Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in On Moonlight Bay (1951)


(director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriters: Jack Rose/Melville Shavelson/adapted from the Penrod stories by Booth Tarkington; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Thomas Reilly; music: Max Steiner; cast: Doris Day (Marjorie Winfield), Gordon MacRae (William Sherman), Leon Ames (George Winfield), Rosemary De Camp (Mrs. Alice Winfield), Billy Gray (Wesley Winfield), Jack Smith (Hubert Wakely), Mary Wickes (Stella), Jeffrey Stevens (Jim Sherman); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Jacobs; Warner Bros.; 1951)

“It’s the popular film that established Doris Day as the girl next door.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s filled with pleasant standard songs such as “Till We Meet Again,” “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” “Cuddle Up a Little Closer,” and the title song. The nostalgic period musical is set in a 1917 small-town in Indiana and adapted from the Penrod stories by Booth Tarkington; it’s written by Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson. Roy Del Ruth (“On the Avenue”/”The West Point Story”/”Broadway Rhythm”) directs, keeping everything folksy and wholesome (much in theme like Meet Me in St Louis but not up to that masterpiece). It’s the popular film that established Doris Day as the girl next door. The emphasis on the film was switched from the book’s wisecracking Penrod to big sister’s budding romance.

Banker George Winfield (Leon Ames) and his family, wife Alice (Rosemary De Camp), eighteen-year-old tomboy Marjorie (Doris Day), eleven-year-old Wesley (Billy Gray) and Max, the dog, move into a big new house. Everyone but the patriarch are skeptical of the move, including the maid Stella. When Wesley makes friends with Jim Sherman, who shows off his father’s gun, Margie tries to stop them and accidentally discharges the gun causing the barn door to fall on Jim’s handsome older brother William (Gordon MacRae). That’s how next door neighbor William, a senior at Indiana University, met and started dating Margie. With her mom’s help she’s transformed to look like a beautiful woman.

On their dates, William voices concern about the troubled world situation and thinks people are behaving too frivolously in such trying times. When Margie’s father wants to know what are his intentions to his daughter, Bill makes disparaging comments about bankers and an irate George forbids him to see her. It ends with William marrying Margie, with her father’s permission. This comes after dad realizes young people often outgrow their foolish ideas as they get older. William marches off to World War I while Margie promises she’ll wait for him. To see them together again you have to wait until 1953 and the sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon.