On Moonlight Bay (1951)

On Moonlight Bay (1951)

It doesn’t take very long to realize while watching this musical comedy that the filmmakers were trying to recapture the magic of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). Set in Indiana and adapting Booth Tarkington’s frequently utilized “Penrod Stories” director Roy Del Ruth and screenwriters Jack Rose & Melville Shavelson even chose Leon Ames to play the father of this film’s family. Doris Day plays his baseball playing tomboy daughter Marjorie ‘Marjie’ Winfield and Gordon MacRae plays the boy next door William ‘Bill’ Sherman. Billy Gray plays Marjie’s pesky trouble-making kid brother Wesley. Rosemary DeCamp plays Mother Alice with Ames’s George Winfield and Mary Wickes plays their longtime cook and housekeeper Stella that’s become part of the family. Jack Smith plays bespeckled piano teacher Hubert Wakely who’s woefully ill-equipped to compete with college boy Bill for Marjie’s affections. Ellen Corby plays Wesley’s stern then befuddled (by his daydreaming and tall tale) schoolteacher Miss Stephens and Esther Dale appears uncredited as Aunt Martha.

The Christmas holiday is utilized but there’s only a passing reference to Halloween and instead of a coming World’s Fair backdrop there’s a 1917 graduation ceremony that’s followed by Bill and his entire male graduating class’s enlistment to participate in World War I as doughboys. This sets up the sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) which also features a memorable title tune though the only other enduring songs in this one are the WW I hits “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Pack Up Your Troubles”.

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