Original Vs. Remake: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) Vs. On Moonlight Bay (1951)

Maybe it’s just me, but this month seems like a good month for finding movies that are similar to others that I’ve reviewed previously! So, with that in mind, we’re back for another round of “Original Vs. Remake!” This time, we’re focusing on the two classic musicals Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) and On Moonlight Bay (1951)! As tends to be my practice, I will borrow the plot descriptions from my original reviews.

Meet Me In St. Louis: The story of the movie centers on the Smith family. Youngest daughters “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien) and Agnes (Joan Carroll) are generally up to some mischief, especially on Halloween. Older daughters Esther (Judy Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both eagerly looking forward to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, while also trying to gain the attention of the men they are attracted to. Their father, Alonzo “Lon” Smith (Leon Ames), is offered a promotion with his law office that would require the family to move to New York, which he takes them up on, with plans to leave after Christmas.

On Moonlight Bay: It’s 1917, and the Winfield family has just moved into a new home. Most of them are unhappy with the move, as they miss their old friends and neighbors as well as their old house. However, head of the family George Winfield (Leon Ames) likes the new home, with its location closer to the bank he works at, and hopes that his older daughter, Marjorie (Doris Day), will meet some young men. Marjorie is a bit of a tomboy, but she attempts to be more feminine when she meets and takes a liking to her nextdoor neighbor, William “Bill” Sherman (Gordon MacRae). College man Bill, who is home for the summer, develops an interest in Marjorie as well, but his views on life (partially affected by the war raging in Europe) cause strife with Marjorie’s father. As a result, George tries to promote a romance between Marjorie and music teacher Hubert Wakely (Jack Smith), much to Marjorie’s annoyance. Meanwhile, younger son Wesley (Billy Gray) has trouble at school with his teacher, Mary Stevens (Ellen Corby). His tall tales (partially influenced by a movie he saw) get him out of trouble temporarily, but cause problems for his family.

While neither of these movies share the same source material, one can’t help but notice a number of similarities between them. One of the most obvious is the casting of Leon Ames in both films as the father figure. Both movies also feature a very forthright maid, who gets dragged into some of the family’s shenanigans. The younger child(ren) tend to be very mischievous in both instances, as they frequently get themselves into trouble. Even going beyond the stories themselves, we find that they both make use of mostly period music, some of which is handled by one of the respective studios’ bigger female singing stars, who portrays an older sister. We even find that both films take place throughout the year, pausing around Christmastime (with the actresses stopping to sing a holiday tune).

But, it’s hard to deny that these movies certainly do things a bit differently, too. As the father in both films, Leon Ames’ characters do not do things quite the same way. In On Moonlight Bay (OMB), he really interferes in his daughter’s love life, by both rejecting the guy she likes and trying to push somebody else on her that he finds more “acceptable.” In Meet Me In St. Louis (MMIST), he really doesn’t interfere (he threatens to once, but never actually follows through on it). Of course, the number of children varies between the two films, with only two in OMB and five in MMIST. Also, the older daughters in MMIST are quite feminine in nature, whereas Doris Day’s Marjorie in OMB is more of a tomboy (at least, until she tries to be a bit more feminine for her boyfriend). The overall situation and timeframe allows for some differences, as MMIST takes place (mostly) in 1903, with the family mainly looking forward to the upcoming World’s Fair in St. Louis, while the prospect of the first World War looms over OMB (with Gordon MacRae’s Bill Sherman eventually joining the armed forces).

Ultimately, when you get right down to it, I would take Meet Me In St. Louis over On Moonlight Bay. Judy Garland is, to me, the far better actress and singer. The music itself in MMIST is far better and far more memorable (especially for the Christmas segments). Just the way it is filmed seems better, with the way director Vincente Minelli did things (especially with Judy on camera). Now, all that doesn’t necessarily mean that On Moonlight Bay doesn’t have its advantages, either. I do think I prefer Mary Wickes to Marjorie Main in the maid’s role (but I would say that has more to do with the idea that I prefer Marjorie Main when she is a bit more loud and outspoken, and she seems tame in comparison in MMIST). And we also get to spend more time with the characters from On Moonlight Bay, since that film did receive a sequel (By The Light Of The Silvery Moon) that was able to bring back most of the cast of the first film. Regardless, it’s a fun experience with either film, and I certainly would recommend both as good films to just sit back and relax while watching!

