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On Moonlight Bay

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On Moonlight Bay, starring Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp
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On Moonlight Bay (1951), starring Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp

Synopsis of On Moonlight Bay

On Moonlight Bay is about a family that moves to a small Indiana town. Their tomboy daughter begins a romance with the neighbor across the street, who bears radically unconventional views on love and money.

Review of On Moonlight Bay

Buy from Amazon There’s a trope about movie musicals that fits On Moonlight Bay perfectly.  Boy gets girl, boy loses, girl, boy gets girl back.  That’s the actual plot.  Set in the 1910’s in Indiana, it’s about a middle-class family, the Winfields, whose teenage tomboy daughter is becoming a young lady.  And falling in love with the boy next door.  A boy with some “rebellious” ideas about marriage and economy.  Which doesn’t endear him to the girl’s stuffy father.

On Moonlight Bay, starring Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp

On one hand, On Moonlight Bay is an excuse for the performance of 18 songs by performers with good voices.  But, on the other hand, the actual family interaction is both enjoyable, and at times laugh out loud funny.  It’s not a deep character study, but it’s very enjoyable, and recommended.

Cast of characters in On Moonlight Bay

  • Marjorie Winfield (Doris DayPillow TalkBilly Rose’s Jumbo).  The teenage tomboy who falls in love.  A great singer who does a decent, but not great, performance.
  • William Sherman (Gordon MacRaeOklahomaCarousel).  The literal boy next door with a great singing voice.  He grows up somewhat at college, but even more so when he joins the Army to fight in World War I.
  • Hubert Wakely (Jack SmithBeer and PretzelsCannonball Run II).  The annoying competitor for Marjorie’s affections – who Marjorie can’t stand.  Neither can the rest of the family – except the father.  Who only likes him because he’s not William.
  • George Winfield (Leon AmesMeet Me in St. LouisTora! Tora! Tora!).  Leon Ames plays the likable, stodgy father.  A man who’s forgotten what it’s like to be young – but gets reminded.
  • Alice Winfield (Rosemary DeCamp13 GhostsThis is the Army).  The loving mother who holds the family together, and gently reminds her husband of what they used to be like.
  • Stella (Mary WickesWhite ChristmasThe Man Who Came to Dinner).  Mary Wickes made a living out of playing the snarky housekeeper, and never did a more enjoyable performance than here.
  • Wesley Winfield (Billy GrayThe Day the Earth Stood StillBy the Light of the Silvery Moon).  Normally, the role of the annoying younger brother isn’t that enjoyable.  Not so here!  Wesley is absolutely hilarious at multiple points, such as telling his teacher about his father’s (fictional) alcoholism and abuse – just to get out of school.  Of course, William hears about this, and is determined to “rescue” Marjorie.  And toward the end of the film, his “revenge” on Hubert.

Songs in On Moonlight Bay

Editorial review of On Moonlight Bay courtesy of

Not since Judy met the boy next door in St. Louis has there been a heaping of tuneful, romantic Midwestern American life like this! Doris Day and Gordon MacRae team for spoonin’, croonin’ and swoonin’ On Moonlight Bay, based on Booth Tarkington’s Penrod stories.

“Try not to walk like a first baseman,” Mama (Rosemary DeCamp) tells tomboy Marjorie (Day) as she prepares to date college man Bill (MacRae). The advice takes. The lovebirds hear wedding bells ahead, just as soon as Bill gets his sheepskin. But World War I rages “over there.” And Papa (Leon Ames) rages at home after a flap with his prospective son-in-law. Will harmony return to this Hoosier home? Surely Day and MacRae will make musical harmony. And On Moonlight Bay will have you sailing along.

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