Romance on the High Seas (1948): Michael Curtiz Directs Doris Day in her Oscar-Nominated Feature Debut

The romantic musical, Romance on the High Seas, marks the feature film debut of Doris Day (billed in fourth place), who would go on to become the most popular star in America in the 1950s.

Grade: B (**1/2* out of *****)

Romance on the High Seas

Theatrical release poster.

Over the next 20 years, Day would make 39 pictures, in various genres (including dramatic musicals, biopic, and thrillers), most of which extremely popular at the box-office.

Director Michael Curtiz, working with a screenplay by the Epstein brothers (Julius and Philip of Casablanca fame) and I.A.L. Diamond (later a reliable collaborator of Billy Wilder), cast Day as Georgia Garrett, a substitute traveler on an ocean cruise.

Georgia’s friend Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) had scheduled the cruise, but at the last minute she changes her mind and cancels; she suspects her husband is cheating on her and wants to stay at home and check up on him. She asks Georgia to go on the cruise in her place.

Meanwhile, the husband himself becomes suspicious of his wife’s cheating and hires a detective to watch Elvira while on the cruise.

Do I need to tell the rest of the predictable plot?  The detective falls for the substitute Elvira, making a somewhat complicated scenario with all kinds of possibilities.

What really saves this pedestrian film is Day’s lovely voice and melodic tunes, by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, including the beautiful tune, “It’s Magic,” which was nominated for the Best Song Oscar.

The supporting cast includes Oscar Levant, S. Z. Sakall, Fortunio Bonanova, Eric Blore, and Franklin Pangborn.

The movie was moderately popular at the box-office.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Song: “It’s Magic,” music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn.

Scoring of a Musical: Ray Heindorf

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Song Oscar was “Buttons and Bows,” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, from the movie “The Paleface.”

The Scoring Oscar went to Johnny Green and Roger Edens for the Judy Garland musical, “Easter Parade.”

Jack Carson as Peter Virgil
Janis Paige as Elvira Kent
Don DeFore as Michael Kent
Doris Day as Georgia Garrett
Oscar Levant as Oscar Farrar
S. Z. Sakall as Uncle Lazlo
Fortunio Bonanova as Plinio
Eric Blore as Ship’s Doctor
Franklin Pangborn as Rio Hotel Clerk
Leslie Brooks as Miss Medwick
William Bakewell as Travel Agent
John Berkes as The Drunk (as Johnny Berkes)

“Put ’em in a Box, Tie ’em with a Ribbon, and Throw ’em in the Deep Blue Sea” – Doris Day and the Page Cavanaugh Trio
“It’s Magic” – Doris Day
“It’s You or No One” – Doris Day
“I’m in Love” – Doris Day
“The Tourist Trade” – Avon Long
“Run, Run, Run” – Jack Carson
“She’s a Latin from Manhattan” – Doris Day
“Romance on the High Seas” – The Samba Kings
“Brazilian Rhapsody” (aka Cuban Rhapsody) – Oscar Levant


Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Alex Gottlieb
Screenplay by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein; additional dialogue by
I. A. L. Diamond, based on From a story by
Music by Jule Styne; Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Musical numbers orchestrated and conducted by Ray Heindorf
Cinematography Elwood Bredell, A.S.C.
Edited by Rudi Fehr

Production company: Michael Curtiz Productions

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date: June 25, 1948

Running time: 99 minutes
Budget $2,532,000; box-office $3,225,000