By the Light of the Silvery Moon


1h 42m 1953
By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Brief Synopsis

A small-town girl's love life goes ballistic when her sweetheart returns from World War I.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Musical
Release Date
May 2, 1953
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 27 Mar 1953
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In Indiana, in 1919, George Winfield, the vice president of a small-town bank, reads in the newspaper that his daughter Marjorie's fiancé, William Sherman, has been honorably discharged from military service. Although he and the rest of the town expect that Bill will soon marry Marjorie, Bill feels changed by war, and now believes that he should first build a nest egg, so that he can offer Marjorie financial stability. After taking the train home, Bill proceeds to the Winfield home, but cannot bring himself to tell Marjorie about the wedding delay after finding her trying on her wedding dress. That evening, Marjorie hears Bill's plans for the first time along with the rest of the town. Marjorie is not happy, but on the drive home, Bill convinces her that waiting makes sense. Then the car breaks down and after fixing it, Marjorie offers to help build the nest egg by resuming her job as mechanic at Ike Hickey's garage, where she worked during the war. When Bill objects to her working, she calls him "an old fuddy-duddy" and drives away. Meanwhile, Marjorie's younger brother Wesley, who fancies himself the "super sleuth Fearless Flannagan," is upset because his father wants his pet turkey Gregory to become Thanksgiving dinner. Although ordered by George to deliver Gregory to the butcher, Wesley instead steals the turkey that his young friend, Ronald "Pee Wee" Harris, is taking home. By Thanksgiving day, Marjorie and Bill have made up and George's boss, John H. Harris, and his wife Emily and son Pee Wee, have been invited to dinner, as their own turkey mysteriously disappeared. George is pleased that Wesley has accepted the realities of the food chain and John offers Bill a job at the bank. When Gregory makes a surprise appearance, the mystery of the Harrises' missing turkey is solved. Although the Harrises laugh, George is angry, until his wife Alice reminds him that "boys will be boys." Later, George meets with actress Renee LaRue, who wants to lease a theater for her troupe's performance of a play. Before he will authorize the lease, George wants John's approval on a passage in the play that hints at divorce and copies the passage on a piece of paper. At home, Wesley, whose imagination has been fired up by household jokes about George and the "temptress," writes a story about "Fearless Flannagan" outsmarting beautiful "Dangerous Dora" and her gang of outlaws. The next morning, when asked to deliver George's suit to the cleaners, Wesley finds the paper and shows it to Marjorie and the maid Stella, before George retrieves it. Mistaking the passage for a love letter from George to Miss LaRue, the three agree to keep it a secret from Alice. Later, when Alice announces that the next day is her twentieth wedding anniversary and reminisces about the day George proposed on Hickey's sleigh while on the way to Miller's Skating Pond, Marjorie hires Ike to drive the same sleigh, hoping to rekindle her parents' romance. Meanwhile, Bill has decided they can be married immediately, but Marjorie declines, feeling too ashamed to explain why. Later, George gives Wesley lease papers to deliver to Miss LaRue for her signature, and Marjorie, Wesley and Stella pull out the one they think is a love note, although George has since written on it "delete the passage about divorce." Then, trying to be as debonair as his alter ego, "Fearless Flannagan," Wesley delivers the remaining papers to Miss LaRue. Bill comes by later, as Wesley prepares to burn the "love note" as Marjorie has instructed. Thinking that Marjorie wrote it, Bill confronts her at the school, where she is performing in a show, and accuses her of two-timing him with piano teacher Chester Finley, who has a crush on her. Chester accepts Bill's challenge to fight and succeeds in knocking him out. Upon recovering, Bill refuses to believe that the note was written by George and leaves town. Wesley feels responsible for their breakup and sends Bill a telegram that confirms Marjorie's explanation. Although it convinces Bill to return, the telegrapher's wife quickly spreads news of George's "infidelity" all over town. That evening, disguised as Hickey, Bill drives the Winfields in the sleigh to Miller's pond, where he and Marjorie soon make up. After hearing the gossip, most of the townspeople have also come out to skate and are all ears when Miss LaRue shows up asking for George. Everyone is relieved when they realize that the "divorce" George and Miss LaRue are discussing is from a passage in a play, except George, who has been bewildered by the cold behavior of his children and friends. Although he is indignant that anyone would consider him a philanderer, both Alice and Miss LaRue find it funny, and the whole town shares a big laugh.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Musical
Release Date
May 2, 1953
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 27 Mar 1953
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

By the Light of the Silvery Moon


In the seven years following her screen debut in 1948, Doris Day churned out 15 musicals at Warner Brothers. She also appeared in two further non-musicals in the same period. Day wasn't crazy about the hectic schedule but knew that this was simply the way of the studio system. Two of her favorites of the bunch were On Moonlight Bay (1951) and its sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). Both are drawn from the Penrod stories of Booth Tarkington, and both are charming, warmhearted period musicals set in early 20th century small-town America.

