10 Best Doris Day Musical Movies

Doris Day became the #1 box office movie star of the late 50s and early 60s with the explosive package of talent, charm and personality that she brought to the screen.

Doris Day starred in 39 films including a score of sunny, light musicals, one serious musical, (“Love Me or Leave Me” in 1955) and a trend-setting comedy blockbuster (“Pillow Talk” in 1959). She performed Oscar-winning Best Songs in two of her most popular films, Secret Love (from “Calamity Jane” in 1953) and Whatever Will Be, Will Be (from Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in 1956).

Doris Day’s ’10 Best Comedy-and-Drama Films’ and ‘Doris Day’s 10 Worst Films’ are discussed in other articles. Here are the best-ten of Doris Day’s musical movies.

#1 Love Me or Leave Me MGM (20s and 30s music standards) 1955
This turbulent biopic of nightclub singer and Follies star, Ruth Etting, set in the 1920s and 30s is a wonderful film with Doris Day and James Cagney giving memorable performances. Doris Day handled all of the musical numbers with aplomb and her beautiful voice has never been used to better advantage. Not only did she look spectacular; she played a true adult woman with guts and feelings. It was truly a personal triumph. Doris Day’s work was hailed by critics worldwide and the picture was a ‘smash.’ It was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor (James Cagney), Best Screenplay, Best Song (I’ll Never Stop Loving You), and Best Original Story, but no nomination for the acclaimed Doris Day.
Starring: Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell.
Songs: Love Me or Leave Me, Sam the Old Accordion Man, Shakin’ the Blues Away, Stay on the Right Side Sister, Everybody Loves My Baby, At Sundown (Day), I’ll Never Stop Loving You, written by Nicholas Brodszky & Sammy Cahn (Day), Never Look Back, written by Chilton Price (Day).

#2 The Pajama Game Warner Brothers Music & lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross 1957
Doris Day is truly dazzling in this exuberant film. The inventive musical score is full of zest, imagination, and gutsy earthiness. Doris Day is in wonderful voice singing the zippy I’m Not At All in Love and stopping the show with her John Raitt duet, There Once Was A Man.
Starring: Doris Day, John Raitt, Carol Haney, Reta Shaw, Eddie Foy, Jr., Barbara Nichols
Songs: Hey There (Raitt); I’m Not At All In Love (Day); There Once Was a Man (Day & Raitt); Small Talk (Day & Raitt); Steam Heat (Haney); Hernando’s Hideaway (Haney).

#3 Calamity Jane Warner Brothers Music & lyrics by Sammy Fain & Paul Francis Webster 1953
From the uproarious opening number, The Deadwood Stage, Doris Day takes full command of the best western musical ever to come out of Hollywood. She sings, dances, rides horses, shoots, and is vulnerable at the same time. Doris Day is riveting and gives the character every bit of gusto she’s got, which is plenty. It is a robust, but tender, abrasive, but vulnerable performance, which wedged its way into the hearts of millions. This uproarious romantic western features her enduringly vivacious version of TheBlack Hills Of Dakota and the yearningly sensual Secret Love.
Starring: Doris Day, Howard Keel, Allyn McLerie, Philip Carey
Songs: Secret Love (Day); The Deadwood Stage (Day); Black Hills of Dakota (Day).

See also  1950s Hollywood Musicals

#4 Young at Heart Warner Brothers music & lyrics from various writers 1955
Doris Day and Frank Sinatra team up in this sentimental drama with music, tears, and laughter. Doris Day brings freshness and charm, sounding perfectly angelic singing There’s a Rising Moon (for every falling star), Till My Love Comes to Me, and Hold Me in Your Arms, belting out a solid number called Ready, Willing and Able, and brushing away an ill-concealed tear of heart-break, You My Love. Tough-talking Frank Sinatra sings the title song. The film is a favorite of millions and is regularly played during the Christmas holidays.
Starring: Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Gig Young, Dorothy Malone, Ethel Barrymore.
Songs: Young at Heart (Sinatra); Ready, Willing and Able (Day); One for My Baby (Sinatra), There’s A Rising Moon (Day), Y Till My Love Come to Me (Day), Hold Me in Your Arms (Day), You My Love (Day and Sinatra).

#5 On Moonlight Bay Warner Brothers (period music standards) 1951
Doris Day won the Photoplay Gold Medal for her role in “On Moonlight Bay”, a nostalgic look at small town Americana, loosely based on the ‘Penrod’ tales by Booth Tarkington. The young love, happy middle class family, mischievous younger brother, salty but faithful family maid, moonlight and song made it one of the movies for which Doris Day is most fondly remembered and she is perfect, balancing the tomboy and blossoming young lady elements of her character. The mood and the authenticity are maintained by Roy del Ruth’s direction and in particular by the careful and completely detailed settings.
Starring: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Jack Smith, Leon Ames, Rosemary De Camp, Mary Wickes, Billy Gray.
Songs: On Moonlight Bay, Till We Meet Again (Day & MacRae), I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (Smith), Every Little Movement (Has a Meaning All Its Own), Love Ya (Day & Smith), Tell Me, Merry Christmas All (Day), Cuddle Up a Little Closer (MacRae & Gray).

