, but in trouble because Gordon plays such a stubborn and overly opinionated "modern" man who doesn't believe in old fashioned conventions like marriage! Well, being a Hollywood film, and a very sweet one at that, you KNOW how the film will end. However, the journey there is so pleasant and so well constructed that you really don't mind at all! It's a delight for all.
I was genuinely surprised by how charming and delightful this movie is. It's the movie previous to "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" but that one is not quite up to this. In this film, Doris' boyfriend goes off to WWI and in the next one he comes back, though that's not the major plot. Derived from Booth Tarkington's family stories about a prankish little boy yet modified as a Doris Day vehicle, every scene juggles different elements of character and motive, and much of it is just plain funny. You know how romantic musicals have certain conventions and complications that are supposed to be amusing but are just routine? Well, this actually made me laugh out loud several times. There's one sequence about the father's "drinking problem" that reminded me of a great episode of the "Dobie Gillis" TV show and must have inspired it. About as intelligent and fun as americana gets; they even have a sassy WHITE maid to avoid the racial stereotype.
I've seen this Doris Day-Gordon Mc Rae film a number of times. Actually I
first saw it as a little boy when it premiered in 1951. I thought it was
fairy tale then and I still do now. But it's a delightful fairy tale and
last night I shared it with my twelve and a half year old
A combination of "Father Knows Best" and "Dennis the Menace" with music, "On Moonlight Bay" gave American audiences during a Cold War and a hot Korean conflict the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. All the characters are witty and caring and there's mischief without mayhem. The only violence is a snowball fight and the sole injury is a twisted ankle. The sweetness of the courting couple is what we all want for ourselves but rarely if ever experience. With the mad senator from Wisconsin searching for communists everywhere, the script allowed its male lead to express extravagantly immature ruminations about the evils of patriotism before he, of course, awakened to his duty. This film is from Warner Brothers, the same folks who gave us the Department of Defense funded "Red Nightmare" with Jack Webb.
I wasn't surprised that my son liked the movie a lot. Even at his age he needs and appreciates a good escape from a world less gorgeously delightful than the screen version. Doris Day is very good although her real age is hard to disguise as she acts the teenager.
They don't make musicals like this any more. They can't. Our sensibilities and experiences demand the exotica of films like "Moulin Rouge." "On Moonlight Bay" is a great trip back to an increasingly questioning and insecure America that could imagine a past as happy as that portrayed in the film. I'll see it again. And again.
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