Meet Me In St. Louis

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

On Moonlight Bay

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Meet Me In St. Louis

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… On Moonlight Bay (1951)

We may be past the Doris Day “Star Of The Month” blogathon this year (back in January), but I’m not through with her yet for the year, as I’ve got another one of her films to look at! It’s her 1951 musical On Moonlight Bay, also starring Gordon MacRae! But first, we have a few theatrical shorts to start us off!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Let’s Sing A Song About The Moonlight (1948)

(available as an extra on the On Moonlight Bay Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 24 seconds)

This short contains four different songs about the moon. They include “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon,” “On Moonlight Bay,” In The Evening By The Moonlight” and “Shine On Harvest Moon.” It’s another entry in the “Memories From Melody Lane” series of shorts from Warner Brothers. It gives quick histories of the songs, and it also includes the lyrics as a singalong. There’s some fun to be had here (especially if you enjoy the music).

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Hound For Trouble (1951)

(available as an extra on the On Moonlight Bay Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

Kicked off a boat in Italy, Charlie Dog turns to an Italian pizzeria owner, hoping to be his dog. A bit of a fun cartoon, as Charlie tries different ways to get in good with the pizzeria owner (and fails). Granted, this cartoon isn’t exactly politically correct, with the fake Italian being spoken and the stereotypes of Italians, but it’s not too terrible. Of course, one of the best gags is the one that ends the cartoon! This one was quite enjoyable, and one worth revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1917, and the Winfield family has just moved into a new home. Most of them are unhappy with the move, as they miss their old friends and neighbors as well as their old house. However, head of the family George Winfield (Leon Ames) likes the new home, with its location closer to the bank he works at, and hopes that his older daughter, Marjorie (Doris Day), will meet some young men. Marjorie is a bit of a tomboy, but she attempts to be more feminine when she meets and takes a liking to her nextdoor neighbor, William “Bill” Sherman (Gordon MacRae). College man Bill, who is home for the summer, develops an interest in Marjorie as well, but his views on life (partially affected by the war raging in Europe) cause strife with Marjorie’s father. As a result, George tries to promote a romance between Marjorie and music teacher Hubert Wakely (Jack Smith), much to Marjorie’s annoyance. Meanwhile, younger son Wesley (Billy Gray) has trouble at school with his teacher, Mary Stevens (Ellen Corby). His tall tales (partially influenced by a movie he saw) get him out of trouble temporarily, but cause problems for his family.

It’s been said that, when planning for what become On Moonlight Bay, Jack Warner (the head of Warner Brothers Studios) looked through a copy of all the music that Warner Brothers owned and picked a song (by randomly stabbing it with a toothpick) for the title tune. He then had his writers, Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson, write a story around it. They ended up adapting (very loosely) some of the Penrod stories by Booth Tarkington (which had already been brought to the big screen a number of times before), with the focus shifted to the character’s older sister to put the spotlight on the studio’s popular actress and singer Doris Day. The film proved to be popular with audiences (enough so that a sequel, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, was quickly put into production). For Doris Day, the film helped to cement her status as America’s Virgin Sweetheart (a status she wasn’t particularly thrilled by). Still, she considered the movie to be one of her favorites that she did.