#6 By the Light of The Silver Moon Warner Bros. (period music standards) 1953
This musical is the tuneful sequel to “On Moonlight Bay”. Like its predecessor, it recalls another time and place in America, directly after World War I, bathing it in a nostalgic warmth and glow in stunning Technicolor. Doris Day gives her typical bright and refreshing performance, singing in that gorgeous voice that is distinctly her own.
Starring: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary De Camp, Mary Wickes, Billy Gray
Songs: King Chanticleer, I’ll Forget You (Day), By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Your Eyes Have Told Me So, Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee, If You Were the Only Girl in the World, Ain’t We Got Fun (Day, MacRae), Just One Girl (MacRae).

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#7 Tea for Two Warner Brothers A collection of music standards from various writers 1950
Doris Day’s bright, scrubbed, American-as-apple-pie energy charms the audience in this very loosely based adaptation of the Otto Harbach-Frank Mandel Broadway hit of 1924 ‘No, No, Nanette.’
Starring: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson, S.Z. Sakall, Eve Arden, Billy De Wolfe, and Virginia Gibson.
Songs: I Want to be Happy (Day, MacRae), Tea for Two (Day), I Only Have Eyes for You (Day), Oh Me, Oh My (Day, Nelson), I Know that You Know (Day), Do, Do, Do (Day, MacRae).

#8 Lullaby of Broadway Warner Brothers A collection of music standards from various writers 1951
Doris Day opens the picture with a great number, the spectacular Just One of Those Things wearing a top hat and tails. Gene Nelson and Doris Day sing and dance to Somebody Loves Me and to I Love the Way You Say Goodnight partially shot in slow motion beautifully edited. The best is saved for last, Lullaby of Broadway has Doris Day in gold lame and Gene Nelson in tails dancing up a long flight of stairs-It is one of the best musical numbers in Warner Brother’s history.
Starring: Doris Day, Gene Nelson, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Billy De Wolfe, and Gladys George
Songs: Lullaby of Broadway, Just One of Those Things, You’re Getting To Be a Habit With Me (Day), Somebody Loves Me, I Love the Way You Say Goodnight (Day & Nelson), Zing Went the Strings of My Heart (Nelson).

#9 Lucky Me Warner Brothers Music & lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross 1954
Doris Day opens this fun musical with a dynamite number, Superstitious, which she sings while bouncing down the streets of Miami! Only Doris could have gotten away with this, and she was brilliant. Her performance is filled with spunk, vitality, exuberance and that unmistakable Doris Day glow that never seems forced or contrived. There’s not a false moment in her performance.
Starring: Doris Day, Robert Cummings, Phil Silvers, Eddie Foy, Jr. and Nancy Walker.
Songs: I Speak to the Stars, I Wanna Sing Like An Angel, Superstition Song (Day), Love You Dearly (Day & Cummings), Blue Bells of Broadway (Day, Silvers, Walker, & Foy).

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#10 The West Point Story Warner Brothers (music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn) 1950
James Cagney was the centerpiece of this entertaining show and he was superb. While not making her appearance until thirty minutes into the film, Doris Day shines in every scene she plays. This was Doris Day’s first appearance with Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson with whom she would make several more films. The production was first rate. Director Roy Del Ruth keeps the continuity intact and the believability alive.
Starring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson.
Songs:It Could Only Happen in Brooklyn (Mayo & Cagney), You Love Me, Long Before I Knew You (MacRae), The Military Polka, By the Kissing Rock (Day & MacRae), Ten Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Two Sheep (Day)

Honorable Mention:
Romance on the High Seas Warner Brothers (music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn) 1948
A showcase for Doris Day who gets to sing two jump tunes I’m in Love and Put ’em in A Box and two romantic ballads It’s You or No One (For Me) and It’s Magic. Director Michael Curtiz hired the legendary Busby Berkeley to stage the big numbers with his trademark framing and creative angles The big finale scenes with hordes of Brazilian dancers filling the dance floor, carrying huge strings of colorful balloons are quintessential Busby Berkeley choreography.
Starring: Doris Day, Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore, S.Z. (Cuddles) Sakall
Songs:I’m in Love (Day), Put ’em in A Box (Day), I’m in Love (Day), It’s You or No One (Day), and It’s Magic (Day).

Doris Day’s voice was golden and she had a way with a song that no other singer in films could match. Her perfect-of-a-type good looks and winning personality were embraced by the film-going public worldwide.

See my other Associated Content articles on Doris Day’s ‘Best Hit Songs’, ‘Best Should-Have-Been-Hit Songs’, ‘Best Songs You Never Heard Of’, ‘Best Albums’, ‘Best Love Songs’, ‘Best Songs from films’, ‘Best Duets’, ‘Best Show Tunes’, ‘Best Christmas Songs’, ‘Worst Songs’, ‘Best Movies’, ‘Worst Movies’ and more.

More information about Doris Day and other popular singers and songs from the 1950s can be found at the website 50sPopMusic.com or in the book “Remembering 1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers” by Daniel Niemeyer

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