Doris Day’s Favorite Singing Co-Star

Doris Day, who is in her late eighties and at last report doing just fine, has always been known as a classy lady. She would never actually designate someone as her favorite singing co-star, because she’d figure that saying something like that might disrespect those not chosen. But one thing is certain — for a while in the early Fifties she certainly had something special going on with Gordon MacRae.

By 1950 MacRae had already spent some time on Broadway and filled a few parts in films, but appearing with Doris in two movies that year — The West Point Story and Tea For Two — was a definite step up. The twosome also appeared in a studio promotional film called Starlift, but it was their next that produced one of their best pairings. It was a bright and colorful musical called On Moonlight Bay that gave movie-goers an idealized look at a small Indiana town in the years leading up to World War I. It was so popular that it spawned a sequel, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon.

Both movies were special favorites of mine as a boy, but not because of the leads. I was instead convulsed with laughter at the antics of Billy Gray, who played the little brother, Wesley. Gray, who would later go on to stardom in the TV show Father Knows Best, was at that time already an experienced child actor, and his scenes in the movies were genuinely funny. (See video below .)

In subsequent years, Doris Day continued to occasionally sing in her films but became more of a mainstream movie star. Gordon MacRae was able to employ his leading man persona and mellow baritone in a number of different ways, often appearing on Broadway and in movies based on stage shows. Among his best-remembered are Oklahoma!, which featured his vibrant voice on songs like “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” and Carousel, which included “If I Loved You” and other hits.

Although he made no secret of his battle with alcoholism, MacRae continued to work steadily throughout most of the Sixties and Seventies, often on TV, where he appeared in dramatic roles and musical guest shots. He eventually pretty much conquered his drinking problems, but his health began to fail. By the Eighties he’d not only suffered a stroke, but had also developed cancer. He voice was stilled in 1986.

2 thoughts on “Doris Day’s Favorite Singing Co-Star

  1. What fun! It was Oscar Levant who said, “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.” In retrospect I always found it amusing that she made a relatively late splash in those 60s romantic comedies where everything was so prim and proper, especially given some of the roles she’d had in the past. Memorable Doris moments for me are her singing Rogers and Hart’s “Ten Cents A Dance” in the movie “Love Me Or Leave Me,” (Ruth Etting biopic) and the gorgeous “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane,” in which, to these jaded gay eyes, it appears the producers did everything they possibly could to suggest Jane was a lesbian without actually saying it (right up to and including the song “Secret Love.!) Viewed through that prism, the movie is a total hoot.

    Gordon MacRae had an extraordinary gift of which I am grateful to have partaken in first-run movie versions of the big R&H musicals. Great post today!


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