- Warner Home Video’s Doris Day DVD Collection contains eight of the actress-singer’s best-known releases of the 1950s and 1960s, a period when she was one of the top box office draws in the world: Young Man with a Horn, Lullaby of Broadway, Calamity Jane, The Pajama Game, Love Me or Leave Me, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, and The Glass Bottom Boat.
Doris Day DVD Collection: 8 of ‘all-American’ actress-singer’s best-known movies
The much underrated Doris Day – Hollywood’s sunny, freckle-faced, mid-20th-century symbol of “all-American” womanhood – hasn’t won an Honorary Academy Award yet, but at least the Oscar-nominated Pillow Talk star is being honored with her own box set: Warner Home Video’s six-disc, eight-movie Doris Day DVD Collection, coming out on April 26.
The first four titles listed below are Warner Bros. releases; the last four are Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer releases:
- Young Man with a Horn (1950).
- Lullaby of Broadway (1951).
- Calamity Jane (1953).
- Love Me or Leave Me (1955).
- The Pajama Game (1957).
- Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960).
- Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962).
- The Glass Bottom Boat (1966).
Most of the entries are musicals. Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and The Glass Bottom Boat are light comedies, while Young Man with a Horn, notwithstanding its jazz setting, is the one that feels closest to a “straight drama.”
And just never mind the fact that most of the Doris Day DVD Collection titles have already come out as “singles.”
Below is a brief overview of each movie, in chronological order.
Young Man with a Horn
Directed by Casablanca and Mildred Pierce veteran Michael Curtiz, Young Man with a Horn is based on Dorothy Baker’s 1938 novel, itself inspired by the life of jazz composer/cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, who, after years of alcohol addiction, died at age 28 in August 1931.
In the film, Kirk Douglas gives his all – which, as usual, is much too much – as the overdriven, rebellious jazz musician Rick Martin, torn between his music and the attention of two women: a cute, caring, “normal” all-American singer (Doris Day, in her first dramatic role) and his stylish but troubled wife (Lauren Bacall). Alcohol offers some solace.
Soon-to-be-blacklisted screenwriter Carl Foreman (High Noon, The Bridge on the River Kwai) co-wrote the adaptation with Edmund H. North.
Young Man with a Horn is the only black-and-white production found in Warner’s Doris Day DVD Collection.
Lullaby of Broadway
David Butler’s Lullaby of Broadway was one of four Doris Day musicals released in 1951, the other three being On Moonlight Bay, I’ll See You in My Dreams, and Starlift, in which Day, as one of numerous guest stars, performs several songs.
Written by veteran Warners screenwriter Earl Baldwin (Doctor X, Wonder Bar), Lullaby of Broadway revolves around an American stage star (Doris Day) who, upon returning from London to New York City, discovers that her mother (Gladys George, Best Actress Oscar nominee for Valiant Is the Word for Carrie, 1936), a once famous Broadway singer, has become a down-on-her-luck alcoholic performing at a Greenwich Village dive.
Doris Day’s romantic interest is Gene Nelson, who had supporting roles the previous year in the Day musicals Tea for Two and The West Point Story.
Lullaby of Broadway is named after a Broadway musical within the film whose title is obviously taken from Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s Oscar-winning 1935 song exuberantly staged in Gold Diggers of 1935. Besides the title melody, Day gets to sing Dubin and Warren’s “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” and a couple of duets with Gene Nelson (singing voice by Hal Derwin) .
Featuring songs by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster (including the Oscar-winning “Secret Love”), vibrant color cinematography by Wilfrid M. Cline (who had also worked on Lullaby of Broadway), and some eyebrow-raising lesbian subtext in James O’Hanlon’s screenplay, the never-never musical Western Calamity Jane is probably not only the best movie in the Doris Day DVD Collection but also the most enjoyable star vehicle of Day’s career.
As the butch, boisterous, unbathed title character, Day is paired up with Howard Keel (on loan from MGM) as a no-nonsense Wild Bill Hickok and Philip Carey as Calamity’s (initial) uniformed love interest.
In addition, Allyn Ann McLerie has a key role as an imported stage performer (actually a maid in disguise) with whom a mesmerized Calamity shacks up for a while.
Of note, Calamity Jane marked Doris Day’s sixth and final collaboration with director David Butler.
Three years earlier, Howard Keel had costarred opposite Betty Hutton in a hugely successful musical Western about another tomboyish she-gunslinger, George Sidney’s Annie Get Your Gun, MGM’s never-never portrait of Annie Oakley.
Love Me or Leave Me
Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me is the Doris Day DVD Collection entry that shows the actress-singer at her most dramatic.
Day stars as 1920s torch singer and Ziegfeld Follies performer Ruth Etting, who gets slapped around by gangster-protector-husband Martin Snyder (James Cagney), a.k.a. “Moe the Gimp,” while pining for her piano accompanist, Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell, as a fictionalized version of Myrl Alderman).
Reprising his old psycho gangster persona, James Cagney was the one who received an Academy Award nomination that year, but Love Me or Leave Me is foremost a Doris Day showcase, allowing her to demonstrate that she could be a capable dramatic actress, as further evidenced in David Miller’s 1960 thriller Midnight Lace.
