Comedy · Musical

The Doris Day Guide to Making Movies

Jack Carson (left) and Dennis Morgan audition Doris Day. Image: veered.com
Jack Carson (left) and Dennis Morgan want to make Doris Day a Star. Image: veehd.com

Have you ever wanted to be in the movies?

Once upon a time, we (as in, yours truly) wondered if we could be an actress. Sadly, our acting career went no further than the role of Concerned Citizen in a public service announcement.

But in the comedy It’s a Great Feeling (1949), Doris Day plays a waitress who has a real chance at making it in Hollywood. This is a movie about movies, and it allows a person to live semi-vicariously through Day’s star-making experiences.

Day is a small-town girl from Wisconsin, who has been working at the Warner Bros. commissary for Three! Long! Months! without an audition. She’s fed up and decides to return to Wisconsin to marry her boyfriend.

However, her life changes the day she is asked to bring a lunch tray to actor Jack Carson‘s dressing room. Carson, starring as himself, has been hired as director of an upcoming musical comedy.

(Carson is named director by default, because none of the studio directors will work with him. In a delightful meta moment, the director of It’s a Great FeelingDavid Butler, storms out of the producer’s office threatening to quit if he has to work with Carson.)

But Day, ladened with commissary lunch tray, finds Carson in his dressing room, fretting about casting for his musical comedy. No sooner has she set down said tray, however, than she locks the door behind her. “Uh oh,” says Carson, looking directly into the camera, “I feel an audition coming on.”

Joan Crawford (centre) is displeased. Image: The Fabulous Birthday Blog
Joan Crawford takes exception to Carson and Morgan. Image: The Fabulous Birthday Blog

Carson quickly realizes he can use Day for his own diabolical purposes. With a little coaching, he sends her to actor Dennis Morgan‘s dressing room to persuade him to sign with Carson’s film project.

It’s a Great Feeling was the eleventh time Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan starred together. Now, you’ll find a lot of online chatter about Carson and Morgan being the Warner Bros. answer to the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby comedy team…and how they’re not Hope and Crosby. To that we say, Pffft!

As much as we love Hope and Crosby, we are equally enamored with Carson and Morgan. It’s a Great Feeling is a madcap film tailor-made for the pair, with laugh-out-loud lines and lots of cameos including, but not limited to, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford and Edward G. Robinson.

As for Doris Day, this was her third Hollywood film – and her third with then-boyfriend Carson. She’s a charming foil for his bombastic ambitions.

It’s a Great Feeling is not a philosophical exploration of Method Acting or Film As Art. Nay, it’s a fun, self-mocking romp.

Yet, it’s not without cleverness.

Morgan complains to Gary Cooper about Jack Carson. Image: Daily Motion
Morgan complains to Gary Cooper. Image: Daily Motion

It’s a Great Feeling is actually a crash course in the workings of the Studio System. The film opens with shots of the Warner Bros. backlot before we’re taken to Producer Arthur Freed’s office. We see Freed frantically trying to find a director for the Carson film.

Once the director is chosen (in this case, Carson), actors are selected and contracts are signed. Auditions are filmed, songs are recorded, and Day is given a new hair colour.

One of the best scenes is a send-up of the studio’s publicity department, and their ability to invent an outrageous family history when introducing a new actress to the press.

You could argue It’s a Great Feeling is self-serving (true), but it also shows Hollywood filmmakers who are able to laugh at themselves.

It’s a Great Feeling: starring Dennis Morgan, Doris Day, Jack Carson. Directed by David Butler. Written by Jack Rose and Mel Shavelson. Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., 1949, Technicolor, 85 mins.

This post is an embarrassingly late entry to the Classic Movie Ice Cream Social Blogathon hosted by Movies, Silently. Click HERE to see a list of the fab entries.

Screen shot 2016-02-27 at 4.51.43 PM

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19 thoughts on “The Doris Day Guide to Making Movies

  1. Cute movie! So much fun, love Joan Crawford’s cameo best of all…and of course, Jeffrey Bushdinkle (I won’t give away who that is!). Like you, i am a huge fan of the underrated Jack Carson, who could do comedy and drama with equal finesse. Two of my very favorite of his roles are as Wally in Mildred Pierce with Crawford, and as the cynical press agent in Garland’s A Star Is Born.

    Also love the beautiful screen caps you found–gotta love that hyper-saturated 1940s Technicolor!
    -Chris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many things to admire about this film, especially Jeffrey Bushdinkle’s cameo. I also loved Joan Crawford’s send-up of herself.

      You’re absolutely right about Jack Carson being underrated. So much talent and charisma! Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

      Like

  2. This sounds like a fun movie, Ruth! I would enjoy the cameos, too. You have me curious who Jeffrey Bushdinkle is! Thanks for sharing about the meta moment with the director and Carson. I love it when movies do things like that. I wouldn’t have noticed it without your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s funny, but I never thought of Carson and Morgan as a screen duo..and had no idea they made so many movies together. This film is a pleasant affair and it’s grand fun to see a young Doris Day gaining her screen confidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha!! Love Doris Day!! I remember this movie well. I remember Doris Day putting on this unique smile, each time, to get an audition. Isn’t there a scene in the Lift/elevator, or something!! Doris Day movies are definitely fun to sit through!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah! Yes!! The eyelashes!! It was hilarious. I love her comedies like Tea for Two (1950), Lullaby of Broadway (1951), Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), et al; but the best musical comedy she’s done happens to be, By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)!! ‘Twas Beautiful. Loved it as a kid!! And the Best Sex-Comedy ever (of course dealing with the ‘Battle of the sexes’), is ‘Pillow Talk’ (1959), till date!! Watched it in my teens!!
        Of course I like her more serious flicks, as well, like The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) & Midnight Lace (1960)!!
        Watched majority of her flicks as a kid, 1980’s/early 90’s!!

        Liked by 1 person

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