Day was in wonderful voice, as was MacRae...
In 1950, Warner Brothers featured its new star, Doris Day in a big musical extravaganza, "Tea For Two", the film version of the 1924 Broadway hit, "No No Nannette". With a cute screenplay by Harry Clork, musical numbers staged and directed by LeRoy Prinz and Al White, the picture was directed by none other than David Butler who would later lead Miss Day through, perhaps her greatest musical triumph, "Calamity Jane".
"Tea For Two" was hugely popular worldwide. It's a flashback story, told by J. Maxwell Bloomhaus (S.Z. Sakall) to his grand niece and nephew, taking us back to the Stock Market crash of 1929. You see, "Uncle Max" was the guardian of his niece's estate back then and made some unwise investments with her money. His lawyer, played by Warner vet, Bill Goodwin, advises him to "cut corners" until the market recoups. Meanwhile, Max's niece, Nanette Carter (Doris Day), an aspiring singer/dancer has her hope set on the Broadway stage. The first time we see her is at a rehearsal hall singing "I Know That You Know" accompanied on piano by young Jimmy Smith (Gordon MacRae) and later joined by dancing great, Tommy Trainor (Gene Nelson).
Nanette has a two-timing boyfriend,
Larry Blair (Billy DeWolfe), who is producing a Broadway show but has
no money. He's trying to get the cash he needs from his rich girlfriend
to produce the show starring his other girlfriend, Beatrice Darcy (Patrice
Wymore). You see, Jimmy has written the songs for the musical and Tommy
is the choreographer and they are both in the show! Believe me, this
is "strange Broadway." Larry is a hustler. Not only
is he trying to convince Nanette to back his show, he's trying to convince
his creditors to donate their services on the strength that the rich
Miss Carter is backing the show. To convince them, we see a number
from the production, "Crazy Rhythm" with
Beatrice and Tommy. Jimmy arrives with Nanette and sings a song from
the show, "I Only Have Eyes For You" with Virginia Gibson
performing a nice ballet dance.
Larry schemes to convince Carter to back the show by playing on her sympathy. He tells her that Jimmy is depending on the success of the show because he has a sick, invalid mother for whom he is responsible. A desperate Larry reluctantly offers Nanette the lead in the show as she falls for the story and then asks her Uncle Max for the money to back the production. Exasperated over the market crash and Nanette's millions he has temporarily lost, he tells her to stop saying "yes" to everybody and learn how to say "no" for a change. Nanette bets her uncle that she will say "no" to everything for 48 hours if he will give her the $25,000 investment for the show. He reluctantly agrees only to try and catch her saying "yes" and does everything possible to make her lose the "bet".
Now, talk about "crazy Broadway"? To keep the cast and crew from leaving the show, Nanette invites all of them (40 people!) up to her Westchester estate for the weekend until the "bet" is satisfied with Uncle Max! Actually, "40 people" looks more like 150 people once the crowd arrives. Pauline Hastings (Eve Arden), who is Nannette's wisecracking assistant sticks close by to see if Carter breaks her promise to say "no" to everything. Miss Arden was an expert in this type of role and played it often in many films. During the weekend at the estate, rehearsals erupt all over the place, much to the annoyance of Uncle Max who is desperately spying on Nanette and plotting to force her to break the bet. We do get to see and hear some great music like the title tune, "Tea For Two", and dancing, "The Charleston". Day and MacRae sing the delightful, "Do, Do, Do", "I Want to Be Happy" and Nelson and Day sing and dance to "Oh Me, Oh My".
Nanette wins the bet only to find out from Uncle Max that she doesn't have the money to invest. The one person not ruined by the market crash was Uncle Max's lawyer, William Early (Goodwin) and Pauline sets out to charm him into backing the show. All works out fine and the show opens with Nanette in the lead.
Even though the plot is farfetched, this is a fun musical. Doris Day was refreshing and was in wonderful voice, as was Gordon MacRae. Nelson proved, once again, that he was one of the best dancers in Hollywood. Sakall was "cuddles", jowls and all and was very funny. DeWolfe was a strange choice for the boyfriend part. He was funny, but certainly nobody a girl like Doris Day would have chosen.
The New York Times said of Day and MacRae, "These
two complement each other like peanut butter and jelly… and
if (Warner Brothers) is interested in rolling up dividends in
the future they ought to do something about getting (them) together
The Independent Film Journal wrote, "The big news also is that Doris Day dances for the first time on the screen and shows even greater potentialities as one of the top film entertainers."
More praise came from Photoplay who noted "Doris Day dances for the first time on the screen, and brings down the house with her "I Know That You Know" number with Gene Nelson."
Film Daily described Doris as a "fresh, warm beauty…"
It was a beautiful production and the Technicolor photography was crisp and clean. Day looked incredible and, of course, worked well with her fellow actors. She would make five pictures with MacRae and four with Nelson. This was her second appearance with Miss Arden and her third of four with Sakall.
Ralph McKnight, New York, April 2002
Doris Day and the film were featured in Movieland in Sept 1950.
Doris Day said:
“In those Warner Brothers years, the pictures I enjoyed the most (not the scripts but the fun I had making them) were the nostalgic musicals, Tea For Two, Lullaby of Broadway, On Moonlight Bay, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Calamity Jane. I liked the old songs, and the good old times that those films captured. I guess I’m really an old-fashioned girl at heart, even though I look so contemporary that I always seemed misplaced in those period costumes.” - Doris Day, Her Own Story
Tea For One: Doris Day.
In this film Doris Day is given top billing for the first time and was a big boxoffice success as well as one of the year’s biggest hits. The Technicolor used in the film was big and splashy and the overall feeling of the film was one of exuberance and good fun. While the plot is simply a rehash of 42nd Street, and while based on Vincent Youmans’ No No Nanette, very few of the original songs were used.
“(Doris Day’s) playing had become more consistent, and her level of energy was more controlled and assured. ..With each successive film, Day was perfecting and refining her prodigious resources which would develop into the unabashed joy and self-assurance she would exude in her greatest musical films.” - Morris, Doris Day
“With her second film of 1950, Doris became an unequivocal star. The vehicle was not a distinguished one, but the public loved it…Despite the shortcomings of the Warner production system…Doris emerged with her charm intact…She managed to come across as more natural, relaxed, and persuasive than ever before.” - Alan Gelb, Doris Day Scrapbook