The Sugar Moon, Doris Day and The Golden Age of Hollywood

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

To be honest I didn’t think I was going to write any more “moon posts” as I think I’ve  clocked up 17 now, and have had to start using the alternate name for the full moon. Also, most of my favourite moon-related songs have been written about now, so starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit.

This week however, I had a really pleasurable afternoon with a number of ladies who suffer from dementia, and it reminded me there are a few more songs I had intended to include at some point but just not got round to yet, as definitely not from the “cool” camp at all. Appropriately, the March full moon which appeared so spectacularly in our skies last night, is also known as the Sugar Moon, because this is the time of year when the sugar maples of Nova Scotia are starting to produce sap. Appropriate because the songs that are going to be featured here, are sugary sweet indeed.

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The Sugar Moon

But back to my story. I arrived at my mum’s care home on Tuesday afternoon only to find her watching a film in the home’s very swish inhouse cinema. This room was no doubt set up with the best of intentions, but sadly most of the residents are either too physically infirm to make use of it, or in the case of the dementia sufferers, no longer have the concentration needed to sit through a long film. (We won’t mention the “comfort break” issue, but definitely also a problem.)

On Tuesday afternoon however, there were about five of them watching Calamity Jane starring Doris Day. When I say watching, they were definitely flagging when I arrived, and the carer who was with them was on the verge of abandoning the viewing. “No way”, I thought, this could be a lot more fun than our usual visits where the conversation is tricky to put it mildly. As a great fan of old movies, I knew a lot of the background to Calamity Jane (not least that the Hollywood-ised version was nothing like the life of the real Martha Jane Cannary), so we continued to watch it with me giving a running commentary about the actors, the state it was set in, the storyline and the songs. Of course when you’re in an honest to goodness cinema where actual cash changes hands for a ticket, this is impossible, or very rude at any rate, but in the care home it works well.

The songs from Calamity Jane are standards now, and most of us of a certain age know them well. One of the foibles of dementia is that you don’t remember what you had for breakfast but you remember all the words to old songs, and fortunately most of the ladies in the room were in that position. My mum still has a good singing voice so we all enjoyed singing along to The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!), Just Blew in from the Windy City, The Black Hills of Dakota and best of all, Secret Love. We had a rare old afternoon and I’ve offered to come in next time they plan to show a film – Fingers crossed it’s one I know just as well.

Doris Day (born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff) is still with us today, and is about to turn 97 in April (possibly due to her rewarding work as an animal welfare activist – good for body and soul). She recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular singers of the 20th century. Her film career began during the latter part of the Classical Hollywood Film Era and she starred in a series of successful films, including musicals, comedies, and dramas. Some of her most successful films were the “bedroom comedies” she made co-starring Rock Hudson and James Garner. Among her awards, Doris received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.

In 1951 Doris starred in the film On Moonlight Bay with Gordon MacRae. It was so successful, a sequel was made in 1953 called By The Light of the Silvery Moon. Of course there were songs of the same name to accompany the films, and to celebrate the sighting of the Sugar Moon, they are my featured songs for this post. They don’t make ’em like this any more.

Until next time….

On Moonlight Bay Lyrics
(Song by Percy Wenrich/Edward Madden)

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart” (You have stolen her heart)
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay
(Sailing through the moonlight on Moonlight Bay)

Postscript:

I seem to be unusually productive this week in terms of my blogging output. That would be because I have an academic essay to hand in on Friday for my college course, and I seem to be doing everything I can to avoid completing it. Thought I would find it all a bit easier second time around but it turns out students will be students, whatever their age.

Before I buckle down to finishing my essay (that would be 80% of it), I think we should have another look at Doris playing Calamity Jane. She was a right wee bundle of energy and it certainly worked wonders this week in terms of raising my spirits. Hopefully it will raise yours too.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

7 thoughts on “The Sugar Moon, Doris Day and The Golden Age of Hollywood”

  1. Every care home needs an Alyson! Sounds as if you gave the residents a real treat, what a great way to help them engage with the film and stimulate conversation (and a singalong); I think this could well become a regular slot for you…
    The moon was beautiful here last night, and I got to appreciate it a little more than usual as had to drive out to another village in the evening and back later through very quiet and open back lanes, where it illuminated the sky, the fields and hedgerows magnificently, a beautiful beacon of light. I thought about you and wondered if you’d do a moon post for it, so I’m glad you mentioned it! I’d read earlier about another name for it too – the Worm Moon – so, as you can imagine, given my obsession with my lovely herd of wriggly wrigglers, that was right up my street.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it certainly was a bit of a treat for me and the residents, but not sure if I could do it often. My mum has really deteriorated since being in the care home – Her memory is much worse than it was just a few months ago but there was no other solution – Tough one.

      I wrote about the Worm Moon last year so I know about it too – right up your street as you say. It certainly was a beautiful moon last night and tonight’s is not too shabby either. Think I’m going to wind down with the moon posts now as have found out about all there is to know (of a non-scientific kind of nature). Will keep going until the anniversary of the first moon landing though – That’ll be a biggie.

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    1. Not seen it advertised yet but I’ve been so busy, I could have just missed it. Will look out for it.

      I really feel I need to carry on with the “moon posts” until we reach the special anniversary later this year. Cross fingers I can keep going with them.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha – No, nether would Frances Ethel Gumm or Constance Frances Marie Ockelman but Olivia de Havilland was born that way, so had no problem!

      As for the moon posts, I am kinda running out of steam with them now, but still a few to get under my belt before I draw a line. Your Mel Torme suggestion is still in the running.

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  2. Reblogged this on What's It All About? and commented:

    “You take the grey skies out of my way
    You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day” sang George Michael back in 1984 and he wasn’t far wrong.

    She certainly did shine brightly on the big screen but today she passed away, at the grand old age of 97. Despite her success, life threw her some lemons, but in typical Doris style, she made lemonade.

    Back in March, I wrote my final “Moon Post” celebrating the appearance of the Sugar Moon in our skies. To round off the series I chose a couple of Doris Day songs as I had been reminded of her brilliance whilst spending a lovely afternoon watching Calamity Jane with my mum at the care home. She was a force of nature and I have just caught an old interview with her on telly tonight where she admits that the real Doris was Calamity. RIP to one of the most popular singers and actresses of the 20th century.

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