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DVD Review: TCM Spotlight: Doris Day Collection

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Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff, more commonly known as the one and only Doris Day, is the epitome of box office smash. Largely known for her roles in romantic comedies and downy musicals, Doris Day still has a considerable fan base today and is revered for her work with animal rights. According to a Quigley Publishing poll, she is the top-ranking box office female star of all time. That’s gotta count for something, right?

With her short blonde hair and cheerful personality, Day was known for being both a prolific actress and singer. In fact, she has recorded over 650 songs to go alongside her 39 motion pictures. As America’s Sweetheart, Day’s unencumbered buoyancy dominated the 50s and 60s and made her synonymous with the idea of on-screen wholesomeness.

With the TCM Spotlight: Doris Day Collection, the starlet is showcased with five films making their debuts on DVD. This is actually the third box set of Doris Day films released by Warner Bros. This particular set includes April in Paris, It’s a Great Feeling, Starlift, Tea for Two, and The Tunnel of Love.

1952’s April in Paris features co-star Ray Bolger and works as a musical. It is based around the concept of mistaken identity, with Day starring as a chorus girl who gets an invitation to represent America in Paris by mistake. Wholesome, innocuous, and generally bland, April in Paris is a perfect depiction of archetypal 50s puritanical attitudes.

1951’s Starlift is, quite frankly, awful. It is a typical nationalistic film, working as a sort of throwback to the World War II rah-rah motion pictures that attempted to drum up bountiful public sentiment. It’s an irritating mess, with pop-ins from Gary Cooper, James Cagney, and others all playing themselves. It’s kind of an unusual addition to this set, too, as Day effectively vanishes after about a half hour despite having first billing. Not a bad idea, really.

It’s a Great Feeling (1949) is a bit of a spoof picture with Jack Carson playing himself and Day playing a studio commissary looking for her big break. It is one of Doris Day’s earliest motion pictures and it’s interesting to see how bright-eyed and bushy-tailed she is. She fits the comic energy of the movie well enough, but it feels out-of-date.

And that’s the problem with performers like Doris Day in general. Fans will surely disagree and they are welcome to it, but there’s something almost exceedingly wholesome about her as a performer. She is capable, no question about it, but the sunshine-and-puppy-dogs Americana she exudes can be tiresome.

Tea for Two features Day and Gordon MacRae in a “romp” that features Doris playing a character who strikes up a bet to say “no” to everything for a full 48 hours. The songs do well to prove her mettle as a singer, with “I Want to Be Happy” and “I Only Have Eyes for You” featured.

Wrapping up the set is perhaps the most interesting movie of the Doris Day Collection. In The Tunnel of Love, Day plays alongside Richard Widmark in a Gene Kelly-directed project. Day, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role, and Widmark are a couple attempting to adopt a child and the innuendo makes for some fun. The film was based on a 1958 Broadway hit.

Each disc features vintage shorts and classic cartoons as bonus features, with theatrical trailers thrown in for kicks.

For a glimpse at a bygone epoch of American filmmaking, check out the TCM Spotlight: Doris Day Collection. With tonnes of flaxen, vivacious ambition and a whole slew of gee-golly goodness, this sugary-sweet gathering will doubtlessly reach its audience.

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