Though featuring two stars associated with Warner Bros. – Day and Cagney had already worked together in Warners’ The West Point Story – Love Me or Leave Me was actually a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release. It took in an impressive $5.6 million in worldwide rentals.
The Pajama Game
Co-directed and co-produced by Broadway’s George Abbott (Chicago, Wonderful Town) and Hollywood’s Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town), The Pajama Game has an unusual topic for a (non-Lars von Trier) musical: labor relations.
In one of his rare big-screen appearances – and sole lead – Broadway musical star John Raitt reprises his 1954 stage role as the superintendent of an Iowan pajama factory who falls in love with one of his pro-union workers, the Norma Rae-light Babe Williams (Doris Day, in place of Broadway’s Janis Paige). Labor conflicts, however, interfere with the romance.
George Abbott also cowrote the screenplay with Richard Bissell, adapting their own book for the stage musical. Bob Fosse (Best Director Oscar winner for Cabaret, 1972) choreographed the dance numbers.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
Hardly one of the greatest “family” comedies ever made, Charles Walters’ Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is based on humorist and playwright Jean Kerr’s 1957 bestseller consisting of various essays emblematic of the experiences of white, middle-class, mid-20th-century American suburbia and the joys/horrors of parenting.
Isobel Lennart’s screenplay focuses on the travails of a New York City couple and their four sons – poster-boys for strict family planning – after they move into a rundown but affordable mansion in exurbia.
Doris Day plays the idealized all-American housewife, with David Niven as her university professor-turned-theater critic husband and Janis Paige (from Broadway’s The Pajama Game) as a seductive stage star.
Livening up the supporting cast are veterans Richard Haydn (Sitting Pretty), Spring Byington (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for You Can’t Take It with You, 1938), and, after a 17-year absence from the big screen, Patsy Kelly (Pigskin Parade).
Billy Rose’s Jumbo
Another Charles Walters effort, Billy Rose’s Jumbo is MGM’s belated – and ultimately failed – attempt to capture the success of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 Best Picture Oscar winner The Greatest Show on Earth.
Loosely based on Billy Rose’s 1935 stage show – contractual obligations kept Rose’s name on the MGM film’s title – and featuring Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart compositions, Jumbo stars Doris Day as the daughter of circus owner Jimmy Durante (!), whose reckless ways are about to destroy his (icky) business.
Also in the cast: Stephen Boyd (singing voice dubbed by Jimmy Joyce), and veterans Martha Raye (Monsieur Verdoux) and Dean Jagger (Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Twelve O’Clock High, 1949).
Jumbo was the last film choreographed by Busby Berkeley, whose eye-popping dance/acrobatics numbers at Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and MGM included those in Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, The Gang’s All Here, and Million Dollar Mermaid.
The money-losing Jumbo – it cost a whopping $5.3 million, but brought in only $4 million in worldwide rentals – also turned out to be Doris Day’s final musical.
The Glass Bottom Boat
The most recent title in the Doris Day DVD Collection, The Glass Bottom Boat is a painfully unfunny but commercially successful romantic spy comedy directed by frequent Jerry Lewis collaborator Frank Tashlin (Hollywood or Bust, The Disorderly Orderly).
As the new personal assistant of Long Beach-based NASA research laboratory executive Rod Taylor, Doris Day, mistaken for a blonde Mata Hari, finds herself entangled with assorted commie spies and freedom-fighting counterspies.
Like on nearly every Doris Day movie since the 1956 thriller Julie, Day’s husband (and Patty Andrews’ former husband), Martin Melcher, received producer credit – here shared with Everett Freeman, who was also credited for the screenplay.
“Doris Day DVD Collection: 8 Movies” notes
Love Me or Leave Me & Billy Rose’s Jumbo box office
 Rentals and production cost information about the Doris Day DVD Collection movies Love Me or Leave Me and Billy Rose’s Jumbo via online sources quoting the Eddie Mannix Ledger, found at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library.
More specifically, Love Me or Leave Me took in $4 million in the U.S. and Canada, plus $1.6 million internationally. Also: Jumbo’s cost figure doesn’t include marketing and distribution expenses.
Rentals represent the share of the box office gross that went to the studio. In the last half century or so, a film’s total domestic gross has been about twice the “rentals” figure. International rentals have represented about 40 percent of the total international gross.
A Lars von Trier musical
 Lars von Trier’s Palme d’Or-winning 2000 anti-musical Dancer in the Dark tackles similar issues to The Pajama Game, with Washington State Czech factory worker Björk eventually accused of being not only a Red but also a murderer.
Needless to say, the fate of The Pajama Game’s Babe Williams isn’t nearly as drab.
“Doris Day DVD Collection” endnotes
Warner Home Home Entertainment website.
Doris Day DVD Collection box set cover image: Warner Bros.
Images of Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me and Day with Stephen Boyd in Billy Rose’s Jumbo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
“Doris Day DVD Collection: 8 Movies Starring Hollywood Icon” last updated in September 2021.