A widower music teacher in Connecticut has three sweet daughters. The sisters love each other, their dad and music. Handsome songwriter Alex Burke (played by Gig Young) comes to town. All three sisters get sort of a crush on the visiting composer. Alex also invites his hard-luck writing partner, Barney Sloane (played by Sinatra). Burke falls for Laurie (Day's character) and the other sisters hide their jealousy. But Laurie starts to fall for the likable grouch Barney. She warms his wounded, cynical heart.
Laurie feels that a marriage should have lots of laughs in it. If there are no laughs, there's no sense in being married. This movie shows Doris Day's understanding of a script -- not just in her lines but in the surrounding action, the other actors' lines and the subtext of the scene. Day, an untrained actress, had great instincts and became a master at screen technique. In Young at Heart, the actress realizes the shadows and emotional darkness in this story about what appears to be sunny small town USA.
For you young acting students, all that detail about the other couple in the booth, the initially rude tavern manager, Alex not noticing the rudeness -- that's info to help you breakdown the scene if you got it as an audition piece. That's all vital information.
The family gathers at Christmastime. Laurie sits at the piano with Alex and sings a song he's written. Notice how Day delivers it. She's got good news she wants to deliver to Barney, her broke husband, on Christmas Day. He's in the living room with the rest of the family. But he mistakenly thinks she may still have romantic feelings for the successful Alex. I love the way Doris sings "There's a Rising Moon (For Every Falling Star)."
Doris Day and Frank Sinatra -- two vocalists with 1940s big bands who were tapped by Hollywood and made their big screen acting debuts in musical comedies. Both proved to be such good actors that they got Oscar nominations for performances in non-dramas. Sinatra's other Oscar nomination was in the Best Actor category for playing a junkie trying to kick heroin in 1955's The Man with the Golden Arm. Doris Day was a Best Actress Oscar nominee for the 1959 screwball comedy, Pillow Talk. In addition to her singing and dancing talents, she proved to be a brilliant screen comedienne, one who followed in the tradition of actresses like Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne from Hollywood's Golden Age. In fact, Day had three leading men who'd previously starred opposite Jean Arthur. She worked with Robert Cummings in 1954's Lucky Me, James Stewart in Hitchcock's 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much and Cary Grant in 1962's That Touch of Mink. In her original screen musical Calamity Jane, Oscar winner for Best Song of 1953 ("Secret Love"), she played a character played by Jean Arthur in the Cecil B. DeMille's 1936 western, The Plainsman, co-starring Gary Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok.
Doris Day and James Garner starred in 1963's Move Over, Darling. That was a remake of the 1940 Irene Dunne and Cary Grant comedy, My Favorite Wife. James Cagney raved about Doris Day's natural acting skills. They made a Warner Bros. musical comedy together -- 1950's The West Point Story. They starred in MGM's 1955 dramatic biopic, Love Me or Leave Me, about singer Ruth Etting and her hoodlum manager/husband. James Cagney got a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his dramatic performance. This movie should've brought Doris Day her first Oscar nomination. It's her best screen performance and, in it, she plays the dark side of the ambitious All-American girl. She's talented, tough, manipulative, she hits the bottle and she's a physically abused wife. She's excellent as Ruth Etting in Love Me or Leave Me.
When Doris Day had her girl-next-door movie image in the early 1950s, millions of folks probably had no idea she'd been a hard-working single mother whose physically abusive and mentally disturbed husband had killed himself. Her little boy, Terry, would take on the last name of Doris' future husband. That husband was Doris' well-known manager, Marty Melcher. After his death, it was discovered that he had squandered her earnings leaving her millions of dollars in debt and attaching her contractually to work she knew nothing about. Her respected rock record producer son, Terry Melcher, helped his mother throughout a long California court case. Doris was awarded $22 million. Terry had drama in his life as he was reportedly targeted by the infamous Charles Manson and needed police protection for a year after Manson and his followers who killed actress Sharon Tate and others were sent to prison. Yes...Doris Day's is quite a story.
Albert Brooks met with the actress to offer her the role opposite his in the 1996 comedy, Mother. She passed on the project. The role went to Debbie Reynolds.
To see her one and only big screen teaming Frank Sinatra, check out Doris Day in Young at Heart. It's now on DVD thanks to OliveFilms.com.
On Sunday and Monday, April 5th and 6th, see the premiere of a new Frank Sinatra documentary. The two-part feature is entitled SINATRA: ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL and airs on HBO at 8p both nights. For more info, go to HBO.com. Happy Easter.