For a crystal-clear lesson in how an unknown vaults into immediate stardom, look no further than Romance on the High Seas, the silly 1948 musical that launched the movie career of Doris Day. A band singer, Day was plucked from the ranks when Warner Bros. and director Michael Curtiz needed to find a replacement for a role intended first for Judy Garland and then for Betty Hutton. She's fourth-billed, but there's no question Doris Day owns the picture; in retrospect, the part seems tailor-made to break a new star. The plot is a howler: society wife Janis Paige is suspicious when husband Don DeFore (hubby to TV's Hazel) claims he must stay in New York on business instead of going on a cruise to South America. So Paige gives the cruise ticket to lounge singer Doris, on the condition that she pretend to be Paige, while wifey hangs back in New York. Make sense? Meanwhile, a suspicious DeFore hires a detective (Jack Carson) to spy on his wife during the cruise, except of course it isn't really his wife, it's... well, you get the picture. Day is somewhat sassier than her later well-scrubbed image would allow; she actually seems like an up-from-the-streets, well-traveled barnstormer. The saucy script has a handsome pedigree; it was penned by Casablanca boys Julius and Philip Epstein and polished by future Billy Wilder partner I.A.L. Diamond. However, it must be stated that Curtiz is nobody's idea of a buoyant comedy director, even if the lounge-singing sequences are sharply made. The cast is stocked with screwball stalwarts such as S.Z. Sakall, Eric Blore, and Franklin Pangborn. As Day's accompanist and suitor, the celebrated musican-wit Oscar Levant has one of his better screen roles--and his experience here was likely the source of his later quip, "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin." If you see her cheeky performance here, you might agree with him. --Robert Horton
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