The film that made Doris Day a household name...
By now Doris Day had become 'reliable entertainment' and moviegoers could be assured that a "Doris Day film" would be good family fare. Day's voice was part of her tremendous appeal and her ability to be both sexy and a regular gal appealed to both men and women. Day was different than most women on the screen. She was independent and portrayed women who were ambitious, employed and self-sufficient. In "Lullaby of Broadway" she plays Melinda Howard, an aspiring singer/dancer who arrives in New York to surprise her mother, a has-been Broadway star who has kept her daughter abroad for years to hide her personal downfall. Melinda is under the impression that her mother is still on top due to years of deceptive letters describing "a wonderful house on Beekman Place" and starring roles on Broadway.
Jessica Howard, the mother, is played with silent screen-style brilliance by Gladys George, whose sad eyes and gin-soaked looks evokes empathy for her and respect for the fact she has raised such a lovely daughter and has tried to protect her from her mother's misfortune. Jessica, however, is not the only entertainer who is not appearing on the stage, "Lefty" Mack and Gloria Davis, a song and dance team are temporarily employed as servants for Adolph Hubbell (S.Z."Cuddles" Sakall ), a beer heir, who once produced Jessica on The Great White Way, and who actually owns that "wonderful house on Beekman Place". Melinda arrives, unexpectedly, and is told that her mother is out of town with "the show" and that Mr. Hubbell is "renting" in her absence. Jessica is actually singing in a rundown club in Greenwich Village. Understanding the situation, Hubbell allows Melinda to stay in the servant's quarters after taking an instant liking to the charming girl. When Jessica is told that her daughter is in New York, she is horrified that her secret might be revealed. Billy De Wolfe, as "Lefty" devises a plan to have Jessica "breeze into town" to attend a lavish party at the Hubbell's, have a big reunion with Melinda and then return her to England. The problem: keeping Jessica sober long enough to attend the gathering.
Meanwhile, Melinda has fallen in love with a young dancer, Tom Farnham, whom she met on the trip from England. During the wait for her mother's arrival at the soirée, she performs a number with Tom prompting a producer to consider her for a part in his upcoming stage musical. Of course, Jessie panics and goes back on the bottle, ending up in a hospital to "dry out".
Mr. Hubbell's wife, gruffly played by Florence Bates, unaware that Melinda is staying at the house, becomes suspicious that her husband is seeing another woman. Hubbell is innocently seen in public having dinner with Melinda, and the gossip-mongers report the alleged "affair" in all of New York's papers. This, of course, causes problems with Melinda's relationship with Tom and jolts Jessica into sobriety to come to the rescue of her daughter.
Doris Day is a delight as Melinda and gets the chance to do some real acting. Her reunion scene with her mother is very touching. Day looks spectacular in Technicolor and her youth allows big close-ups in this tender scene. Gladys George is good also and breaks your heart when she tearfully tells Melinda, "it's tough being a mother after all these years. I guess I need a couple more rehearsals.."
Doris opens the picture with the spectacular Cole Porter tune, "Just One of Those Things" wearing a top hat and tails. What a great number! The act that Tom and Melinda perform at the party is charming and showcases the dancing talents of both Day and Gene Nelson who plays Tom. The old Harry Warren/Al Dubin song, "You're Getting to be a Habit with Me" is smooth and breezy. Gene Nelson and Doris get to dance quite a bit in the picture. In a rehearsal for the upcoming show called "Lullaby of Broadway", they sing and dance to "Somebody Loves Me" and in an "impromptu" number on Broadway (this must be fantasy Broadway), they sing and dance to "I Love the Way You Say Goodnight". This last song is partially shot in slow motion and is beautifully edited. It allows you to see how flexible and acrobatic Nelson and Day are and it was an interesting touch you rarely see in musicals.
Gladys George belts out two songs, "A Shanty in Old Shanty Town" and "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" with Sophie Tucker-like gusto. Even Billy De Wolfe and Anne Triola (as Gloria) do an amusing "You're Dependable". Nelson shows us why he was the Gene Kelly of Warner Brothers with James F. Hanley's "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" with some high stepping, high kicking routines.
The best is saved for last. After all is well between the Hubbell's and Melinda and Tom settle their differences, the show, "Lullaby of Broadway" opens with the Hubbell's and Jessica Howard in attendance. Day, wearing a gold lame gown and mink stole with Nelson in tails, does the great title tune as they sing and dance up a long flight of stairs. I understand that Day was horrified when told about those stairs! Nelson assured her that she could do it and with much rehearsal and bruised legs, she perfected the routine. It's one of the best musical numbers in Warner's history.
Although "Calamity Jane" is the picture credited with making Doris "a superstar", "Lullaby of Broadway" must be given credit for making her a household name. During this period, she was constantly on the Hit Parade with big hits like "A Guy is a Guy" "When I Fall in Love" and "Shanghai". When she wasn't in front of the movie cameras, she was in the recording studios or posing for pictures for fan magazines. Doris also married Marty Melcher during this period and he became her manager.
Ralph McKnight, New York, August 2000
"Miss Day, it might be added, is a pert performer, who, at this point, does not have to prove her right to sing a song. Though she is no Eleanor Powell, Miss Day, who wears a resplendent set of clothes, has learned to dance effectively too. And, she very competently cuts several neat capers with Nelson. He, too, is engaging as a singer and the pair make the finale, "Lullaby of Broadway," an eye-filling event. S. Z. Sakall is on hand as the millionaire, who likes to invest in such insecure things as a Broadway musical called, oddly enough, "Lullaby of Broadway." Although he has few bright lines to utter, his face does continuously quiver and his eyes do roll with excitement. And, some people like that." - New York Times
Come on along and listen to
The lullaby of Broadway.
The hip hooray and bally hoo,
The lullaby of Broadway.
The rumble of the subway train,
The rattle of the taxis.
The daffy-dills who entertain
At Angelo's and Maxie's.
When the Broadway-baby says "Good night,"
It's early in the morning.
Manhattan babies don't sleep tight until the dawn:
Good night, baby,
Good night, milkman's on his way.
Sleep tight, baby,
Sleep tight, let's call it a day,
Listen to the lullaby of old Broadway.