Movie Review: Romance on the High Seas (1948)

Doris Day’s maiden voyage joyful, funloving _ 8/10
Review by Brian Wright

Romance on the High Seas

Oscar Farrar: Incidentally, I picked up your last two paychecks. It was barely enough to pay for my plane ticket down here. Didn’t even leave me enough to buy you a present! I feel like a cad.
Georgia Garrett: You crook. You can go to jail for that.
Oscar Farrar: Marry me and you won’t have to testify against me.

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Screenplay by Julius J. Epstein

Jack Carson … Peter Virgil
Janis Paige … Elvira Kent
Don DeFore … Michael Kent
Doris Day … Georgia Garrett
Oscar Levant … Oscar Farrar
S.Z. Sakall … Uncle Lazlo Lazlo
Fortunio Bonanova … Plinio
Leslie Brooks … Miss Medwick

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This is one of those movies that makes you ecstatic that Ted Turner created Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Having a conversation with an engineering friend the other day, he has this huge gripe with cable being so commercial. Sure enough, those of us who remember the early days of cable television were sold on it being ‘commercial free.’ You just paid your modest subscription and you got to see sports, weather, community affairs, and so on without any ads. The selection was sparse—in the late 1960s and early 1970s—but freedom from commercials was NIRVANA.

Then the forces of evil prevailed, and now we generally get sh** programming including 20 minutes of advertising per hour on hundreds of channels… AND YOU STILL PAY FOR THE SUBSCRIPTION. Something ain’t right. In any case, some cable systems include TCM, which is commercial free, with the exception of tooting its own horn in between movies. The movies run without interruption. And I’ll tell you what a big deal that is. More often than not when I’m tuned into ESPN Sports Center or a football game and they go to break I will shift to TCM no matter what is playing. I love not being hustled… the silence, the serenity, the lack of bimbos, beer, burgers, cars, and drugs thrust in my face in high definition.

Sense of Life Film

Sorry, losing my point. Turner as the name says runs hundreds of movies that are classics, for good reason. Romance on the High Seas—from 1948, three years after the Big War ended—is one of the best benevolent ‘sense of life’ classic films of all time. All Hollywood. All American. But embracing the peoples and cultures of other countries as well. The color, the music, the laughter, the costumes and set designs are what put America apart in the eyes of the world.

People of ordinary economic status around the planet would watch a film like Romance and think, in America no one stands in your way to success. Government is a minor annoyance, and justice usually prevails. Moreover, the subliminal message is it’s nice to be a member of the productive rich: they have a good time, stay up with the latest fashion, take cruises, party hearty, say witty things, and live life to the bright, smiling maximum. And that ain’t bad, baby. But arguably the main characters in the movie, Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) and Georgia Garrett (Doris Day), are blue collar—though on the high-tone side.

The story begins with millionaire New York industrialist Michael Kent (Don DeFore) launching a brand new production line, so critical that he has to cancel his scheduled deluxe ocean cruise to Rio de Janeiro with his lovely wife Elvira (Janis Paige). Coincidentally, he’s just hired this blond bombshell secretary (a Miss Medwick who simply exudes the Hawaiian Syndrome: C’moniwannalayya). Elvira notes the convenient hot chick and thinks the obvious: he’s fooling around on me. When Michael begs off the cruise, Elvira tells him she’s going to go by herself; instead she will send an impostor in her place, while she stays home and tries to get the goods on him. Elvira contacts Georgia Garret a pretty, ambitious, struggling lounge singer, offers her a thousand dollars plus all expenses. Georgia says sure.

Meanwhile, hubby Michael feels it’s awfully odd his wife insists on going ahead without him. For reasons of pride or love, he decides he’ll enlist the services of a private detective highly recommended to him, Peter Virgil. Similar to his wife’s deal with Georgia, Kent makes Virgil an offer he won’t refuse and books him on the same cruise. So there you are with the setup: Good looking stud sets off to track a society woman on a luxury cruise who is actually someone else. The permutations are ‘interesting.’ Right away the chemistry between Virgil and Garrett is screen-warming, but the twists and turns keep everything up in the air until the final scenes.

Good stuff, extremely entertaining. You’ll notice immediately that whoever tailored the men’s suits is a perfectionist—these suits have color and class—and whoever designed the women’s gowns is a extraordinarily competent lover of the female form. Simply irresistible. In particular, one of those forms Georgia breaks out in lovely song on several occasions to really draw you in. Most Baby Boomers will recognize the wonderful:

It’s Magic
Doris Day, words by Sammy Cahn, music by Jule Styne

You sigh, the song begins, you speak and I hear violins
It’s magic
The stars desert the skies and rush to nestle in your eyes
It’s magic

Without a golden wand or mystic charms
Fantastic things begin when I am in your arms

When we walk hand-in-hand, the world becomes a wonderland
It’s magic
How else can I explain those rainbows when there isn’t rain?
It’s magic

Why do I tell me myself these things that happen are really true
When in my heart I know the magic is my love for you?

It’s magic
It’s magic

Why do I tell me myself these things that happen are really true
When in my heart I know the magic is my love for you?

As usual, a good lyric is nothing without a fine melody to carry it. And ‘It’s Magic’ will have many of you glowing with recognition and enjoyment of one of the finest songs ever. TCM gives Romance two stars. It’s 3.5 (8 on my scale) minimum. Same director as for Mildred Pierce a world class 10.

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