Romance on the High Seas

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"Doris Day throws herself into her movie debut like a woman aiming for a
passing lifeboat from the deck of the Titanic." Radio Times

 

Originally conceived as a vehicle for Betty Hutton, the film had to be recast when Hutton became pregnant. Other established stars like Judy Garland and Jane Powell were briefly considered before Michael Curtiz auditioned Doris Day, a well known vocalist at the time but not considered an actress. Impressed by her singing ability and fresh-faced good looks Curtiz signed her to a film contract and cast her in the leading role of Georgia Garrett. - Wikipedia

 

"One of those movies to watch with a box of chocolates on a rainy afternoon"

 

Ralph McKnight

 

In 1947, Warner Brothers had plans to bring a lavish musical comedy called "Romance on the High Seas" to the screen. Arrangements had been made with MGM to borrow Judy Garland to star in the picture, but unfortunately, Miss Garland was unable to commit to the project for personal reasons. Betty Hutton was then cast in the role, however, then she discovered that she was pregnant and was forced to bow out. In desperation, the movie's songwriters, Jules Styne and Sammy Cahn, urged 23 year old band singer, Doris Day, to audition for the role after hearing her sing at a Hollywood party. Reluctantly, Doris auditioned for Hungarian director, Michael Curtiz, and to her astonishment, landed the coveted role.

 

"Romance on the High Seas" centres on Georgia Garrett, (Day) a talented young singer who has dreams of success in show business, but spends her days in travel agencies dreaming of trips to far away places.

 

Georgia is hired by a socialite, Elivia Kent (Janis Paige) to impersonate her on a dream excursion (all expenses paid) to South America, so she can remain in New York to spy on her suspected cheating husband. Kent's husband, Michael, played by Don DeFore, likewise has suspicions concerning his wife's infidelities and hires a private investigator, Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to monitor his wife's activities during her cruise to Rio.

Virgil meets "Mrs. Kent" aboard the ship, and, naturally, falls in love with her, adding to the complications. Georgia's wannabe boyfriend, Oscar Ferrar (Oscar Levant), is also curious about his "girlfriend's" mysterious trip. He follows her to Rio, because Georgia failed to explain fully how and why she was going on the cruise. After promising that she would uphold the dignity of Mrs. Kent's name, Georgia is offered a golden opportunity to sing aboard ship for a great deal of money, but must do it as "Mrs. Elvira Kent", not Georgia Garrett. When word of "Kent's" singing engagement hits the newspapers, the real Mrs. Kent is horrified and her husband becomes suspicious because his wife cannot sing a note. Everyone ends up in Rio and false identities are revealed. Georgia is finally freed to be herself, Mr. and Mrs. Kent discover that each of them is faithful and the film ends on a happy note with Georgia on her way to fame and fortune and professes her feelings for the man she really loves, Virgil.

 

Doris Day makes a spectacular debut in "Romance on the High Seas".
She was fresh and displayed a naturalness that had not been seen on the screen before.

 

Audiences immediately took her to their hearts and when they heard her incredible voice, fell in love. The picture made her an instant film star and she received almost unanimous raves from movie critics. During the proceedings, Miss Day sang a song that Judy Garland wished she could have called her own, "It's Magic". This beautiful ballad was performed twice during the picture and became a huge, million-selling record for Miss Day and was nominated for an Academy Award as best song.

S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall played Uncle Laszlo, Michael and Elvira's flustered confidant. Other familiar faces included Fortunio Bonanova, Eric Blore, William Bakewell, Franklin Pangborn, Broadway's Avon Long who's duet on "The Tourist Trade" with Carson was a highlight and the Page Cavanaugh Trio who backed Doris on "Put 'Em in a Box".

 

Doris Day's performance was refreshingly professional. She acted as if she had been making films for years and worked well with her co-stars, Jack Carson and Janis Paige. The costumes by Milo Anderson and the Technicolor photography by Elwood Bredell were first rate and Curtiz's direction was deft. Overall, "Romance on The High Seas" is a feel-good movie, and brought to the screen a new star, who single-handedly saved a dying art, the movie musical. MGM had Judy Garland, 20th Century Fox had Betty Grable, RKO had Ginger Rogers, and now, Warner Brothers finally had a true musical star to equal them all, The Great Doris Day.  


Ralph McKnight, New York, June 2000

 

On the set of Doris Day's first film, Romance on the High Seas. Director Michael Curtiz looks on approvingly as Doris prepares for the scene below with Eric Blore as the ship's doctor.

 

Additional Notes

Derald Hendry

 


Doris Day made her film debut in this film as a Michael Curtiz discovery. He felt her warmth and magnetism was indicative of the establishment of a great film star. After signing at Warner Brothers, they immediately began to give her acting lessons to prepare her for her role. When Curtiz heard about it he was not happy. He said that she had a strong screen personality of her own and she should always just be herself, that she really didn’t need acting lessons of any kind. He, of course, was entirely correct. In Doris Day’s own book, Doris Day My Story, she reports that he said to her: “You have a natural thing there in you, should no one ever disturb. You listen to me Doris. Is very rare thing. Do not disturb.”

Actually after all her one night band stands and other troubles in her life, she found performing in films relatively easy. She said: “From the first take onward, I never had any trepidation about what I was called upon to do. Movie acting came to me with greater ease and naturalness than anything else I had ever done.”

The studio was very pleased with the final results in the film, but she, herself, was unhappy with the way she looked. She said that she looked pancaked with makeup and had “horrendous hair.” Her own style was to be casual with little makeup, never really worrying very much about her freckles. She felt that every shot should be redone.

The highlighted song, “It’s Magic” was nominated for an Academy Award as is hauntingly beautiful. It became a great hit song for Doris Day


 

Doris Day: Reluctant Star

Bryan James

 

 

Doris Day, it seems, was a reluctant star when the time came to make her film debut in "Romance on the High Seas". She was already a recording star with a world hit, the million-selling "Sentimental Journey"  and had worked with the likes of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. Aged just 23, she had also divorced a violent first husband, had a child, remarried and was preparing for a second divorce. Tired and upset she was planning to return to her hometown of Cincinnati with her small son Terry when she was persuaded to try for the role of Georgia Garrett in "Romance on the High Seas".   

According to Eric Braun in his excellent book "Doris Day", she showed up for a meeting with the film's director Michael Curtis without having made any effort to wear a special dress or hairdo and burst into tears a couple of minutes into the test vocal "Embraceable You". The film score's composer Sammy Cahn took her aside and explained the director was looking for a Betty Hutton type – someone who sang and bounced around.  Doris replied, "I don't bounce around – I just sing". She also told the director she wasn't sure if she wanted the part and was amazed when, preparing to leave, Curtis, impressed with her honesty and sensitivity, offered her the part!

In later life Doris revealed that she felt that during her career 'work was work' and that when she wasn't working, she didn't think about it. Having worked from her early teens, she was able to have a certain detachment. She described her retirement as an opportunity to 'play house', a chance to do the things that most women take for granted.. But that was all to come. Meanwhile, the world was about to witness the birth of a new star.

 

On the set

Doris Day and Jack Carson on the set.

 

radio times  "A young Doris Day croons classics, like "It's Magic", aboard an ocean- going liner alongside regular co-star Jack Carson and Janis Paige. Day throws herself into her movie debut like a woman aiming for a passing lifeboat from the deck of the Titanic. But this was a fledgling performance from an actress determined to succeed — even if it took a few years of belting 'em out in froth like this. One of those movies to watch with a box of chocolates on a rainy afternoon, that requires nothing more than an open mind and a light heart."