Let’s Smile with Doris! Romance on the High Seas

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Doris Day. THIS Icon. I’m a fan. She’s not my number one favourite actress, but she certainly is my favourite singer (along with Madonna). Doris makes me happy. She herself said “I like joy; I want to be joyous; I want to have fun on the set; I want to wear beautiful clothes and look pretty. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that’s all I want. I like it. I like being happy. I want to make others happy.” So, as I’ve said it many times, when you have the blues, Doris Day is the best cure.

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You can listen to her songs or watch one of her films. One of the most feel good and entertaining one is Romance on the High Seas directed by Michael Curtiz in 1948 (believe me, that’s very different from Casablanca or Mildred Pierce, which proves the director capability of direction many genres). Romance on the High Seas was Doris Day’s first film (she had previously appeared in Lady Be Good in 1941, but wasn’t credited). What a fun way for her to start!

A lot happens in Romance on the High Seas, but, “briefly”, it goes like this: Elvira Kent  (Janis Paige) and Michael Kent (Don DeFore) are married. However, she thinks he cheated on her and visa versa, and that’s the case until the day they got married. Michael previously had to cancel two of their wedding anniversary voyages, pretending this was due to “business”. He also has to cancel the third one. Elvira, who thinks it’s only an excuse to see his mistress has a plan: she’ll make him think that she’ll make the trip alone, but she won’t. She’ll stay in New-York to spy on him. How will she do that? In a travel agency, she met Georgia Garrett (Doris Day), a young a sparkling singer who dreams of travelling the world, but can’t as she isn’t very rich. On the same evening, she goes to the cabaret where Georgia sings with her uncle Lazlo Lazlo (S.Z. Sakall) and asks her if she’d like to make the trip to South America, but under her name. Georgia accepts without hesitations.

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Later, Michael tells to Elvira that he will go with her to South America once he’ll be done with his business. Of course, that wasn’t planned and Elvira insist that she wants to live right now and make the trip alone. Michael is suspicious and decides to enrol a detective to follow her during the trip to discover if she cheats on him or not. Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) is the chosen one. Of course, Peter will make  acquaintance with Georgia Garret (thinking she’s Mrs. Kent) and things will get more and more complicated when he’ll fall in love with her and when her friend, the composer Oscar Farrar (Oscar Levant), will appear on the boat in South America as he also thinks all this is very suspicious.

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What a rocambolesque story this is! Yes, a lot happens and, believe me, from the beginning until the end, you can’t get bored. Romance on the High Seas first quality is its colours. It’s a very colourful film, narratively and visually. All the film’s composition (the actors, the music, the sets, etc.) makes it complex in the good way. It’s a real carnival. The cinematography was conducted by Elwood Bredell who knew perfectly well how to use the glory of Technicolor. So, once more, how can you be depressed after having been exposed to such a variety of colours!

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The entertainment in this film is not only due to its story, but also to its musical numbers. This film makes us discover Doris Day’s beautiful voice and some great songs. It’s Magic became a hit and was nominated for a Best Song Oscar. The film itself was nominated for Best Score. Doris Day sings It’s Magic twice in the film and each performance is unforgettable. I’ll go with the first version, as a bunch of emotions is transmitted to us. That’s when we realize Peter has really fallen in love with her. This moment is one of my favourite in the film. It makes your heart beat and we’re so fond of Peter’s sensibility and tenderness to Georgia’s beautiful voice. Just the way he looks at her makes this a pure instant of magic (like the song). I always applaud very fast with screams of joy during that scene (it’s SO CUTE, you know). I have an old soul, but I guess I must have a romantic one too!

The first song sung by Doris in the film is “I’m in Love”. We’ll take a look at it too as it’s such a fun moment. I think it perfectly reveals the character’s joie de vivre. Her dynamism is simply contagious!

I think she’s in love…

I’ll wrap up on Doris’ song with this last one : “It’s You or No One”. I chose it because it’s the firs time in the film she reveals to Peter her singing talent, and also because I love the little boy band that accompanies her. Their vocals are so lovely.

