Men have been buzzing around here like flies ever since you gave up baseball. This place is beginning to look like the YMCA on a rainy afternoon!
Happy 96th birthday to Ms. Doris Day, one of the brightest lights to ever illuminate Hollywood. She was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio. After a car accident sabotaged her dreams of becoming a professional dancer, Doris decided to keep pursuing the entertainment business. She went on to become a professional singer and eventually sang with the likes of famous bandleaders including Les Brown and Bob Crosby. Today, Doris is remembered for her film acting (which began in 1948), distinguished singing voice, and animal welfare activism. Although it’s been decades since she was a top box-office draw, Doris has yet to go out of style. She’s simply irresistible. Happy birthday, DD! ✦
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:
On Moonlight Bay has become very dear to me since I watched it for the first time nearly three years ago, when I happened to keep the TV on after watching Meet Me in St. Louis on TCM. It was just a couple of days before Christmas. The family room was totally dark and I was wrapped up in a blanket. It was total paradise.
And I had never seen a Doris Day film until this point.
Now, I was familiar with Gordon MacRae. I’ve been in love with his character Curley in Oklahoma! for longer than I can remember. Show me the proposal scene and I swoon every time.
But I digress.
On Moonlight Bay is fairly similar to Meet Me in St. Louis (close in time period, Leon Ames plays a stern but loving father, young neighbors fall in love, etc.) so that’s why I was pulled in instantly. Fortunately, this film has its own unique approach to the story it tells and it’s delightful.
The film is set in small town Indiana around the World War I era. It revolves around the Winfield family, a seemingly normal middle-class family who has just moved across town into a new house.
Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp play the parents. As I mentioned above, Ames plays a father similar to his character Mr. Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis; he’s got a soft side, but it’s hidden under several layers of comical frustration and crankiness.
Marjorie (Doris Day) is the only daughter in the family. To her parents’ dismay, she is more interested in playing baseball than dating boys – that is, until she discovers the young man who lives across the street.
After Marjorie meets Bill Sherman (Gordon MacRae) in a rather unorthodox way, they go out on their first date.
At the end of the date, Bill proclaims that he doesn’t believe in marriage after Marjorie invites him inside her home to drink a glass of buttermilk. His resistance doesn’t deter self-willed Marjorie, who pursues her new love interest.
He asks to see her again, and so begins their courtship. Marjorie’s parents are stunned: She’s gone from being a girl only interested in baseball to a lovestruck teenager in a matter of a couple days. As her father puts it: “Marjorie is young and very inexperienced. All she knows about men is their batting averages.”
Bill is a sweet and handsome (but sometimes opinionated) college student. He has his own “radical” ideas about money and marriage, which does not impress Marjorie’s traditionalist father, who happens to be a rather conservative banker. Naturally, tension and an argument ensue which distresses Marjorie and infuriates her father, who demands that she stops seeing Bill entirely.
So, her father starts pushing a romance on her with another local boy named Hubert (Jack Smith). Hubert is stuffy and not interesting at all. The trouble is, he really likes Marjorie. She has a difficult time shaking him off.
If music be the food of love, please stop playing.
In the meantime, Marjorie doesn’t give up on her romance with Bill.
Marjorie goes to the extent of secretly learning how to dance while he is away at college in order to attend a ball with him. When an injury renders her unable to walk without crutches, Marjorie refuses to attend the ball with Bill. When she breaks off the date, she makes up another excuse as to why she’s cancelling, not wanting him to know the real reason.
When a colossal misunderstanding occurs (I will go more into that shortly), Bill rushes over to the Winfield home to make sure Marjorie is okay and finds himself in an awkward situation.
Before I finish this piece, I realize that there are a couple of standout characters who I haven’t given attention to until now, so I want to dedicate some space to them here:
The always-amusing character actress Mary Wickes (White Christmas, Sister Act) is a standout in this movie as the comedic relief. She plays the Winfield’s maid, Stella. Stella lays on the snarky and sarcastic comments whenever she gets the chance, and it happens often.
Wesley, the youngest of the Winfield family, is the only son. He’s a piece of work and his antics crack me up every time I watch this movie. Wesley is kind of a typical little brother: He does things like annoy his sister when suitors call (sometimes to her delight) and is often causing problems at home and school.
I think Wesley’s greatest moment is when he convinces his teacher (Ellen Corby, who would later be best remembered as Grandma Walton on the popular show The Waltons) that his father is an alcoholic who relentlessly beats his family. Wesley stole his story from a silent film he had watched the day before in order to make up an excuse as to why he was sleeping in class. And his teacher totally believes it. If you haven’t seen On Moonlight Bay, I understand that what I just said probably doesn’t sound too funny, but it’s ridiculous and always makes me laugh.
When Bill confronts Mr. Winfield about his supposed repulsive behavior, it obviously causes quite a stir. But have no fear, Wesley figures out how to dodge punishment.
I love this scene:
As usual, I don’t want to give away the entire story, just in case there are any readers who are planning on checking it out. If you enjoy lighthearted, fluffy musicals, you may take a liking to On Moonlight Bay. It’s is fun to watch at any point in the year, but it’s best around the holidays.
This post is a part of the Doris Day Blogathon, hosted by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood. If you’re interested, you can read other submissions here!
6 thoughts on “ON MOONLIGHT BAY (1951)”
Charm and good humor simply ooze from On Moonlight Bay. And wait until you see, or have you seen By the Light of the Silvery Moon? The Booth Tarkington stories that inspired the Winfields focused more on the kid brother, and Billy Gray was the perfect actor for that part.
I have seen By the Light of the Silvery Moon but admittedly when I watched it (which was awhile ago) I wasn’t fully paying attention, so I really need to go back and watch it again. Billy Gray was great!
This film is pure charm, in my opinion. I LOVE Doris as the baseball-playing tomboy, then her transformation into a more “girly” girl. She was the perfect choice for this role.
She truly was! I’m glad you enjoy it, too.
This film and its sequel are so much fun. It almost makes you wish Warners had made a whole bunch of them like MGM did with the Andy Hardy series. There are definitely a lot of similarities to Meet Me in St. Louis, but On Moonlight Bay is the lighter, fluffier film, which may be why I like it more. (Totally aware I’m in the minority there.) Day and MacCrae are just too adorable, and the songs are truly lovely.
Thanks for bringing this wonderful film to my blogathon!
Thank you for hosting it, Michaela!