Tea for Two (1950): Doris Day Gets Top Billing and Dances on Screen

Directed by David Butler, the musical comedy Tea for Two was inspired by the 1925 stage musical “No No Nanette,” although the plot was changed from the original book by the scribes Harry Clork and William Jacobs.

The score by Harbach, Irving Caesar, and Vincent Youmans was also augmented with tunes from other composers (as was the norm at the time).

This was an important film for Doris Day, who received top billing for the first time and also got to show that she is a pretty good dancer.

Though replete with musical-comedy clichés, the movie is pleasant enough as entertainment, displaying the charm and singing of Doris Day in a sprightly show, which suffers considerably when she is not on screen.

The musical is framed as a fable told to the central couple’s children.  Set in the Depression, the story centers on Nanette Carter (Day), a Westchester socialite with showbiz aspirations. She offers to invest $25,000 in a Broadway show if her boyfriend-producer Larry Blair (Billy de Wolfe), cast her as the star. She doesn’t realize that Larry plans to cast the ingenue Beatrice Darcy (Patrice Wymore) as the lead.

When he accepts the offer, Nanette asks her wealthy but stingy uncle J. Maxwell Bloomhaus (S. Z. Sakall) to lend her the money.

He’s willing to do so if for the next 48 hours, she will answer “no” to every question asked. Comic complications ensue when the cast arrives at Nanette’s to rehearse, and composer-pianist Jimmy Smith, who is smitten with her, falls victim to the bet made with her uncle.

In the end, Nanette wins, only to discover that Uncle Max has lost all his money in the stock market crash.  Nanette’s acerbic assistant Pauline Hastings (Eve Arden) then sets out to charm the attorney William Early (Bill Goodwin) into backing the show.

The best number is “Tea for Two,” which is sung or danced to at least five times, in different variations (as solo, as duet, and so on)

Butler, who had directed Doris Day in the musical It’s a Great Feeling the previous year, became her most frequent collaborator, again teaming with her on Lullaby of Broadway, April in Paris, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, and Calamity Jane.

Songs (in Order)

“I Know That You Know” – Doris Day and Gene Nelson

“Crazy Rhythm” – Patrice Wymore and Gene Nelson

“I Only Have Eyes for You” – Gordon MacRae

“Tea for Two” – Doris Day and Gordon MacRae

“I want to Be Happy” – Doris Day

“Do Do Do” by – Doris Day and Gordon MacRae

“Oh Me! Oh My!” – Doris Day and Gene Nelson

“Charleston” – danced to by Billy De Wolfe

“Tea for Two” – Doris Day and Gene Nelson

“Here in My Arms” – Doris Day

“No, No, Nanette” – Doris Day and Gene Nelson

“Tea for Two (Finale)” – Doris Day and Gordon MacRae

Cast

Doris Day as Nanette Carter

Gordon MacRae as Jimmy Smith

Gene Nelson as Tommy Trainor

Eve Arden as Pauline Hastings

Billy de Wolfe as Larry Blair

Bill Goodwin as William Early

Virginia Gibson as Mabel Wiley

S.Z. Sakall as J. Maxwell Bloomhaus

Patrice Wymore as Beatrice Darcy