I myself am coming off my second time seeing this movie. As I’ve said previously, I enjoy films from the early part of Doris Day’s career at Warner Brothers, and this one is no exception! The period music is certainly fun (not overtly memorable, but it’s still enjoyable, just the same), with Doris Day and Gordon MacRae doing well with the tunes. The story itself is nothing to write home about. Where the movie does shine, however, is in its comedy, especially with the family dynamics. As Wesley, Billy Gray manages to get into a number of humorous situations, including when the character, forgetting his school assignment to write a letter to somebody, decides to “borrow” his sister’s love letter to her boyfriend (without even bothering to read it first), only to be forced to read it in front of his class (much to his embarrassment). The fun continues as he decides to get revenge by trying to come between his sister and her other “boyfriend” (you know, the one her father approves of), only to realize that she is happy with his interference. And I can’t forget actress Mary Wickes, who plays their maid Stella, with the film’s running joke being her trying to carry dishes and stuff through doors, only for somebody else coming through causing her to drop everything. Plain and simple, this is a very entertaining movie, and one I would have no trouble recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection featuring a new transfer from a 4K scan of the original Technicolor negatives. In short, this movie looks terrific, cleaned up the right way and with the colors as vivid as they should be! As usual, Warner Archive has maintained their high quality standards with this release, making it the best way to see this wonderful movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)Doris DayCalamity Jane (1953)

Tea For Two (1950) – Gordon MacRae

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“Star Of The Month (January 2021)” Featuring Doris Day in… Tea For Two (1950)

Now that we’re here in the month of January 2021, with Doris Day as my featured Star Of The Month, I need to get one of my own entries in, and I can’t think of a more fun film to start off with than her 1950 musical Tea For Two, which also stars Gordon MacRae! But first, we have a few shorts to get through, and then we’ll dig into our movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… She-Sick Sailors (1944)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 6 minutes, 37 seconds)

Bluto disguises himself as Superman to win Olive’s affections, but Popeye tries to prove he is still just as good. While it’s another “Popeye Vs. Bluto” cartoon, this one throws in the fun of Bluto trying to appear as Superman, before Popeye becomes a Superman upon eating his spinach. Admittedly, it does feel weird seeing Bluto without his trademark beard (as evidenced by the different coloring for that area of his face). Still, it’s a fun cartoon, and I enjoy seeing it every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Want To Hold Your Husband (1950)

(available as an extra on the Tea For Two DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 51 seconds)

After ten years of marriage and being ignored by her husband Joe, Alice McDoakes seeks out the advice of a marriage counselor to regain his affections. A bit of fun with this marriage comedy. The attempts to liven up the marriage using the marriage counselor’s advice are at least somewhat amusing, if not maybe a little old-fashioned at this point. I do admit, the closing gag was one of the better moments. It’s an interesting short, although it’s debatable whether I would come back to this one.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Tee For Two (1945)

(available as an extra on the Tea For Two DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 3 seconds)

Tom the cat is playing a round of golf, while Jerry the mouse messes things up for him. This short was a fun revisit, as I’ve seen it a number of times over the years. Obviously, we have Tom and Jerry going against each other, with Tom winning sometimes, and Jerry also winning. The gags may not be original, but they’re worth a few good laughs, and I certainly enjoyed seeing this one yet again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Host): Tea For Two was Doris Day’s fifth film, but it was her first time being given top billing in any of her movies. In some respects, the movie was a return to her roots. She had started out idolizing Ginger Rogers, and wanted to be a dancer. Before she made it to Hollywood, she was in a car crash that resulted in her right leg being shattered, thus ending her hopes of a dancing career. As she recovered, she took up singing, which, as we well know, became her big talent. But, for Tea For Two, which was loosely based on the 1924 Broadway show No, No, Nanette, she worked with Gene Nelson and his wife to get back in shape and look good on screen as a dancer. It was hard work, but it paid off, according to reviews at the time (and I definitely agree!) But, let’s get into the movie itself, so here’s our regular narrator! Take it away!

(Narrator): We start our story in modern times (well, “modern” for the time this movie was made, anyway). We find a group of kids all having a fun dance party. Then the kids hosting the party, Lynne (Mary Eleanor Donahue) and Richard (Johnny McGovern), come in wearing some of their parents’ clothes from the twenties, causing everyone to break into laughter. Then J. Maxwell Bloomhaus, or “Uncle Max” (S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), comes in and tells them off for making fun of something they don’t have personal experience with. He proceeds to pull out something he has been hanging onto for a long time: a ticker tape, which is a reminder to him of how bad things once looked, and yet things did get better.

