Mar 26, 2021

On Blu-ray, Musical Delights for Troubled Times: My Dream Is Yours (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1951), and Show Boat

With all the tension and troubles in the world right now, I nearly cheered at the opportunity to review this trio of musicals recently released on Blu-ray by Warner Archive. Great music, gorgeous stars, and beautiful settings; there’s nothing like a well-made classic musical.

My Dream Is Yours (1949)

Doris Day followed her remarkably assured debut in Romance on the High Seas (1948) with another impeccable performance in My Dream Is Yours (1949). It’s amazing to me that this perfectly paced and charmingly acted film isn’t better known. The story of a single mother hustling with her determined manager to become a singing star is a perfect showcase for Day's daisy-fresh persona.

Day is paired again with Jack Carson. Next to Rock Hudson, I’ve always thought Carson was her best screen partner. They both have an energized, but effortless appeal, like neither of them has to work too hard to entertain. 

In addition to an amusing batch of catchy songs, including the cheerful Cutting Capers and the swoon worthy title tune, the film is full of visual delights, such as a bizarre dream sequence featuring Bugs Bunny, the elegant presence of an all-female radio orchestra, and lots of colorful costumes and sets. 

The supporting cast is a sharp crew of Warner Bros players including Eve Arden, Adolphe Menjou, and S.Z. Sakall, who is always a welcome sight, though it’s a shame none of his characters ever seemed to have an intellect above that of a preschooler. 

Special features on the disc include a theatrical trailer, the cartoon A Ham in a Role, the drama short The Grass Is Always Greener, and the comedy short So you Want to Be an Actor.

On Moonlight Bay (1951)

It’s funny to see Doris Day transition from the sunny, but savvy career girl in My Dream Is Yours to her role as an innocent teenager in On Moonlight Bay, but it’s impressive too because she pulls it off. 

I love the corny good cheer of this turn-of-the-century comedy (I hope the equally amusing sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon [1953] makes it to Blu-ray). It’s a great balm for tense times. 

Day plays tomboy Judy, who abruptly decides to switch gears and put on a dress when she meets the handsome Bill (Gordon McRae). Until World War I rolls around, nothing more traumatic than a broken leg happens in their pleasant, small town world. 

The film is a series of gentle vignettes, featuring a cast of appealing and under-used character actors including Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp as her parents, the refreshingly unmannered Billy Gray as her brother, and Jack Smith as Judy’s handsome, but hapless and irritating suitor. The never under-used, ubiquitous Mary Wickes is also a delight as the family maid. 

Special features on the disc include a theatrical trailer, the cartoon A Hound for Trouble, and the musical short Let’s Sing a Song About the Moonlight.

Show Boat (1951)

While there is much to love about the pink satin and ribbons MGM-style grandeur of George Sidney’s adaptation of this legendary stage musical, I’ve never fallen completely under its spell. 

For one, James Whale’s artistically lensed 1936 version captured the grittiness of the story with greater flair and having legendary personalities like Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan on hand certainly helped. I’m also not a fan of the operatic singing style of Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, which somehow doesn’t work as well for me on the screen as it would in a stage production. Viewers who like that style will find this film heavenly; I tend to resent it a little more because it meant that Ava Gardner’s lovely singing voice with that perfect Southern drawl had to be dubbed so that she’d fit the bill. 

As in Whale’s version, the supporting cast is delightful, featuring Joe E. Brown in an unusually reserved performance, Agnes Moorehead, William Warfield doing a wonderfully rumbly version of Ol' Man River, and Marge and Gower Champion as the show boat’s comedic team. Ava Gardner is the stand-out though: she’s passionate, raw, and unafraid to appear stripped of her glamour (she remains stunningly beautiful even when she's supposed to be ragged). 

It’s a fine spectacle, but I kept thinking back to Robeson, Morgan, and the magical way Whale filmed the sparkling river water. 

Special features on the disc include commentary by George Sidney, the Show Boat sequence from the 1946 musical Till the Clouds Roll By, an audio clip of Ava Gardner singing Bill and Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, a Lux Radio on Theater Broadcast, and a theatrical trailer.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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