Starring Doris Day and Jack Carson

Every classic film blogger has written a Doris Day and Jack Carson post. It’s understandable. The three movies they made together are simply enjoyable. Have you seen them? Romance on the High Seas, from 1948, was Doris Day’s first major film role. It’s a Great Feeling and My Dream is Yours came in 1949, All three are musical romantic comedies for Warner Brothers and they’re simply fun and easy to spend time with. They’re all shot in Technicolor and are full of bright, colorful scenes with great styles in fashion and decor. Most of all,  I love seeing the chemistry between Jack and Doris. I never get tired of these movies because of it.

Romance on the High Seas, 1948

Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) for Warner Brothers in 1948, Romance on the High Seas is my favorite of the three movies Jack Carson and Doris Day starred in together. It’s truly a romantic comedy with some great Doris Day singing.

Over here we have Georgia Garrett (Day). She’s a single, working girl who’s always planning exotic trips but never takes them. Then, over here we have Mrs. Elvira Kent (Janis Paige), a well-known society woman, married to business executive, Michael Kent (Don DeFour). Elvira is excited about the big cruise to South America that she’s been planning for her and her husband. Michael, however, insists he has to forgo the cruise to stay home and attain to business. He’s just too busy. After Elvira meets Michael’s beautiful, new secretary, Miss Medwick (Leslie Brooks), she’s convinced he’s actually staying home to have an affair with her. To catch him in the act of cheating on her, Elvira comes up with a plan. To do it, she has to pretend she’ll go on the cruise without Michael. This way she can stay home, follow him without him knowing she’s in town, and catch him in this affair. To accomplish this, Elvira needs to feign her presence on the cruise ship in case Michael tries to contact her there. She comes across Georgia, planning yet another trip, at the travel agency. At this point, it dawns on Elvira how she can pull this all off – After a complicated explanation to a skeptical Georgia, Elvira hires her to take her place on the cruise. Georgia can’t believe her luck and decides it’s okay to accept. It’s one of her dream trips, after all. What does she have to lose? Elvira gives Georgia her passport and a long list of to-dos and to-don’t’s, (all intended to live up to the Elvira Kent name), and sends her aboard the ship. Meanwhile, Michael is disturbed with Elvira’s insistence that she go without him on the cruise so he hires Peter Virgil (Carson), a private detective, to follow HER and make sure she’s not cheating on HIM. Oh boy. Carson and Day take over from here and it’s so much fun. Not surprisingly, Peter ends up following Georgia, thinking she’s really Elvira. They stumble with this charade all over the cruise ship and end up falling in love. This plot is so unique and interesting. Every scene is meaningful to the story and Doris and Jack deliver comedic lines so effortlessly. Doris Day sings some incredible songs here too. I love “It’s Magic.” The chemistry between Day and Carson is exactly that.

It’s a Great Feeling, 1949

It’s a Great Feeling is the only movie of these three that wasn’t directed by Michael Curtiz. It’s more comedy than romance, and was directed by David Butler for Warner Brothers in 1949. Everyone in the movie plays themselves, except for Doris Day. She plays Judy Adams,  a small-town girl from Goerke’s Corners, Wisconsin. (Shout out to Goerke’s Corners! It was a real place at one time (but gone now) in Waukesha County). Goerke’s Corners is mentioned several times in the movie to illustrate how important small-town life is to Judy. But, this small town girl has a dream to make it big in Hollywood.

We meet Judy while she’s working in the commissary at Warner Brothers hoping for a chance to get her big break. She accosts Jack Carson (plays himself) when she delivers food to his dressing room and forces him to listen to her audition for him. He’s not impressed right away, but suddenly sees an opportunity here to con Dennis Morgan (plays himself) into playing a role in his new production. Jack is looking for a way to make money and knows Dennis’s presence in the production will bring it in.  He hires Judy to “play a part” to get him onboard. Carson and Morgan ultimately work together to do what they can to put Judy’s talents to work for them in other productions. I got a kick out of the parade of Warner Brothers’ stars that appear throughout this movie. They just kept showing up! All playing themselves, of course.  Jane Wyman, Joan Crawford, Eleanor Parker and Ronald Reagan all make cameos. Gary Cooper, and Edward G. Robinson do too. And several more! It feels like every actor from the studio made an appearance in this. What a fun movie. Psssst…there’s a surprise ending!

