Romance on the High Seas

Romance on the High Seas, known in the United Kingdom as It's Magic,[4][5] is a 1948 American Technicolor musical romantic comedy film directed by Michael Curtiz, and starred Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore and Doris Day in her film debut.[6] The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Original Song for "It's Magic" (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn), and Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Ray Heindorf).

Romance on the High Seas
Theatrical release poster.
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Produced byAlex Gottlieb
Screenplay byJulius J. and
Philip G. Epstein
additional dialogue by
I. A. L. Diamond
Based onFrom a story by
S. Pondal Rios
and Carlos A. Olivari
StarringJack Carson
Janis Paige
Don DeFore
Doris Day
Music byJule Styne
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Musical numbers orchestrated and conducted by Ray Heindorf
CinematographyElwood Bredell, A.S.C.
Edited byRudi Fehr
Distributed byWarner Bros.
A Michael Curtiz Production
Release date
  • June 25, 1948 (1948-06-25)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1] or $2,532,000[2]
Box office$2.1 million (US rentals)[3] or $3,225,000[2]


Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) and her husband Michael (Don DeFore) suspect each other of cheating. For their wedding anniversary, Elvira books an ocean cruise to Rio de Janeiro but her husband claims that unexpected business will prevent him from going. Seeing an opportunity, Elvira pretends to take the trip alone, but in fact sends singer Georgia Garrett (Doris Day), a woman she'd met at the travel agency, in her place and under her name. By secretly staying behind, Elvira hopes to find out if Michael is indeed sneaking around behind her back. Michael, however, is suspicious over Elvira's supposed willingness to go on the trip alone, and so hires private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to see if she is sneaking around behind his back.

Peter joins the cruise and, as part of his job, becomes acquainted with Georgia. Georgia, following the instructions of the real Elvira, keeps up the ruse by pretending to be Elvira to everyone, including Peter. Georgia and Peter are attracted to each other and gradually fall in love, which causes conflict for both of them.

During one of the cruise stops, Georgia's friend, Oscar Farrar (Oscar Levant), comes on board. Oscar is in love with Georgia despite Georgia's lack of interest in him, and when Peter spots them together, he thinks he has discovered the identity of Elvira's lover.

The film's third act is set in a Rio hotel, where all the principal characters converge and ride a merry-go-round of mistaken identities. Sorting out their true identities, resolving the crossed love plots, concludes the picture.


Unbilled (in order of appearance)


Production notes

Originally conceived as a star vehicle for Betty Hutton, the film had to be recast when Hutton became pregnant, and thus unavailable. Other established stars like Judy Garland and Jane Powell were briefly considered, before Michael Curtiz was persuaded to audition Doris Day, then known as a band vocalist, but hitherto not considered an actress. Her personal life was in some turmoil at the time, as her second marriage, to musician George Weidler, was ending, and this, combined with her evident nervousness, led her to deliver a notably teary, emotive version of Embraceable You at the audition. Impressed by her singing ability and fresh-faced good looks, Curtiz signed her to a film contract and cast her in the leading role of Georgia Garrett. Despite the change in star and the late casting of Janis Paige, the film was financially successful.

Before meeting Hutton's replacement, director Curtiz's requirements were that she had to be beautiful, that she had to be able to sing and dance, and that, above all, she must have "sparkle." After dozens of young women failed to match Curtiz's specifications, Doris Day was finally introduced to him. He immediately perked up and exclaimed, "This is it. This is the most everything dame I have ever seen."[7]

Legendary screenwriter I. A. L. Diamond, who is credited as having written "additional dialogue" for this film, was still trying to establish a reputation for himself in 1948. Earlier, at Universal-International, he had received his initial writing credit on a low-budget mystery before moving on to Warner Brothers, where he wrote Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946), a comedy that featured Jack Carson, one of the four main performers in Romance. It would be almost a decade before Diamond's career finally clicked -- when he was introduced to director Billy Wilder. That meeting began a successful movie partnership that lasted many years.[8]

Box office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $2,200,000 domestically and $1,025,000 foreign.[2]

Criticisms and appraisals

Doris Day's motion picture premiere did not impress Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. According to the critic, "she has no more than a vigorous disposition which hits the screen like a thud." As for the movie itself, Crowther found it "a scatterbrained comedy of errors."[9]

An anonymous review in a small-town Texas newspaper, The Kaufman Herald, published in late 1948, asserts that "seldom does a film musical come along which gives all of its stars a chance to shine so much...Miss Day impresses for her ease and command before the cameras. Her song delivery is neat, and she is able to wear costumes smartly."[10] Another rural Texas publication, The Hearne Democrat, called it "a rib-tickling musical that is full of laughs all the way."[11]

In his laudatory review of a live singing performance by Doris Day at the Gregory Gym in Austin, Texas in the winter of 1949, entertainment critic Steve Perkins of the Austin American-Statesman reminded his readers of the rave review of Romance he had written the previous summer through the following excerpt: "A new leading lady has popped up out of nowhere and it will probably be a long time before she pops down again. Doris Day, who had already achieved a small measure of fame with dance bands and on records, is a vocalist who can act, sing sweet and look pretty all at the same time."[12]

In later years, Village Voice critic, Molly Haskell, asserted that "whenever I remember [Doris Day's] is as one of the few movie heroines who had to work for a living."[13] In Romance on the High Seas, Day's first film character, Georgia Garrett, is indeed a poor, working-class chanteuse whose favorite pastime is dreaming of ocean voyages she thinks she'll never enjoy.[14]

Writing for Film Comment magazine in 2007, Hazel-Dawn Dumpert called Day's work in this film "a doughy debut as a gum-smacking honky-tonk singer" and claims her real "movie persona [did not] click into place" until the early 1950s in films such as On Moonlight Bay. She also described Romance on the High Seas as a "pastel pleasure cruise."[15]


The film was nominated for the following American Film Institute lists:


  1. Variety 18 February 1948 p7
  2. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 28 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  3. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  4. "Alternative title (see Also Known As section)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  5. Hinton, Nigel (2008). Time Bomb (Reprint ed.). Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. ISBN 978-1582462370.
  6. "Romance on the High Seas". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  7. McDonald, Tamar Jeffers. Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood, Sex, and Stardom. London, UK: I.B. Taurus & Co., Ltd., 2013. p. 99.
  8. Silov, Ed. Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2017. p. 388.
  9. Crowther, Bosley. "Warners Introduce Doris Day in 'Romance on the High Seas,' New Feature at Strand." New York Times. (June 26, 1948).
  10. "'The Crusades' Is Spectacular DeMille Triumph". Kaufman Herald. (December 2, 1948): p. 2.
  11. "The Movie Reporter Speaks: Review of 'Romance on the High Seas'". The Hearne Democrat. (October 8, 1948): p. 8.
  12. Perkins, Steve. "Show World." Austin American-Statesman. (January 10, 1949): p. 5.
  13. Cited in McGee, Garry. Doris Day: Sentimental Journey. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2011. p. 75.
  14. Yeck, Joanne L. "Romance on the High Seas: Classic Films On Video Let You Cruise from Your Living Room." Cruise Travel. (September 1993): pp. 48-49.
  15. Dumpert, Hazel-Dawn. "Retro Pick: Doris Day Collection." Film Comment. (May-June 2007): pp. 76-77.
  16. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  17. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  18. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
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