What’s in the tea, Doris?

Tea for Two (1950) is a Song-and-Dance celebration about losing money in the 1929 stock market crash.

What, you don’t think economic collapse is a good subject for a musical?

The film is also about staging a Big Show on Broadway, where, according to old Hollywood, lost fortunes are always restored.

Tea for Two is loosely based on the 1924 Broadway play, No, No, Nanette, which was a Huge Hit in New York and London. Nanette itself was based on the 1919 play My Lady Friends.

Tea for Two stars Doris Day as a wealthy young woman who makes a wager with her newly-impoverished uncle (S.Z. Sakall): She must say “No” to all requests for the next 24 hours. In exchange, her (formerly) rich uncle will pay her $25,000 – the amount needed to fund a new production for which her boyfriend-to-be (Gordon MacRae) is writing the songs.

Unfortunately for Day, these 24 hours include a marriage proposal and a chance to star in a Broadway play. (Haven’t we all been presented with such opportunities in a single 24-hour period?)

It’s enjoyable to see Day in this romp, despite the flimsy plot and the 1950s fashions worn in 1920s New York. But never mind that; this is Day’s Star Vehicle, and there’s hardly a moment we’re not conscious of it.

Ironically, it’s this putting-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket that could sink Tea for Two – torpedo it, actually – but Day keeps it afloat because (A) this is Her Movie, and (B) she’s just that good.

Doris Day comforts her not-so-rich uncle. Image: Sometimes I Lie Awake at Night

Tea for Two is a film where the men control the money, but the women Make Things Happen – a perfect story for Day to prove her box office mettle.

There are some notable Firsts here. It was the first time Day’s name appeared above the title, and it was the first time she danced on screen. It was also the first time MacRae starred as her leading man. (The pair would appear in four more comedy musicals.)

Day proves she has good comic timing, and she’s best during her 24-hour “NO NO NO” spree. You can see her struggling to say “Yes”, especially when it comes to the marriage and Broadway offers. We know Day could give carefully-worded answers to the affirmative, but where’s the fun in that?

Our gal Doris knows what the audience wants, and she Delivers.

Watching a clumsy lothario at work. Image: IMDb

There’s a marvellous cast in Tea for Two, including the fab Eve Arden, who, naturally, has the best lines in the film.

In one scene, the entire theatre company is invited to bunk out at Day’s estate, with Arden as de facto camp counsellor. “I have 32 cots to make up, and I’m three sheets to the wind,” she quips.

Billy De Wolfe stars a slimy Broadway producer who tries to romance as many women as possible, Day included. Alas, he’s not the brightest bulb in the marquee, and he can’t Keep Up with these savvy gals.

The script is a bit thin, but it does have some delightful running gags such as a radio announcement from the American president regarding the stock market crash: “The fundamental business of the country is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

If you’re a Doris Day fan who hasn’t yet seen Tea for Two, you know what you need to do.

This post is a Very late entry for The Sixth Annual Doris Day Blogathon, hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

Tea for Two: starring Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson. Directed by David Butler. Written by Harry Clork. Warner Bros., 1950, Technicolor, 98 mins.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

26 Comment on “How Doris Day Saves a Film She Could’ve Torpedoed

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