Rambling Reviewer, “Romance on the High Seas”


If you haven’t been anywhere and haven’t had a laugh in weeks – you’ll be vicariously voyaging and belly laughing with this movie. Romance on the High Seas was Doris Day’s film debut, and it also starred Jack Carson, Oscar Levant, Janis Page and S.Z Sakall. It’s what they used to call a screwball comedy, and here the joke is on some of the characters. Doris Day as Georgia Garrett, is a nightclub singer aching to take a ship cruise. Instead she just takes out travel brochures since she can’t afford a trip. Janis Page as Elvira Kent is well-off but jealous of her husband, who is always cancelling their honeymoon trips and now has a new attractive secretary. Elvira and Georgia bump into each other at the travel agency and exchange stories. Elvira is booking a cruise to Rio with her husband, which then gets cancelled. Her uncle Lazlo (S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), tells her just to go alone. Elvira then schemes to stay in town where she can spy on her husband, and she asks Georgia to take her place, which Georgia is thrilled to do. But Georgia is told that she must uphold Elvira’s proper high society reputation since Georgia will be travelling under Elvira’s name – so no flirting with male travelers. Meanwhile Elvira’s husband is equally jealous, and he hires a private detective to take the voyage and spy on “Elvira.” The P.I. is played by Jack Carson, who in no time once shipboard falls for Georgia/Elvira and vice-versa. The shipboard fun is enlivened by Latin-inspired music and Doris’s singing. The great late 1940s wardrobe designed by Milo Anderson and the 1940’s Deco sets make for smashing visuals. The romantic confusion continues however, as Georgia’s old boyfriend (Oscar Levant) appears from a port of call, and then Elvira’s jealous husband flies to Rio, where by then everybody is either dodging each other or trying to make up with their permanent mate.
Romance on the High Seas is filled with great one-liners and funny dialogue. Nineteen-forty-eight was the high-point in post-World War II film noir, but this movie is in cheerful Technicolor. The movie’s original story was “Romance in High C.” and features several original songs by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. Michael Curtiz, of Casablanca fame, directed the movie. Curtiz picked Doris Day to star after he heard her sing at a party where Sammy Cahn urged her to sing “Embraceable You,” a Gershwin number. Early in the movie’s production Doris Day was not happy with her acting and asked Curtiz where she could get a drama coach.  “No, no!” Curtiz replied, “You’re a natural just as you are, if you learn how to act, you’ll ruin everything.” Judy Garland was the original star picked for the role but arrangements could not be made with MGM. The song, “It’s Magic,” was nominated for a Best Song Oscar. Doris Day was signed on at Warner Brothers for seven years and went on to have a great career.
Christian Esquevin is a member of the Coronado Island Film Festival Board of Directors, an avid film aficionado, and the creator of the blog Silver Screen Modes which focuses on the fashions and films of classic Hollywood. He is also the author and researcher for a stunning tabletop book Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Labelon fashion designer and icon, Gilbert Adrian, the chief fashion designer for MGM studios from 1928 to 1941.





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