On Moonlight Bay (1951): Small-Town Musical, Starring Doris Day and Gordon MacRae

On Moonlight Bay, made at Warners and directed by Roy Del Ruth, is a passably entertaining musical, mostly drawing its charms from the young Doris Day as a singer and actress.

The Tale of the Winfield family at the turn of the 20th century, based loosely on the Penrod stories by Booth (“Alice Adams”) Tarkington, is a pale imitation when compared to Minnelli’s 1944 musical masterpiece, Meet Me in St Louis, starring Judy Graland.  Actor Leon Amis appears in both films as the patriarchal soft one, to be sure) father.

Set in a small Indiana town in the mid-1910s, the Winfield household consists of banker father George, his wife Alice, their grown tomboyish daughter Marjorie, their precocious son Wesley, and their exasperated housekeeper Stella.

The family has just moved into a larger house in a nicer neighborhood, but initially only George is happy about the move.

Things change when Marjorie meets new neighbor William Sherman, during his break from studies at Indiana University.

As soon as she falls in love, Marjorie changes her focus from baseball to trying to behaving like a proper young lady.

Bill’s unconventional ideology includes suspicion about marriage as an  institution, or money as motivating factor.

Other obstacles include the distance as Bill returns to school and Margie’s attempts to learn feminine conduct. It does not help that George dislikes Bill because of their differing beliefs.

Meanwhile, there’s a rival in the shape of stuffy Hubert Wakely, who also courts Margie (and is George’s choice as appropriate for his daughter).

When Wesley receives a gift from Aunt Martha that used to be his father old slingshot (with which he killed Aunt Martha’s’ hen), father gets emotional and changes his mind about the beau.

There picture was a box-office hit, leading to a 1953 sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon.


Doris Day as Marjorie Winfield

Gordon MacRae as William Sherman

Bill Gray as Wesley Winfield

Jack Smith as Hubert Wakely

Leon Ames as George Winfield

Rosemary DeCamp as Alice Winfield

Mary Wickes as Stella

Ellen Corby as Mary Stevens


Some of the famous songs include: “On Moonlight Bay,” “Cuddle Up a Little Closer,” “Till We Meet Again,” “Tell Me,” “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” “Christmas Story,” “Love Ya,” “It’s a Long Way to Tripperary,” and especially “Pack Up Your Troubles.”