Thursday, November 06, 2014


Chorus girl Doris Day has spent many years in Europe and is ready to come back to the States to see her mother (Gladys George), a musical star in her own right. The problem is that George has lost her career due to drinking and has been reduced to singing in small clubs down in the Village, but she's kept that from her daughter. The mansion that Day thinks is her mom's actually belongs to beer tycoon S. Z. Sakall, but the butler (Billy De Wolfe) and maid (Anne Triola), who know George, conspire to keep Day in the dark about her mom's current state so they tell her that Mom is on the road and is renting the house out to Sakall. Complicating matters is professional dancer Gene Nelson who met Day on the ship and has a hankering to date her, or at least work with her, and Sakall might agree to back a show, but will the sodden George ruin everything? This was clearly inspired by Frank Capra's 1933 LADY FOR A DAY (itself based on a Damon Runyon story and remade by Capra years later as POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES), but Capra's film focuses on the mom, whereas here Day has the spotlight, with George vanishing completely from the middle of the movie; when she returns, it feels like an afterthought. I've always seen George as a weak and ineffective actor and this didn't make me change my mind. But there are other pleasures to be had: Day looks, sings and dances just fine; Nelson is a pleasant if slightly quirky leading man, looking like he's always about to let us in on some inside joke; Sakall does his befuddled grandpa thing to a tee; Florence Bates is fine as Sakall's wife who winds up thinking that he and Day are having an affair; best of all is De Wolfe who often was used in prissy, coded-as-gay roles but is very good here in a more-or-less"straight" role. The songs are the highlights: Nelson does an athletic Gene Kelly-type dance turn to "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" and Day hits the mark in every number, especially the finale which looks like it came right out of a 30s Busby Berkeley musical. Musical fans will like this pleasant piece of Technicolor fluff. [TCM]

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