Well, it was Doris’s birthday, yesterday, so what better time than now to post my top 5 Doris Day films? Now these may not be her ‘best’ films but they are my favourites. When I wrote my top 5 Audrey Hepburn films post, I mentioned that Doris was my other favourite actress growing up. I spent a lot of time watching Calamity Jane, On Moonlight Bay, Tea for Two, etc., and listening to a cassette my mum had of some of her songs. In fact, I’m listening to some of her music as I type this…
Picking five movies for a top 5 was so very difficult because there isn’t one Doris Day film that I’ve seen yet and not loved in some way. Some aren’t as great as others but watching Doris act (from silly to serious) is such a joy. But I managed to narrow it down to five even though I could have included so many more!
Calamity Jane directed by David Butler, 1953
A highly (highly) fictionalised musical biopic of ‘wild west’ frontierswoman Calamity Jane, this was one of those films I watched on repeat as a child. I’m fairly certain I used to act this scene out (or at least try) in my lounge room. Of course, any film made at this time with this setting is going to be quite problematic in terms of the representation of Native Americans, which I think is important to note. It’s still a film that is very important to me because of how much I watched it growing up and because it was the film that made me love Doris.
Lullaby of Broadway directed by David Butler, 1951
I remember my mum buying me a triple pack (actually, may have been four) of Doris Day films on VHS and one of them was Lullaby of Broadway. This isn’t one of Doris’s more popular films but it’s earned its place as one of my favourites for a few reasons: S.Z. Sakall whom I always adore, Gene Nelson who is quite underrated in terms of classic Hollywood leading (dancing) men, the beautiful costumes and this scene. It’s nice to see Doris’s dancing shown off (she trained as a dancer) but it’s just a great scene. That entire first minute of just her face surrounded by darkness as the camera slowly zooms in! Gorgeous.
The Pajama Game directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen, 1957
I’ve overlooked my dislike of John Raitt in this role because the costumes, choreography, songs and story of this film outweigh how much I hate that character (at the start, anyway). And, despite the way I feel about his character, can we talk about how much this song needs more appreciation than I think it gets? I mention the choreography because it was done by Bob Fosse – is it cliched to love Fosse? I don’t care. His choreography was great and the Steam Heat scene is so very Fosse (and the number that I believe made a name for Fosse in Broadway, etc.) and, gosh, isn’t Carol Haney brilliant? I wrote about this film on my other blog a few years ago, too. There is some really lovely use of colour and lighting in this movie, as well.
Send Me No Flowers directed by Norman Jewison, 1964
It was difficult to choose between this one and Pillow Talk for one of the films that she did with Rock Hudson but this one just won out. For silly little reasons like when Judy (Doris) and George (Rock) are getting ready and she swats him on the bum. I don’t know – I said it was silly but it’s so comfortably domestic and real, I guess? And hypochondria is definitely a serious thing but Rock Hudson is so adorable as George and Tony Randall is fantastic as always. Plus that scene when Doris gets locked out of the house is a hoot! Rock and Doris were just beautiful together and their friendship really shows in their acting, I think. I could probably take or leave Lover Come Back but this film and Pillow Talk are definitely two of my all-time favourites.
Young Man With a Horn directed by Michael Curtiz, 1950
I think the first time I realised that Doris was not only a great singer and comedic actress but very good at ‘serious’ roles too was when I saw her co-star with Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s remake of his own film, The Man Who Knew Too Much. But it was seeing Young Man With a Horn that sort of cemented that for me. There is one scene where the expression on her face changes so subtly and I just thought ‘yes, yes, yes! I love this! She is amazing’. I’m as impressed by subtlety and acting that’s in the face (if you get my drift) as I am fond of hammy-ness and over-the-top performances. This film is quite brilliant overall – Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall are both brilliant as the leads.
Honourable mentions go to films like On Moonlight Bay, which was one of my favourites growing up but I just cannot stand Gordon McRae. He’s always so pompous and self-righteous so as much as I love On Moonlight Bay it didn’t quite make it. Haha, I’m so hard on leading men. Sorry, Gordon! Also The Glass Bottom Boat for being one of the funniest films I’ve seen. Nearly cried with laughter in some parts. Oh, and It’s a Great Feeling has to be an honourable mention for the same reason. Mainly because of this scene. I’d also recommend Love Me or Leave Me as another fine example of her acting – possibly one of her best films (best lists and favourites lists won’t always be the same, will they?) Er, that’s probably too many honourable mentions, right?
Note: I’ve seen 23 out of her 38 feature films, so my top 5 could very well change at some point…