Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (Warner Bros. 1948) Warner Home Video

All the elements are in play for a rollicking good time in Michael Curtiz’s ‘case of mistaken identities’ musical - Romance on the High Seas (1948); the movie that brought former big band singer, Doris Day to international acclaim as a movie actress and took home the Best Song Oscar for Day’s memorable, ‘It’s Magic’.

The plot of Julius and Philip Epstein's witty screenplay begins in earnest when wealthy socialite Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) suspects her husband, Michael (Don DeFore) is a no good two-timing ladies man. Smart gal…too smart for her own good, in fact. When Michael tells Elvira that he will be unable to accompany her on their planned ocean cruise getaway, Elvira’s storm signals kick into high gear.

Deliciously devious, Elvira decides not to go on the cruise either – taking a room at a nearby hotel to spy on Michael while hiring a near-penniless nightclub chanteuse, Georgia Garrett (Doris Day) to take her place aboard ship. Naturally, the plot goes hopelessly awry – since Michael has also hired private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to tail his wife and Peter actually thinks Georgia is Elvira – while falling hopelessly in love with her.

Such maudlin tripe might just as easily have become leaden, dull and cliché. Yet, under Curtiz’s direction and with delightfully buoyant songs penned by Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne, Romance on the High Seas hits mostly high notes.

To find Doris Day in excellent voice is hardly startling, though given that this was her movie debut audiences must have been bowled over by her soothing singing pipes. But to discover her innate ability to carry off the comedic and dramatic elements with equal - seemingly effortless - aplomb is a minor revelation. Doris Day is a rarity from Hollywood's golden age. She somehow managed to emerge on screen as a fully formed star of the first magnitude right from the beginning. 

Jack Carson is delightful as the bumbling detective. Janis Page is her usual glossy self - all glycerin and bubbly charm. Curtiz's pacing of the action, his staging of the rather lavish musical production numbers seems effortless, and the Technicolor is both frothy and rich. And the film?…well - it’s magic, of course!

Warner Home Video has done an exceptionally fine job on this DVD transfer. On the whole colors are very nicely balanced. Flesh tones appear just a tad pasty – but certainly not entirely out of character for color stock of this vintage.Contrast levels are nicely realized. Whites are generally bright. Blacks are deep and solid. There are rare occasions of Technicolor misregistration, but these are brief and negligible. The audio is mono, but adequate for this presentation. One wishes that Warner had had the foresight to remaster at least the songs in 5.1 Dolby Digital from the original directionalized audio stems used to create the mono mix. Short subjects are the only extra feature.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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