It was a beautiful time in a beautiful place, and when you've grown up admiring Doris Day, there's no better place to be.
And if you're not familiar with America's Sweetheart, Lullaby of Broadway is a good place to jump in.
Made in 1951, Lullaby was a Warner Brothers Technicolor spectacular, and a beautiful one at that. Starring Gene Nelson alongside Doris Day, with S.Z. Sakall, Billy De Wolfe, Gladys George, and Florence Bates, this film is like a ride on a cloud. It's just that smooth, fluffy, and relaxing.
Silly and oh so fun. Melinda Howard (Day) is a small-time theatrical performer who has been living overseas. She is returning to the States to see her mother, Jessica Howard (George), when she meets dancing star Tom Farnham (Nelson) on the boat. Melinda believes that her mother is a successful Broadway star, the toast-of-the-town, like she was in the old days. She is unaware that Jessica has fallen onto bad times, hit the bottle, and is now performing at third-rate joints in-between drinks. This is because Jessica has falsified her correspondence to Melinda, using the address of the finest house in town as her mailing address because she is in cahoots with the down-and-out acting pair Lefty and Gloria (De Wolfe and Triola) who work there as the butler and maid. Melinda arrives at the home expecting to be welcomed with open arms by her mother. Lefty and Gloria hide her in the servant quarters, where she takes up residence unbeknownst to the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Hubbell (Sakall and Bates). When Melinda and Adolph collide late that night as Melinda explores the house, Mr. Hubbell is brought into Lefty's confidence and mixed up in the scheme of trying to hide from Melinda her mother's condition and hide Melinda from Mrs. Hubbell.
What follows is zany, if predictable, with Melinda breaking out into show business and landing the leading role in a musical opposite Tom Farnham, with whom she has fallen in love. Mixed up in the action are allegations of an affair between Melinda and Mr. Hubbell, the comical antics of Lefty and Gloria, and a sweet reunion between Melinda and her mother.
Two words: music and dancing. Doris is dancing straight out of the gate, with a top hat and tails version of "Just One of Those Things." From there the songs keep coming and don't stop 'till end credits:
- "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me"
- "Somebody Loves Me"
- "I Love the Way You Say Goodnight"
- "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone"
- "In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town"
- "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"
- "You're Dependable"
- "We'd Like to Go on a Trip"
- and of course, "Lullaby of Broadway"
Another huge plus is the supporting cast. Sakall added a gloriously delightful kick to everything he appeared in, and his mannerisms will have you laughing as he seeks refuge from his battleax wife, the ever-reliable Florence Bates. Billy De Wolfe also puts in another great performance as a scheming shirker and wins favor through his tender care of Jessica throughout her time of trouble. Anne Triola is fun as Gloria as well.
"Such a great movie," my husband said. He doesn't know he's being quoted, so I'll tell you what else he said. "I haven't seen a Doris Day movie I didn't like. Or a Cuddles [Sakall] movie." Check this one out and you'll quickly understand why.