In 1910s Indiana, the Winfield family — comprised of parents George (Leon Ames) and Alice (Rosemary DeCamp), their children Marjorie (Day) and Wesley (Billy Gray), and their cook Stella (Mary Wickes) — move into a new house a mile and a half across town to be closer to the bank where George works. There, they meet the family across the street, particularly college senior William Sherman (MacRae). The film is told in a series of loosely-connected vignettes, though the driving plot thread is the blossoming romance between Marjorie and Bill.
A sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, was released in 1953. In the sequel, Marjorie and Bill face new challenges, including getting married. Meanwhile, George and Alice Winfield prepare for their wedding anniversary.
This film and its sequel feature examples of:
- Ascended Extra: The Penrod stories were primarily about the son (Wesley in the movie), with his sister being a decidedly secondary character. The film makes her co-star at the very least, if not the actual lead.
- A-Cup Angst: Alluded to very obliquely (this being made in the '50s, after all). Marjorie's mother Alice is seen giving her two powder puffs prior to her date, with the implication that she will use them to pad out her dress. Later Marjorie dances the two-step, causing them to fall out.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Wesley. Dear God, Wesley. He regularly tries to sabotage Marjorie's dates and throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way. It backfires on him when he successfully sabotages one of Marjorie's dates with Hubert to get back at her, not realizing that she had been trying to get rid of Hubert herself.
- Berserk Button: For Wesley, it's being laughed at.
- Brats with Slingshots: Wesley inherits his father's slingshot from his great-aunt near the end of the first film and breaks a window.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Bill's younger brother, Jim, doesn't appear in the sequel, and his absence is never explained.
- Gossip Evolution: The news of George's alleged affair with Miss La Rue, a French actress, goes around town, causing everyone to slight George and pity Alice, while they remain oblivious.
- Hollywood Costuming: The films are set in the 1910s and 1920s, but you'd never know it if you looked at Marjorie's 50s bangs and outfits.
- I Will Wait for You: Bill goes off to fight in WWI at the end of the first movie, and Marjorie promises to wait for him; he returns in the sequel.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Played With. Marjorie is a tomboy who learns to be more feminine, but is still better than Bill is at things like pitching baseballs or fixing cars. However, she disdains men who are too prissy, such as Hubert and Chester in the sequel.
- Mistaken for Cheating: In the sequel, a controversial excerpt from a French play financed by the bank is mistaken for a love letter: Wesley and Marjorie assume it's addressed to their father, while Bill assumes it's addressed to Marjorie.
- Parents as People: George and Alice are loving and understanding parents, although occasionally George will forget that he also used to be a kid and he has a short temper while the worst Alice can get is insisting her daughter pad up her bustline.
- Passionate Sports Girl: Marjorie loves baseball and won't hear anything against it.
- Pink Is Feminine: Marjorie's dress in her She Cleans Up Nicely scene is pink with a poofy skirt with matching gloves and hairbow.
- Running Gag: The Winfield's new kitchen has two double-hinged doors with no handles, meaning that people can enter or exit from either side of the door. Despite Stella's increasingly-desperate attempts to avoid it, people keep coming in through the door while she's carrying fine china or food to be served, causing her to drop it. On more than one occasion, she chooses not to go through one door (due to hearing someone on the other side), only to get smacked in the face with the other door.
- Servile Snarker: Stella. In the sequel, she gets in even more zingers, starting with the opening narration re-introducing all the characters.Stella: [Wesley] is the Winfield's second child. If he'd been the first, there never would have been a second.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Marjorie gets a makeover early in the first film to be a "young lady, not a second baseman." The transformation is stunning.
- Soapbox Sadie: Bill is a Rare Male Example of this. He spends his first date angrily denouncing his fellow college students for frittering away their time with baseball and women - to Marjorie, a Passionate Sports Girl.
- Unkempt Beauty: Marjorie in her pre-makeover "second baseman" look doesn't look too bad herself....
- Who Writes This Crap?!: On his first date with Marjorie, Bill complains that the song that's playing in the background sounds like it was written by someone with "a glass of beer in one hand and a rhyming dictionary in the other." The song is... "On Moonlight Bay."