On Moonlight Bay [1951]

America's love affair with clean-cut, tomboyish, freckle-faced Doris Day got a boost with On Moonlight Bay, a period piece from 1951. The film's masterstroke: put Doris in an old-timey musical full of small-town family values and vintage songs. Another inspiration: pair off Doris again with that chesty-voiced man's man and future Rodgers and Hammerstein stalwart, Gordon MacRae (they'd already made Tea for Two and The West Point Story). The story is drawn from Booth Tarkington's Penrod tales, although the movie is also under the sway of Meet Me in St. Louis. The WWI-era family is anchored by parents Leon Ames (the pop from St. Louis) and Rosemary De Camp, with echt-Fifties boy Billy Gray (later of Father Knows Best) as Day's bratty younger brother. Mary Wickes, cinema's eternal sassy housekeeper, provides comic relief. So does radio crooner Jack Smith, who would later host You Asked for It on TV for many years, as Day's maladroit suitor (he's really funny--too bad Preston Sturges never got a hold of him). The material is so relentlessly wholesome you might have to pinch yourself that anybody really believed it, but audiences sure wanted to. The film's popularity prompted a sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, with most of the cast intact. --Robert Horton

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