"I liked the old songs," Day later said, "and the good old times that those films captured... Everything was sweet. I really wish that I'd lived then." Day also professed a warm affection for the making of the films themselves: "We made [them] back to back and became a real family."

Indeed, much of the cast of On Moonlight Bay returned for the sequel: Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Mary Wickes, Billy Gray, and a dog named Corky. Day and MacRae -- a popular screen team who had already co-starred four times -- play young sweethearts in 1919 Indiana who plan to get married once MacRae is financially stable. By the Light of the Silvery Moon is one of the only films, in fact, in which Doris Day literally plays the girl next door.

The actress has acknowledged in her memoir (written with A.E. Hotchner) that musicals like this one established her image of wholesomeness. Reflecting upon this, Day declared that she had little say in how her persona developed: "As actors we put ourselves into the guise of a role we are called on to play, and we perform it as honestly as we possibly can; but we have no control over whatever the result of that acting projects upon an audience -- if we did try to exercise this kind of control, the result, I am sure, would be artificial. I never think about what the public expects of me; I am only concerned with what I expect of myself."

Historian Tom Santopietro has noted that "even in these lighthearted Warner Bros. musicals, Doris Day resisted any tendency toward feminine passivity" -- even if this came out just in comic scenes. Her character's self-sufficiency, for instance, is shown in Silvery Moon in a humorous moment where she fixes a car while wearing her ball gown.

Among the more tuneful songs here are "Ain't We Got Fun," "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," "Just One Girl," "I'll Forget You," and the title number. There's also an elaborate ragtime number, "King Chanticleer," in which Day gets to really dance, with other dancers portraying barnyard animals. Choreographer Donald Saddler, whom Day insisted receive screen credit, said that "King Chanticleer" was the most complex number he ever choreographed for the actress. "Doris always made it so easy," he later said. "She just jumped into it so wonderfully. She loved the number because she was kind of tomboyish, anyway. Everything she did was of the moment and real."

By the Light of the Silvery Moon had a smooth shoot and came in a day ahead of schedule. The picture was received warmly by audiences and critics alike, with Variety calling it "excellent entertainment" and praising the music, direction, dialogue, production values and color photography. The New York Times was positive if a bit less effusive, describing it as "a Technicolor memento of small-town life at the end of WWI -- at least, as it rises in the memories of certain gentlemen in Hollywood."

Day's record label, Columbia Records, had Day re-record her songs for a specialized, new version of the soundtrack album. Since Warner Bros. owned the rights to the actual vocals heard in the film, Columbia could only legally release newly recorded versions. It was a common practice at the time, and the album hit #3 on the pop charts.

Day worked with Silvery Moon director David Butler six times, culminating with Calamity Jane (1953), one of their best. Look for Merv Griffin as an announcer with a red megaphone.

Producer: William Jacobs
Director: David Butler
Screenplay: Irving Elinson, Robert O'Brien (writers); Booth Tarkington (stories)
Cinematography: Wilfrid M. Cline
Art Direction: John Beckman
Film Editing: Irene Morra
Cast: Doris Day (Marjorie Winfield), Gordon MacRae (Bill Sherman), Leon Ames (George Winfield), Rosemary DeCamp (Alice Winfield), Billy Gray (Wesley Winfield), Mary Wickes (Stella), Russell Arms (Chester Finley).
C-102m.

by Jeremy Arnold

Sources:
A.E. Hotchner, Doris Day: Her Own Story
David Kaufman, Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door
Tom Santopietro, Considering Doris Day

