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Michael Curtiz had a great track record with movie newcomers. A lot of people became stars under his direction, including Doris Day in her film debut, Romance on the High Seas (1948). Day had been a band singer, but had never acted before. She later recalled that Curtiz gave her some very good advice: don't take acting lessons, just be natural. She didn't, and she was, and audiences loved her warm, sunny personality. By the time she appeared in her tenth film, I'll See You in My Dreams (1951), just three years later, she was one of the top ten box office stars.
Day and Curtiz made four films together. I'll See You in My Dreams was the last of them. And what Curtiz had done for Doris in Romance on the High Seas, he also did for Danny Thomas in I'll See You in My Dreams; he simply let Thomas' natural charisma shine through. The film is a biography (with the usual Hollywood sweetening) of songwriter Gus Kahn, focusing on Kahn's musical partnership with his wife Grace LeBoy, played by Day. Thomas, a nightclub comedian of Lebanese background, had played a few supporting film roles, but never a lead. Curtiz chose him for the part of Gus Kahn, but the casting almost hit a snag when studio boss Jack Warner wanted Thomas to have his prominent nose fixed. Thomas refused, insisting Kahn was "not handsome." After conferring with Curtiz and producer Louis Edelman, Warner yielded.
I'll See You in My Dreams was a big hit, Warner Brothers' second-highest grossing film of 1952. That wasn't surprising for a Doris Day musical. What was surprising was that Danny Thomas got all the good reviews, like the one in the New York Times. While Day got a perfunctory "good, solid job," critic Bosley Crowther gushed that Thomas "lifts it by sheer virtuosity and charm into a cheerful, touching affair." Thanks to the film's success, the studio wasted no time re-teaming Curtiz and Thomas in another project: the 25th-anniversary remake of the first talking film, The Jazz Singer (1927), with Thomas in the Al Jolson role.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Louis F. Edelman
Screenplay: Melville Shavelson, based on a story by Grace Kahn and Louis F. Edelman
Editor: Owen Marks
Cinematography: Ted McCord
Art Direction: Douglas Bacon
Music: Lyrics by Gus Kahn, music by Walter Donaldson, Isham Jones, Richard Whiting, Ray Egan, Grace LeBoy Kahn
Cast: Doris Day (Grace LeBoy Kahn), Danny Thomas (Gus Kahn), Frank Lovejoy (Walter Donaldson), Patrice Wymore (Gloria Knight), James Gleason (Fred), Mary Wickes (Anna), Jim Backus (Sam Harris).
by Margarita Landazuri