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 with Doris, Gordo, and Billy.)
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.
(Later: video no longer available.)