Light of Day [1987]

Doris Day fans will be dizzy with pleasure over The Doris Day Collection, Volume 2. This package of six Warner Bros. films covers the early phase of Day's movie career, including her debut picture, and is actually better and more of-a-piece than Warners' previous Day set. The box doesn't include anything from the later Rock Hudson stage of her career: This is the former Doris von Kappelhoff in full youthful sparkle, with her tomboyish attitude and freckled perkiness (and skillful singing, which is showcased in each film). Her 1948 debut, Romance on the High Seas, actually presents Day in a different light from her subsequent well-scrubbed image. (Maybe this is what co-star Oscar Levant meant when he later quipped, "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.") She's a sassy, hep-talking band singer, drawn into an unlikely (and extremely silly) plot involving confused identity during a South American cruise. Michael Curtiz might not be a comedy director, but the script is fun and there's no mistaking the spectacle of a star being born. The follow-up, My Dream Is Yours, returns Curtiz and leading man Jack Carson in a tale that has some parallels to Day's real life: she's a singer with a young child, looking for her breakthrough. The movie's a serviceable but humdrum backstage story with great vintage locations, and Bugs Bunny appears in a surreal dream sequence. The Technicolor shines here, as it does through much of the set; the only black-and-white film is I'll See You in My Dreams, an enjoyably low-key biopic of lyricist Gus Kahn (Danny Thomas), who wrote so many of the signature tunes of the 1920s. A great score ("Makin' Whoopee," "It Had to Be You") help this one past the conventions of the composer biopic; Doris plays Kahn's alpha-female wife. Day's rising popularity was confirmed with the success of On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon, a pair of old-timey musicals based on Booth Tarkington's "Penrod" stories. Nostalgia for the WWI era runs high in these sugary confections, with Doris paired with Gordon MacRae and a batch of vintage tunes. The strong ensemble and the backlot re-creation of a bygone era are almost impossible to resist. By her own account, Day was exhausted by her Warners contract at the time of Lucky Me, the latest film (1955) in this set. The lame showbiz story indicates as much, with Doris stranded in Miami and coming to the attention of composer Bob Cummings. The widescreen CinemaScope process gives some oomph to the musical numbers, and if Day herself was exhausted it doesn't show; America's sweetheart never failed to turn on the high beams, and it's easy to see why the moviegoing public needed her to twinkle. --Robert Horton

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