Sometimes you need the fantasy. Not fantasy in terms of a genre related to swords, dragons, mythical quests, and far off adventures. But the kind of film fantasies that create a certain kind of vibe. Worlds that you find yourself wanting to escape to. A sort of “Ipanema of the mind” if you will. 2020 has been a hard, rough, painful year—and we have another half of it to live through. When Warner Archive announced they were releasing the 1948 Doris Day musical “Romance on the High Seas” on blu-ray, it seemed like the kind of movie I needed to check out as soon as possible. I had never seen it, but spending some time in a technicolor fantasy on a cruise ship was extremely tempting.
Not only is “Romance on the High Seas” a delightful Doris Day film, but it’s also her motion picture debut. That isn’t where the notable cast and crew of the film ends. The movie was directed by the greatest “unknown” director of all time, Michael Curtiz, a longtime directing stalwart of the Warner Brothers lot who also directed a little motion picture you may have heard of, “Casablanca.” The film reunited Curtiz with the screenwriters for “Casablanca,” brothers Julius and Phillip Epstein, the film also has an additional dialogue credit for I.A.L. Diamond, would later collaborate with Billy Wilder on some of the finest movies ever made. If that’s not enough, Busby Berkeley was brought in to guide the music numbers.
Day plays bubbly singer Georgia Garrett, who dreams of going on a long vacation one day, she gets her chance when she has a chance meeting with Mrs. Elvira Kent (Janis Paige). Elvira asks Georgia to go on a cruise in her place so she can stay behind and catch her cheating husband Michael (Don De Fore)—neither of them is cheating, but they have both so highly susceptive of one another they’re convinced it’s going on. The cruise was supposed to be for their anniversary, but Mike being the ever-important businessman he has to put it off.
Elvira confides her plan in one person Michael’s Uncle Lazo, played by the always a delight to see S.Z. Sakall. Since Mike becomes convinced Elvira’s insistence on going alone is to have a fling, he hires a private detective played by Jack Carson to go on the cruise and follow his wife, when in reality he’s following Day around—who has been instructed to use Elvira’s name in all her activities. It doesn’t help that Georgia’s bandleader, who is in love with her, shows up unannounced at one of the ports of call (the always fun Oscar Levant).
This cocktail shakes up into a delightful confection of mistaken identities and romance, all culminating at a hotel in Rio. Along the way we are dazzled by the some beautiful looking scenes, delightful musical numbers written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, and overall a movie that left me with a huge smile on my face the entire time I spent watching it.
Times are—to say the VERY least—stressful right now. “Romance on the High Seas” was the tonic I didn’t know I need. Just a little escape into a fun, film fantasy. A big ‘ol Hollywood musical in glorious technicolor that looks especially dazzling on this new blu-ray from Warner Archive. A stunning new 4K transfer was used for this disc, utilizing separate scans made from each of the original nitrate technicolor negatives. The results are jaw-dropping. The colors are simply remarkable. Technicolor looks good in HD, but there is a certain sparkle to this blu-ray that is undeniable. The hues of blue in particular knocked me out, especially in the painted backgrounds of the opening credits.
A couple bonus features include the original trailer and the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hare Splitter” in HD, along with a vintage musical short “Let’s Sing a Song from the Movies” in standard definition. This blu-ray was such a joy to see, I can’t recall the last time a movie just made me feel so warm and happy all over. Just a wonderful little story to spend some time in. This title comes highly recommended from me, you can find it by going to www.wbshop.com/warnerarchive. See you next week.