Tea For Two (1933)

Film Review

TEA FOR TWO

Release Date: 2 September, 1950

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: David Butler

Starring: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson, S. Z. Sakall, Billy DeWolfe, Bill Goodwin, Eve Arden

Writers: Harry Clork, screenplay; Frank Mandel, Otto A. Harbach, book for No, No, Nanette (1925), musical comedy; Frank Mandel, Emil Nyitray, original play My Lady Friends (1919)

Cinematographer: Wilfred M. Cline

Synopsis

In the present, J. Maxwell Bloomhaus (Sakall) recalls for her children the story of Nanette (Day), his niece.

It is 1929, and the stock market crash has wiped out Nanette Carter’s fortune. Max, her financial manager, has not told her the bad news. Jimmy Smith (MacRae) and Tommy Trainor (Nelson), who have written the words and music for a show, are coaching the stage struck Nanette in singing and dancing. Impresario Larry Blair (DeWolf) visits; he wants Nanette to finance the musical written by Jimmy and Tommy. Blair offers Nanette the lead role. She agrees, although her secretary Pauline Hastings (Arden) does not approve. Nanette asks Max for the money. Max refuses. To avoid having to tell Nanette that she is broke, Max coaxes her into a wager. If she can answer "No" to all questions for 48 hrs, Nanette will win the bet and the money.

Max immediately tries to get Nanette to say "Yes" by asking her about the music and the play, but no matter the question she replies "No". Her seeming dislike of the project drives away the other backers. Nanette and Max even end up in jail. A policeman stops Nanette for speeding, and she answers, "No" to all his questions. In a final attempt to get Nanette to say, "Yes", Max encourages Jimmy to propose. When Nanette answers "No" to his proposal, Jimmy leaves.

After 48 hrs Nanette wins the bet, and Max is forced to tell her the truth. However, the show must go on, and Nanette and Pauline convince William Early (Goodwin), the family lawyer, to put up the money. With Nanette the star, the show is a hit. Jimmy returns, and they renew their romance.

Back in the present, Nanette and Jimmy arrive home and greet their children.

Discussion

An enjoyable vehicle for Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, the film has an amusing plot and plenty of singing and dancing. It’s all bright and cheerful, and Doris smiles continuously. Pretty Doris and handsome Gordon are a delightful screen couple.

The film contains eight songs; four, "Tea For Two", "I Want to Be Happy", "No, No, Nanette", and "Call of the Sea", are the best songs from the 1925 musical No, No Nanette (music by Vincent Youmans, lyrics by Irving Caesar and Otto Harbach). The fifties arrangements, while appropriate to Doris Day's style, do not fit the twenties flavor of these songs.

The play and the film share the title, the songs, and the names of the leading lady and some of the other characters. However, the plots and the personalities of the characters are unalike. In the play, Nanette is a young woman who wants to kick up her heels and see something of life before she settles down to marry her boyfriend, Tommy. The "no, no" in the title refers to the objections of the other characters to Nanette going, with only the cook, Pauline, as a chaperone, to cavort (harmlessly) at the beach in Atlantic City.

Day and MacRae paired pleasantly in four films. Tea For Two was followed by The West Point Story (1950), a vehicle for James Cagney in which Day and MacRae are supporting players. On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) are very enjoyable, nostalgia-filled, romantic comedies with period music.

By the mid-fifties, film musicals were in decline. Doris Day successfully continued her career with romantic comedies (including Teacher's Pet (1958), Pillow Talk (1960), That Touch of Mink (1962)), interspersed with dramas (The Man Who Know too Much (1956), Midnight Lace (1960)). After starring in the filmed versions of two acclaimed Broadway musicals, Oklahoma (1955) and Carousel (1956), Gordon MacRae’s film career waned. He continued his musical career in alternate venues: television, national tours with musical comedies, summer stock and nightclubs.

S. Z Sakall, born in Hungary, appeared in more than fifty Hungarian and German films between 1916 and 1937. When Hungary joined the Axis in 1940, Sakall (who was of Jewish descent) and his wife moved to the United States. Exploiting his chubby cuteness, high-pitched, accented voice, and fractured English, Sakall specialized in affectionate, well-meaning and bumbling older men, usually fathers, uncles and/or employers. He appeared in 41 American films from 1940 to 1954, mostly for Warner Bros Studios. The nature of his appeal to the American movie-going public is shown in the studio's nickname for him, "Cuddles", a nickname that was often included in cast lists.

Further Reading

Read our articles on two versions of the operetta: The Desert Song (1943) and The Desert Song (1953), written by Harbach and Mandel authors of the book for No, No, Nanette. The 1953 version starred Gordon MacRae.

References

Gordon MacRae Dies: Star of Movie Musicals. Obituary, by Peter B. Flint. New York Times. January 25, 1986