Tamar Jeffers McDonald / Visual Culture

Happy Birthday Doris

Author of Doris Day Confidential, Tamar Jeffers McDonald celebrates Doris Day’s 90th birthday for us with her favourite Doris film moment.Happy 90th Birthday Doris

While there is some debate over whether Doris Day turns 90 or 92 today, whatever the number attached to it, Day’s birthday provides a good opportunity to look back at her career and appreciate her output in music, films and television.

Day is now principally remembered as giving the world a series of perky sex comedies. This does not accurately represent her range as an actor, her performances in dramas, family films and musicals or the career women comedies which are more sophisticated than generally recalled. Revisiting the films reveals a far more varied and interesting roster, however, and shows Day adept not only at comic, dramatic and musical performances, but at blending all three elements within one film or even one scene.

Romance On The High Seas (Michael Curtiz, 1948)

A personal favourite moment is in her first movie, Romance On The High Seas, where she plays wisecracking chanteuse Georgia Garrett, who agrees to impersonate a wealthy married woman onboard a cruise. Garrett falls in love with the private detective sent to investigate this same married woman by her jealous spouse, and complications ensue which divide the lovers for a time. Here Day as Garrett manages to imbue petulance and heartache into her generally light-hearted portrayal of the singer, as in the scene where she condemns all the clichéd paraphernalia of love: moon, stars, wedding bells, flowers, kisses. Getting her kicks her way and singing herself out of her bad mood, Garrett becomes increasingly animated as she works her way into the rhythms of the song, her face relaxing from its cross pout and her body beginning to move with the music. By the end of the number she has sung us all into a better mood.

Happy Birthday Doris. ■

Doris Day ConfidentialTamar Jeffers McDonald is Reader in Film Studies at the University of Kent and is the author of Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood, Sex and Stardom. Her other books include Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre and Hollywood Catwalk: Exploring Costume and Transformation in American Film.
Image on the set of Romance on the High Seas: cinematographer Elwood Bredell (wearing visor), director Michael Curtiz, Eric Blore and Doris Day (via acertaincinema.com).
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