(Host): Flashback!

(Activates time machine, which starts up, but then sputters out)

(Narrator): Give it a kick, see if that works.

(Host kicks the time machine, and it starts back up)

(Host): Okay, here we go, back to 1929!

(Supply your own time travel effects)

(Narrator): As we arrive, the stock market has crashed, and Max is reading the ticker tape as it comes in. His lawyer friend William Early (Bill Goodwin) is looking on as Max gets flustered reading it, and William reminds him that he had told him to invest in government bonds. Now, Max has lost all of the money he had invested for his niece, Nanette Carter (Doris Day), and finds himself with the unenviable position of telling her the news. Meanwhile, Nanette has got a singing and dancing lesson going on with singer and songwriter Jimmy Smith (Gordon MacRae) and his dancer buddy Tommy Trainor (Gene Nelson). They are interrupted by Nanette’s ex, Larry Blair (Billy De Wolfe), who has come in the hopes that she will help back a show he is trying to put on. Of course, she’s no fool, and turns him down. However, he persists, and drags in a reluctant Jimmy and Tommy to help convince her, by telling her a sob story about Jimmy’s troubles with his family. Hearing one of Jimmy’s songs, “Tea For Two” (which Larry hates, by the way), Nanette decides to invest in the show.

(Host): Hmm. In a movie called Tea For Two, the titular song is enough to make somebody decide to invest in a show? I’d say it sounds fishy, but with a catchy tune like that, I can’t say as I blame them, as it’s a song that gets stuck in my head every time I watch this wonderful film! (Muttering to self) Now where are my tap shoes? That song is stuck in there again, and I’ve got some dancing to do! (Heads off-stage)

(Narrator): Well, while he’s seeking out his tap shoes, we’ll get back to the story. As I was saying, she decided to invest in the show, providing she be given the female lead role. Of course, Larry has already given that role to his current girlfriend, Beatrice Darcy (Patrice Wymore), but he is willing to go along with the idea (at least, until he gets the check). In order to invest in the show, Nanette needs to get the money from her uncle Max. When he comes home that night, she tries to butter him up, but he is still thinking hard about what William Early had told him earlier. In doing so, he accidentally makes a bet with Nanette that, if she doesn’t say yes to anything for two days. she would win the $25,000 needed to back the show. Caught with his foot in his mouth, Max is stuck with the bet, and enlists the help of Nanette’s friend and secretary Pauline Hastings (Eve Arden) to help keep her honest. When the two of them go to the theatre to talk with Larry, some of his creditors are there, waiting for word of her check. When they ask her questions about her backing the show, she is forced to say no, and the creditors refuse to allow Larry and his company to use the theatre, Instead, Nanette offers her home as a place they can rehearse for a few days. When Uncle Max comes home with William to make the bet more official (even though they both know he doesn’t have the money to cover the ridiculous bet), they find the house completely occupied by all the actors and actresses (and wow, was that a HUGE crew). Max tries (and fails) to get her to say “yes” through various means, but she continues to say “no” to everything (even when it hurts to do so). Of course, there is some trouble brewing when Beatrice comes storming into the place (since Larry “forgot” to tell her about the change in casting or where they were going to be rehearsing for the weekend).

(Sound of taps slowly getting louder from offstage)

(Narrator): Uh-oh. He’s coming back! Guess I better finish up quickly (we’re close enough, anyway)! The question at this point remains, will Uncle Max’s meddling mess things up, not only for Nanette, but for everybody in the show, too? Or will they find that “the fundamental business of the country is on a sound and prosperous basis” as President Herbert Hoover once said?

