Tea for Two (1950)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Gordon MacRae and Doris Day in Tea for Two (1950)

A Good Day for a Tea Party

I don't know what it is about the musical "Tea for Two", a reworking of the play "No, No, Nanette", but there is something about it which just doesn't quite work, doesn't quite gel making it feel strangely disjointed. Maybe it's because there are so many different storylines or that whilst it's a Doris Day movie she never really shines like she did in her later movies and musicals. But there is something which sort of spoils things, making "Tea for Two" not so much of a chore to watch but a little hard work.

Nanette Carter (Doris Day - Young Man with a Horn) is a wealthy heiress who agrees to a bet with her Uncle Max (S.Z. Sakall - Casablanca) that she can stop saying "Yes" to all questions for 48 hours. In return she gets the $25,000 she wants to invest into a Broadway show which she will lead and feature songs by her young boyfriend Jimmy (Gordon MacRae - Carousel). The problem is that Uncle Max has lost all her money when the stock market crashed and doesn't know how to tell her that she is penniless.

Billy De Wolfe as Larry Blair in Tea for Two (1950)

What I think is one of the major problems with "Tea for Two" is that there is so much going on. The movie starts and ends in the present with Uncle Max reminiscing back to 1929 which it then switches to and back to Uncle Max again who has lost his nieces entire estate in the stock market crash. What ensues is a mix of stories, a romance between Nanette and Jimmy, the skulduggery of producer Larry Blair as he tries to fool Nanette into backing his next production and the bet between Nanette and Uncle Max that she can't stop saying "Yes" to everything for 48 hours. It's not really that there is too much going on rather than it never manages to focuses on any one element long enough and the one which should be central, the bet about stop saying "Yes" ends up being overly sidelined.

This all means that we get a bit of this and bit of that but nothing really to keep you focussed. As such "Tea for Two" flits between comedy, a little drama, tries to throw in some romance and of course a variety of song and dance numbers. The comedy side of the movie is in fact not that bad with the brilliant S.Z. Sakall throwing exasperation at you in such a wonderful, warm way that his character Max is just lovable. In a strange way Billy De Wolfe as the duplicitous Larry Blair is just as entertaining with his face pulling and general slapstick leaving him soaked, bruised and battered. Plus Eve Arden is a delight as Nanette's secretary Pauline Hastings delivering a brilliant dose of sarcasm and dry witticism through out.

But what is very evident is that "Tea for Two" pays more attention to the musical side of proceedings and it is literally littered with song and dance scenes, some more memorable that others. One of the knock on effects of the lack of focus on the romantic tale of Nanette and Jimmy is their musical moments together don't come over that well and are not that memorable. In fact the best scene in "Tea for Two" is a dance rehearsal featuring the energetic Tommy, played by Gene Nelson, dancing up and down a grand flight of stairs in such a way that it is quite breath taking.

As for the performances well Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in their first movie together show little of the chemistry which was so prevalent in their later movies together such as "On Moonlight Bay" but they are both entertaining and of course Doris Day is as lovable as ever if coming across a little unsure. But the best performances come from S.Z. Sakall and Billy De Wolfe who pretty much steal every single scene they appear in.

What this all boils down to is that "Tea for Two" is a little disappointing. It tries to play several different story elements which interlink but never then concentrates on the right one long enough to make you really that interested. It leaves it a little bit of a mess which relies on the humour and the various musical scenes to carry it. The comedy certainly does but sadly the musical scenes are not so memorable.