For the past several months, Warner Archive has been making classic musical fans very happy with numerous Doris Day pictures being released on Blu-Ray for the first time. A mid-career turn in The Pajama Game truly charmed me, while early efforts in features such as My Dreams Is Yours and On Moonlight Bay offered their own aspects to genuinely enjoy. The amiable blonde “All American Girl” feels like she has always been an iconic part of the culture, but the truth is she got her big break thanks to Michael Curtiz (Doctor X) casting her in 1948’s Romance on the High Seas. While she did not have professional acting experience previously, Curtiz recognized a sparkle in her that would eventually catapult her to one of the most beloved stars on the silver screen. The fresh-faced discovery of Day was enough to make the film quite the box office success before she would truly start dominating the charts. It is great to finally have the film that started her journey in glorious high definition.
As was often the case of the time, Romance on the High Seas deals quite a bit in outrageous coincidences and mistaken identities that are often a touch absurd but nonetheless hilarious. One’s wedding day should be one of the happiest days of your life, but new spouses Elvira Kent (Janis Paige, Silk Stockings) and her husband Michael (Don DeFore, It Happened on 5th Avenue) let their suspicions of one another take over. Rather than have a healthy conversation about the mutual distrust of one another, they let the feelings simmer as Elvira flirts a bit too much for comfort and Michael makes himself scarce as he toils away at the office – pushing their honeymoon off year after year. Neither of them are actually indulging in infidelity, but the perception is enough to keep things uneasy. When an opportunity comes up for the two to enact their own plans to prove their suspicions, a wacky situation arises that will put two complete strangers on a path to their own romance.
Georgia Garrett (Doris Day) is a struggling singer who longs for a life of travel that she will never be able to afford. Elvira convinces Georgia to pose as her on a honeymoon cruise she is supposed to be embarking upon solo, but Elvira will actually be staying behind to see what Michael gets up to when she is not around. Meanwhile, Michael hires private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof) to shadow his eager wife on the cruise to see if she is getting into any sticky situations. These two hired hands find themselves drawn to one another on the cruise in their respective manufactured identities. Simple misunderstandings lead to comedy gold as each of them try to fight their romantic impulses. The third act gets especially chaotic as all four end up on the ship at once in an extended sequence that will keep you laughing out loud. The romantic chemistry between Day and Carson is decent, but Day is so effervescent that she would probably conjure sparks with any ole slab of meat. In terms of comedic chops, you have to give it up to Don DeFore for some of his perfect reaction shots.
With this being a Doris Day picture, music is a big part of the narrative with numerous opportunities for Day to show off her wonderful voice. It does not get much better than hearing her belt out tunes such as “It’s Magic” or “I’m In Love” with such self-assurance and control. The numbers are mostly not big spectacles, but Day has a voice that makes musical numbers seem larger than they are in scope. Romance on the High Seas is not the pinnacle of anyone’s career who is involved with the production, but it is quite a bit of fun with its heart in the right place. There was ample opportunity for the film to devolve into some dated, cringeworthy elements, but it mostly seemed to avoid these missteps and provided an avenue for these performers to show shades of who they would become. Curtiz elevates what could have been a more run-of-the-mill affair as he brings immaculate production elements to the proceedings. For something that is tantamount to a ridiculous sitcom plot, the film strikes the right balance of fun and heartfelt. It is an auspicious start to the career of one of our great performers.
Warner Archive presents Romance on the High Seas with a stunning new 1080p master transfer sourced from a 4K scan of the original nitrate negative. Warner Archive continues to maintain its high level of quality with one of the strongest transfers you have seen on disc. The film features some wondrous colors within the costumes and production design that pop off the screen with a lovely vibrancy. The black levels are also very deep with a nice stability throughout. The level of detail and clarity is gorgeous with the appropriate amount of natural film grain intact. The film appears to be practically free of dirt and damage, which makes the feature feel even more timeless. There does not appear to be any pesky digital anomalies such as compression artifacts, banding or any other such nuisances. This presentation is a top-tier effort from Warner Archive on all fronts.
The Blu-Ray comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that is simply lovely. With music being one of the driving forces of the film, it is wonderful to report that the track nails these elements beautifully. The track balances vocals with the crowded ship setting and the accompanying music with magnificent clarity. There are moments where the track feels quite busy with all of the competing elements, but the track maintains its fidelity very well. Normal dialogue comes through clearly from beginning to end. Warner Archive has provided a stellar audio track that does not exhibit any glaring signs of age-related wear-and-tear. The disc also comes with optional English (SDH) subtitles.
- Hare Splitter: A 7-minute Bugs Bunny short in which the iconic Bunny gets into a romantic rivalry with Casbah over the affections of Daisy. This is pretty funny, but unfortunately not remastered in HD.
- Let’s Sing A Song From the Movies: An 11-minute short from the Memories of Melody Lane series which features music numbers from early sound pictures. This is a delightful historical piece.
- Theatrical Trailer: A fun two-minute trailer in which Day and Paige sing a little tune to introduce the story along with songs and scenes from the film.
Romance on the High Seas proves to be a great showcase for Doris Day in her film debut. She radiates a star quality in her role that elevates the film in conjunction with the rest of the talented ensemble. The story can be a bit formulaic, but it is executed in a way that holds your interest throughout. Warner Archive has released a truly wonderful Blu-Ray that looks and sounds amazing while also providing a few fun supplemental features. If you are a fan of Day or classic musical rom-coms, this one should put a smile on your face. Recommended
Romance on the High Seas can be purchased directly through the Warner Archive Amazon Store or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.