By the Light of the Silvery Moon


By the Light of the Silvery Moon relates the further adventures of the Winfield family in small town Indiana as daughter Marjorie Winfield’s (Doris Day) boyfriend, William Sherman (Gordon MacRae), returns from the Army after World War I. Bill and Marjorie’s on-again, off-again romance provides the backdrop for other family crises, caused mainly by son Wesley’s (Billy Gray) wild imagination.


Doris Day had her 90th birthday last week, so I was asked to dig something out of her archives. This led me to By the Light of the Silvery Moon, which is a very popular song from the Vaudeville days and a sequel to another of Day’s, On Moonlight Bay (I’ll get around to that by the time she turns 91, I’m sure). Aside from being my personal tribute to Miss Day, the trailer piqued my interest by showing this as a fun and funny musical, but was it accurate?

What is this about?

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae reprise their roles as pants-loving tomboy Marjorie Winfield and her beau-next-door Bill Sherman in this popular sequel to the hit musical On Moonlight Bay. This time around, Marjorie is cooped up at home with her family. There’s her precocious younger brother, Wesley (Billy Gray of “Father Knows Best”) — while Bill serves as a soldier in World War I. Can they pick up where they left off when he comes home?

What did I like?

Sweetheart. The sorority of America’s sweethearts is packed with all sorts of talented women, but I think Doris Day might very well have been one of the best candidates for that title. Even when she is playing a total tomboy, as she most often does in the films that I’ve seen, she is still a total cutie. Couple that with her emotional rollercoaster and those golden pipes and you can see why guys went home from the theaters dreaming of her and women wanted to be her.

Happy. Last week was just a downer in terms of films that I watched, as most everything that I watched was a downer. I might as well have added Requiem for a Dream to last week’s list and completed the rounds of depression. Thank goodness Captain America was able to turn things around. In a drastic turn of events, this film has a bright, happy tone to it, reminiscent of the era in which it was filmed and perfect for this type of film. I had a smile on my face in the first 5 minutes, and never really left.

Music, maestro, please. I went through a period for a while in which all the musicals that I watched had little to no music. Leave it to the likes of Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and now Doris Day to take the genre back for me. Not only is there music in this film, but the songs are actually quite memorable, most notably the title song, which I know best from an episode of I Love Lucy. I’m sure it will be in my head for a few days.

What didn’t I like?

Townies. Ahh…small town life, where everyone knows everything you do and judge you for it. Those of you that grew up and/or live in a small town know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then catch the ice skating scene in this film and find out how bad it can get. A small rumor can turn the whole town against you, which is a shame, but people believe what they want, even back then.

Gumshoe. I’m all for a fantasy sequence that is very film noir-ish, but there has to be a setup for it. In the case of Fearless Flannagan, a character created by Day’s little brother, it seems to have come out of nowhere. Other than giving something for the little brother to do, there really was no point to this, it didn’t move the story along and, though it did serve as an entertaining sidestep, I believe this film would have been better off without going off on that tangent.

Tacked on. A small subplot involving the father and his alleged infidelity seems a bit tacked on, much like the little brothers fantasy segments. There are two ways the filmmakers could have gone with this. Option A would have been to not even attempt to insert the subplot, and keep the focus on the main plot involving Day and her would be fiancée. Option B is to go deeper into this plot, as opposed to skim over it and keep dipping its toe back in the water.

I’m not sure, but I think it can be said that By the Light of the Silvery Moon is one of Day’s underrated films. When you hear people prattle off Doris Day’s resume, this isn’t one of the films that people come up with off the top of their head, but it should be. While some may say this is a bit of a cheesy, corny film, I argue that is part of its charm. Just look at the hand painted sets, rather than actual buildings and you can tell that this film is not trying to be some serious, artsy-fartsy work, but rather a fun piece of cinema. Do I recommend this? Yes, for it is good, clean fun that everyone can enjoy, so give it a shot sometime!

4 out of 5 stars




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