By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

In the seven years following her screen debut in 1948, Doris Day churned out 15 musicals at Warner Brothers. She also appeared in two further non-musicals in the same period. Day wasn't crazy about the hectic schedule but knew that this was simply the way of the studio system. Two of her favorites of the bunch were On Moonlight Bay (1951) and its sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). Both are drawn from the Penrod stories of Booth Tarkington, and both are charming, warmhearted period musicals set in early 20th century small-town America. "I liked the old songs," Day later said, "and the good old times that those films captured... Everything was sweet. I really wish that I'd lived then." Day also professed a warm affection for the making of the films themselves: "We made [them] back to back and became a real family." Indeed, much of the cast of On Moonlight Bay returned for the sequel: Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Mary Wickes, Billy Gray, and a dog named Corky. Day and MacRae -- a popular screen team who had already co-starred four times -- play young sweethearts in 1919 Indiana who plan to get married once MacRae is financially stable. By the Light of the Silvery Moon is one of the only films, in fact, in which Doris Day literally plays the girl next door. The actress has acknowledged in her memoir (written with A.E. Hotchner) that musicals like this one established her image of wholesomeness. Reflecting upon this, Day declared that she had little say in how her persona developed: "As actors we put ourselves into the guise of a role we are called on to play, and we perform it as honestly as we possibly can; but we have no control over whatever the result of that acting projects upon an audience -- if we did try to exercise this kind of control, the result, I am sure, would be artificial. I never think about what the public expects of me; I am only concerned with what I expect of myself." Historian Tom Santopietro has noted that "even in these lighthearted Warner Bros. musicals, Doris Day resisted any tendency toward feminine passivity" -- even if this came out just in comic scenes. Her character's self-sufficiency, for instance, is shown in Silvery Moon in a humorous moment where she fixes a car while wearing her ball gown. Among the more tuneful songs here are "Ain't We Got Fun," "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," "Just One Girl," "I'll Forget You," and the title number. There's also an elaborate ragtime number, "King Chanticleer," in which Day gets to really dance, with other dancers portraying barnyard animals. Choreographer Donald Saddler, whom Day insisted receive screen credit, said that "King Chanticleer" was the most complex number he ever choreographed for the actress. "Doris always made it so easy," he later said. "She just jumped into it so wonderfully. She loved the number because she was kind of tomboyish, anyway. Everything she did was of the moment and real." By the Light of the Silvery Moon had a smooth shoot and came in a day ahead of schedule. The picture was received warmly by audiences and critics alike, with Variety calling it "excellent entertainment" and praising the music, direction, dialogue, production values and color photography. The New York Times was positive if a bit less effusive, describing it as "a Technicolor memento of small-town life at the end of WWI -- at least, as it rises in the memories of certain gentlemen in Hollywood." Day's record label, Columbia Records, had Day re-record her songs for a specialized, new version of the soundtrack album. Since Warner Bros. owned the rights to the actual vocals heard in the film, Columbia could only legally release newly recorded versions. It was a common practice at the time, and the album hit #3 on the pop charts. Day worked with Silvery Moon director David Butler six times, culminating with Calamity Jane (1953), one of their best. Look for Merv Griffin as an announcer with a red megaphone. Producer: William Jacobs Director: David Butler Screenplay: Irving Elinson, Robert O'Brien (writers); Booth Tarkington (stories) Cinematography: Wilfrid M. Cline Art Direction: John Beckman Film Editing: Irene Morra Cast: Doris Day (Marjorie Winfield), Gordon MacRae (Bill Sherman), Leon Ames (George Winfield), Rosemary DeCamp (Alice Winfield), Billy Gray (Wesley Winfield), Mary Wickes (Stella), Russell Arms (Chester Finley). C-102m. by Jeremy Arnold Sources: A.E. Hotchner, Doris Day: Her Own Story David Kaufman, Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door Tom Santopietro, Considering Doris Day

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

In the opening scene, characters are introduced by Mary Wickes, who portrays the Winfield's maid "Stella." Leo K. Kuter was originally announced as the art director for the film in a July 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, but the onscreen credits list John Beckman as the art director. Although Stanley Jones and David Forrest are credited onscreen as sound men, a July 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item added C. A. Riggs. A September 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that actor Gordon MacRae's six-year-old daughter Meredith had made her film debut in By the Light of the Silvery Moon. However, her appearance in the film has not been confirmed. According to the film's opening credits, the story for By the Light of the Silvery Moon was suggested by Booth Tarkington's Penrod stories, but the New York Times reviewer noted that the film bore little resemblance in plot and mood to the short stories, and also mentioned anachronisms in the dialogue and songs.
       Most of the cast of By the Light of the Silvery Moon also appeared in the 1951 Warner Bros. production On Moonlight Bay, which was directed by Roy Del Ruth, was also based on Tarkington's novels and featured the same central characters . For a description of other films based on the Penrod stories, see the entry for Penrod and Sam in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring March 1953

Sequel to "On Moonlight Bay" (1951).

Released in United States Spring March 1953