My Dream is Yours, 1949

In 1949, Michael Curtiz directed My Dream is Yours for Warner Brothers. This one’s a little more romance than comedy, and has some serious drama too. Doug Blake (Carson) is a talent agent that represents the popular, but mean, slimy putz, Gary Mitchell (Lee Bowman). When Mitchell refuses to sign another contract to do the Enchanted Hour radio program, Doug’s boss, Thomas Hutchins (Adolphe Menjou) insists he find a replacement. On his quest to find a new act to replace Mitchell, he discovers Martha Gibson (Day) at one of the studios he visits, working as a turntable operator. She’s a war widow with a young son. And, she’s willing to follow Doug through anything if it means she can make a living doing what she loves to support her son. It’s a rocky journey. One that’s saved more than once by Hutchin’s feisty but caring secretary, Vivian Martin (Eve Arden). This movie was released at Eastertime in April of 1949 and has a strange, Easter-themed animated sequence in the middle of it that includes Bugs Bunny, another Warner Brother’s star. Bugs, along with Carson and Day who are dressed in rabbit costumes, give us a few moments of a child-like Easter celebration. Strange. Rumor has it that Jack Carson and Doris Day were an item during the filming of My Dream is Yours. Somehow, knowing that adds to the enjoyment of this onscreen romance.

Frankie and Johnny – 1966

First, let me admit that I’ve never seen a complete Elvis Presley movie.  Second, let me admit that, until this past year (thank you Overture Center), I went out of my way to avoid musicals in general. This movie is both. As I was scrolling through the On Demand section of the TCM schedule on Sling yesterday, I came across Frankie and Johnny.  As I write this, we’re in the middle of the Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic and I’m taking advantage of all this stay-at-home time it’s providing us to broaden my movie horizons. I dove head first into this one and in the end, it felt pretty darn good.

Johnny, Frankie and the Redhead.

Frankie and Johnny is a musical set in the 1800s on a Mississippi riverboat. It stars Elvis Presley, Donna Douglas (Beverly Hillbillies) and Harry Morgan (Mash). This is a big, colorful, happy movie that’s chock-full of music. It has worked its magic on me.

Johnny (Presley) and his girlfriend, Frankie (Douglas) are actors and singers performing shows for the guests on the riverboat. Johnny has a gambling problem and he’s in debt. Of course this discourages Frankie from going too far into a relationship with him. She hates gambling. Always looking for a sign of good luck, Johnny’s friend Cully (Morgan) suggests they go see “Zolita” (an uncredited performance from Naomi Stevens) a gypsy fortune teller at one of their riverboat’s stops. When they do, she insists Johnnie will come in contact with a red head that will bring him good luck.

Remarkably, a red head, Nelly Bly (Nancy Kovak), joins the cast of their productions and appears to bring Johnny good luck at the riverboat’s roulette table just like Zolita said she would. Nelly has just broken up with the owner of the riverboat they all work on and Johnny catches her eye. It turns into a nasty little spat between Frankie and Johnny that culminates with her throwing all the gambling winnings he so desperately needed to pay off his debt, out the window.

Is it the best movie I ever saw? No. Is it the funniest? No. But it did the job for me. It felt good to spend time with it right now. Frankie and Johnny is fun. It gets bonus points for somehow being able to take my mind off of things for 87 minutes. This movie is full of bright colors and happy, 19th century styles. The costumes were beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much yellow….well, ever. Nor have I ever listened to so much Elvis Presley music….ever.  I’m a little ashamed of that, but I can admit now that I thoroughly enjoyed his singing here. I think my favorite song was near the end where he sings “Hard Luck” with the harmonica played by a boy on the street. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

Frankie and Johnny was directed by Frederick De Cordova in 1966 for Frankie and Johnny Productions and United Artists. It’s On Demand on TCM right now and available to rent, streaming on Amazon.  Now, I might need to find another Elvis movie to try. Any suggestions? Or should I quit while I’m ahead?