(Host): (bursting out onstage wearing tap shoes) I’m back! Let’s get this party starte – oh. You already finished telling the story. You could have waited for me to provide musical accompaniment, you know. Oh, well. Moving on. In all seriousness, this is a movie I have been enjoying for quite some time. Doris Day, as has so far been the case for me with all her musicals, is absolutely wonderful here. It’s fun watching her do a fair amount of dancing, and quite capably. Gene Nelson gets to show off his more acrobatic abilities here in a number of dance routines (just like in The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady), which makes it equally entertaining. And while the music may vary, with different composers represented (which I assume did not all write music for the original No, No, Nanette play), it all still works well together. I will grant you that the songs really don’t advance the plot or give us character development, but I’m used to that (and sometimes prefer it), so it’s fun getting the music stuck in my head (like the aforementioned “Tea For Two)! And the comedy is well-represented here, in between S. Z. Sakall, who practically steals the film, or Billy De Wolfe as one of his more annoying characters (you know, the type you like to see get their comeuppance, like he does), or Eve Arden, whose quips are also amusing. It’s an all-round fun movie, and one I enjoy seeing every now and then! So I can definitely tell you that I would recommend this wonderful movie!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

(Host): (starts tap dancing and singing offkey) Picture you upon my knee, just tea for two and two for tea (trapdoor opens up underneath, host falls through) Not agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnn!

(Narrator): (Steps away from trapdoor lever) Sorry folks, I had to do it. If he had only stuck to dancing, that would have been alright. But nobody wants to listen to that offkey singing!

Film Length: 1 hour, 38 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Young Man With A Horn (1950)Doris DayLullaby Of Broadway (1951)

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Gordon MacRae – On Moonlight Bay (1951)

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Gene Nelson – Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

My Dream Is Yours (1949) – Eve Arden

Blue Skies (1946) – Billy De Wolfe

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2018) with… The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950)

Time to dig into one of those forgotten Christmas musicals, the 1950 movie The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady, starring June Haver and Gordon MacRae.

Former vaudevillian Dennis O’Grady (James Barton), is living with his three daughters, Katie (Marsha Jones), Patricia (June Haver) and Maureen (Debbie Reynolds, in her first speaking role).  Katie is married and pregnant, although her father doesn’t know it, but still has to stay with the family because she and her husband couldn’t find a place to stay together.  Patricia has designs to go on stage, like her late mother, but her father objects, believing it was the hard life of the stage that killed her mother.  When Pat meets Tony Pastor (Gordon MacRae), who owns a local theatre, she finds her way on stage, but gets kicked out of the house by her father.

As always, a lot of the fun with this movie is the music and dancing.  Admittedly, most of the music has long been forgotten (I have no idea how much, if any of it, is period music), beyond the title tune which some *might* know, depending upon how well-versed they may be on old Looney Tunes shorts, since I know I have heard Bugs Bunny singing it in one of his.  The dancing, however, provides a lot of the fun, mainly provided by June Haver and Gene Nelson.  Most probably know Gene Nelson for his role as Will Parker in the film version of Oklahoma.  My own opinion is that his dancing in that movie was tamed down (although, to be fair, it works for the character, as a cowboy, as opposed to being a theatrical dancer like he is in Daughter of Rosie O’Grady).  Here, he’s given the chance to show what he can do, with a lot of high-flying leaps and flips, and tap-dancing, as well as some partnered dancing with June Haver.  And of course, I think she keeps up with him pretty well, and has a few good moments of her own, besides playing Rosie O’Grady herself in flashback.

Of course, I have to drag in why this is a Christmas movie!  The last twenty minutes of the movie take place around Christmastime.  We get some reconciliation for the various characters within that time, and see some decorated Christmas trees.  Admittedly, outside of some background music, there is no Christmas music, although “Winter Serenade” at least fits the time of year, as well as actor James Barton (a former vaudevillian himself) doing some “skating” onstage as he performs when asked to do so at the end.

If you can’t tell, this is a movie I enjoy.  Maybe not the absolute best movie ever made, but it is good fun, and one I enjoy revisiting, particularly around Christmastime, so I would recommend it if you get the chance!  The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Gordon MacRae – Tea For Two (1950)

Gene Nelson – Tea For Two (1950)

Debbie Reynolds – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

In The Good Old Summertime (1949) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – Tea For Two (1950)

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