Marjorie Winfield (Doris Day) and her love Bill Sherman (Gordon MacRae) are going to be married. Their plans were put on hold when he left to fight in the war, but now he’s returning, and Marjorie can’t wait to get hitched.
But Bill has other ideas. His time in the Army has helped him grow up, and he’s not so sure that he and Marjorie should jump into marriage before he’s established in his career. He worries that if they get married too soon, they won’t be able to handle all of the responsibilities that come along with marrying, and with building a home together.
With both of their families and all of their friends — the whole town, really — expecting a wedding, Bill isn’t sure how to break the news that he wants to but the brakes on. He’ll also face some competition from Chester Finley (Russell Arms), a piano teacher with an eye for Marjorie.
By the Light of the Silvery Moon is the lovely, musical sequel to 1951’s On Moonlight Bay, which I reviewed in 2012 and loved. David Butler directs the second film, from a script by Robert O’Brien and Irving Elinson. Both films were inspired by Booth Tarkington’s Penrod stories.
This is an interesting sequel. Whereas On Moonlight Bay painted Bill as a progressive man, fully accepting of Marjorie’s “tomboyish” nature, his time in the war has turned him into a junior version of Marjorie’s conservative banker father!
Marjorie battled against her dad’s wishes for her to become a “proper lady” in the first film. Now she finds herself pitted against her own fiance who, as she puts it, “doesn’t believe in women!”
Then she must also deal with the far-too-persistent Chester, who shows up at her house with love songs he’s written for her. (There should be a thriller made about Chester the Stalker.) It seems there are no good suitors for Marjorie, unless Bill gets his act together.
By the Light of the Silvery Moon is a fun watch, despite the brief negative turn in Marjorie and Bill’s adorable romance. Once again, the tale is told through multiple seasons and is a nostalgic reflection on the post-World War I era.
The film is perfectly cast, as I alluded to in my review of its predecessor. Wonderful Leon Ames returns as the Winfield patriarch, and Mary Wickes is hilarious as the Winfields’ maid.
The songs are wonderful (Aren’t all Doris Day songs?), and there are a couple of silly subplots dealing with the family, including young Wesley Winfield’s obsession with saving the Thanksgiving turkey. These subplots can be distracting at times (Wesley’s “Fearless Flannigan” daydreaming, for instance), but at the same time I appreciate the fact that the film doesn’t solely focus on the usual love triangle drama.
If you enjoy On Moonlight Bay or any other Doris Day musical, you’re almost sure to enjoy By the Light of the Silvery Moon. The score: 4/5
This film appears, alongside its prequel, in TCM’s Greatest Classic Films: Doris Day Double Feature DVD set. For more information on this set, including reviews of its special features, see my DVD review — and to pick up a copy for yourself, visit the TCM shop! (TMP is not in any way affiliated with TCM, and this post is not sponsored — I just adore these two films and want to spread the love!)