Today is Doris Day’s 95th birthday–not her 93rd like previously thought. It’s only fitting that I honor Doris’ birthday by discussing one of her films. Doris made her screen debut in 1948 with Romance on the High Seas after forging a career for herself as a big band singer and radio performer. She had originally wanted to be a dancer, but a 1937 car accident injured her legs and essentially ended her dancing career before it even began. She landed a job at Charlie Ye’s Shanghai Inn as a waitress in her hometown of Cincinnati, OH while she pursued a singing career. In 1939, she landed a job as a big band singer, which evolved into also performing on radio. Her singing career led directly to her career in film. By 1949, Doris was appearing in her third film, It’s a Great Feeling, a lightweight Warner Brothers film that was essentially a “who’s who” of the Warner Brothers lot in 1949.
It’s a Great Feeling isn’t a great film by any means and isn’t even a definitive Doris Day film. It is most likely a foot note in the careers of the stars who appeared as themselves (if the film was even mentioned at all). However, the film did serve its purpose. It put Doris Day’s star on the map and directly led to her getting bigger and better roles in every successive film. Doris Day was a star for over thirty years before she retired (by choice) from her career. She is a living legend and one of America’s most beloved stars.
In It’s a Great Feeling, Doris plays Judy Adams, a waitress in the Warner Brothers commissary. Star Jack Carson has been signed to appear in the new film, Mademoiselle Fifi. Multiple famous directors (Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh and King Vidor) are approached to direct the film, but refuse once they find out about Carson’s casting. A running joke in the film is that Carson is such a terror to work with that nobody will work with him. The studio reluctantly agrees to let Carson direct the film (since nobody else will). Now, he needs to find a female co-star. He tries enlisting well known female stars, like Jane Wyman, but nobody will have anything to do with him. Carson enlists friend Dennis Morgan to help him find a co-star and Morgan suggests he look for an unknown–rationalizing that nobody who knows Carson will work with him, so he’ll have more luck finding someone who doesn’t know any better.
Carson and Morgan end up coming across Judy, the waitress in the commissary. Carson and Morgan’s first step to “discovering” her, is to introduce her to fictional studio head, Arthur Trent. They remember that Trent likes to discover his own talent, so Carson and Morgan “arrange” to have Judy conveniently pop up in random places–elevator operator, cab driver and dental hygienist. All Carson and Morgan end up doing is driving Trent bananas. Judy keeps trying too hard to appeal to the casting director by looking at him with a goofy smile and rapidly fluttering eyelids. (I do think that the weird sounds that accompany Judy’s smile and eye flutters are very annoying, and really the only blight on this otherwise entertaining film).
After their first scheme fails, Carson and Morgan arrange a screen test for Judy. That too is a disaster, as it experiences technical problems and actually causes studio head Trent to experience a nervous breakdown. Judy later re-appears as a French singer in an attempt to convince Trent that she is right for the role. However, despite an elaborate ruse and help from two major actresses, Trent sees through Judy’s charade and she’s turned down.
Disillusioned with her lack of success and treatment in Hollywood (including all the nonsense that Carson and Morgan made her endure), Judy decides to head back home to Goerkes Corner, WI to marry her longtime sweetheart Jeffrey Bushdinkle, whom she left to pursue her career in Hollywood. After discovering that there may be an opportunity for Judy in pictures, Carson and Morgan follow her to her hometown and plan on breaking up the wedding. When they arrive, the Adams/Bushdinkle nuptials are already in progress. Watching in bemusement to see who Judy could possibly want to marry in lieu of pursuing a film career, Carson and Morgan watch through the window. The groom’s face is hidden until after the vows. The bride and groom are declared man and wife and they go in for the kiss. When their faces part, Carson and Morgan finally get to see the groom. With a name like Jeffrey Bushdinkle, how attractive could be possibly be?
Answer: Very. I won’t give it away, but if this man were waiting for me in Small Town, USA and there was a choice between living in this tiny town and being with this gorgeous man… well… it would be a very difficult choice and I don’t blame Doris Day’s character for one second.
Jack Carson, eat your heart out.