Doris sings most of the songs, but we have the chance to hear Jack Carson singing. He’s not really a singer, but this musical number is presented in an humorous way so it becomes a very appreciated moment in the film.

I’ve talked a lot about the songs in Romance on the High Seas (it’s a musical after all!), but I also have to explore the cast in depth.

This is the film that made me discover Jack Carson. I had previously seen him in some other ones, but never really noticed him before I watched Romances on the High Seas. I can officially say that he is one of my favourite character actors. What I like the most about him is his great chemistry with Doris Day and also his facial expressions. Those are just so unforgettable and make me laugh out loud every time. One of the best examples is [spoiler] when he’s on the plane going back to New-York but realize he has arrived to Rio instead. A very surprised look! [end of spoiler]

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Doris Day too has some great facial expressions in this film. My favourite one is when she sees Oscar arriving on the boat in South America. Of course, she runs away. As I previously mentioned it, that was Doris Day’s first film. She was able to prove us that she wasn’t only a great singer, but that she had a great acting potential. She certainly has a contagious smile as Georgia Garrett and a great sense of comedy. As it was her first role, it was hard to say at the time if she could excel in other genres, but we later got the proof she could thanks to films like The Man Who Knew Too Much. About her performance in her first film, the magazine Variety said “A charming and talented newcomer… Miss Day is a winner, any way you look at her!” So, she was on the right track!

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Romances on the High Seas also made me discover S.Z. Sakall, probably the most hilarious performer in this film. As uncle Lazlo Lazlo, he never seems to be there or say things at the right moment, which makes his character even funnier even more endearing. His mimics, his voices, his lines makes a very well composed character out of him. There’s a moment in the film where I always burst into laughter and it involves S.Z Sakall. It’s very simple: [spoiler] Michael is in Rio, looking for his wife, but he’s not sure the reception gave him the right room number: first time he gets here, Georgia is in the room, second time, it’s Oscar. He finally meets his wife on the third time. But he thinks she has cheated on him, so he opens the wardrobe and Oscar comes out of it first, and then Uncle Lazlo! Surprise! “Uncle Lazlo, what are you doing in the wardrobe??!” [end of spoiler]. Really, I love this moment.

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Oscar Levant’s presence in the film is very interesting and adds a lot to its musical side. As we know, he  wasn’t only an actor, but also a pianist and a composer. Doris got the voice, he got the instrument. As much as Jack Carson and Doris have a great acting chemistry, Oscar and Doris have a great musical one.

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Janis Paige and Don DeFore are interesting choices for the role of Mr and Mrs Kent. They do the job well, but their performances are not as much thrilling as the ones I’ve previously mentioned. We also have to notice the presence of Eric Blore as the ship doctor (who is sicker that his patient). A very smile part, but how can we forget him? That accent!

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Of course, who says comedy says funny lines. The film is truffled by them from the beginning to the end. I talked about some of my favourite moments, now let’s take a look at some of my favourite quotes:

1- Michael Kent: Are you a good detective?

Peter Virgil: Naturally, why?

Michael Kent: Where did you do your traning?

Peter Virgil: In the army. Intelligence G2.

Michael Kent: Well how are you at the job?

Peter Virgil: We won the war didn’t we?

2- Georgia Garrett : Oscar! How did you get on this boat?

Oscar: I lied about my age.

3- Rio Hotel Clerk: What if there IS blood shed in 314? We’re going to do the whole third floor over anyhow.

4- Peter Virgil : There’s something I just gotta do, I cant help myself.

Georgia Garrett [thinking he’s going to kiss her]: Well if you cant help yourself, you can’t help yourself.

Peter Virgil: I gotta find the cable-gram.

5- Georgia Garrett [trying to impersonate Elvira Kent]: À votre santé!

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The more I see this film, the more I love it. I know some people are not too fond of musicals (especially people from MY generation), but I think this one is a good idea for everybody. You’re entertained from the beginning until the end and there aren’t too many songs. Romance on the High Seas is simply a great boost. After watching it, I’m so joyful and want to sing and dance like Doris, even if it’s midnight and everybody is sleeping in the house except me. It’s a film that makes you want to do a cruise as well and live an exciting adventure!

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