Classic Film Guide

By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

Based on Booth Tarkington's 'Penrod' stories, this sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951) reunites much of its cast to portray a delightfully dated version of post World War I small town America; a family musical comedy directed by David Butler with a screenplay from Irving Elinson and Robert O'Brien that stars Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Billy Gray, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, and Mary Wickes (among others). Songs featured include "Ain't We Got Fun", "King Chanticleer", and the title song, which is also reprised for the finale.

Day plays tomboy auto mechanic Marjorie Winfield, who waits for her doughboy sweetheart Bill Sherman (MacRae) to return from the war. Though not formally engaged, everyone in rural Milburn has expected them to get married shortly after being reunited. Gray plays Marjorie's barely teenaged brother Wesley, who fancies himself a detective as much as he likes playing with his dog Max and his pet turkey that's intended for Thanksgiving dinner. Ames and DeCamp play their picture perfect parents, and Wickes is the longtime maid Stella that's practically part of the family. While Bill was away, Wesley's bespeckled nerd piano teacher Chester Finley (Russell Arms) escorted (supposedly nineteen year old) Marjorie to all the social functions. Though she thinks of him as no more than a friend, Chester would love for Marjorie to be his fiancée. When Bill returns from Paris with a more mature outlook on life - he now thinks that having a nest-egg and a firm financial footing is necessary before rushing into a wedding - Marjorie is temporarily upset to the point that Chester hopes to find an opportunity. But the lovebirds' separation is short-lived, Bill gets a job working at Mr. Harris's bank where Marjorie's father is vice president, and the two begin planning a surprise for the Winfields' twentieth anniversary.

To move the story along, there's a misunderstanding about a letter written by Mr. Winfield which involves an attractive French actress Renee LaRue (Maria Palmer) - whose troupe is coming to town to perform a play that might be a bit too risque for Milburn without some censorship - such that everyone thinks Ames's character is guilty of having an affair with the woman. Of course, everything is resolved in time for a happy ending.

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