Doris Day was truly one of the brightest Hollywood stars. I read recently that most millennials don’t know who she is…and figured it could be true. So, I said her name to a couple of people and watched them get that look in their eye that said they have had no idea who I was talking about. So, this is for any and everyone who doesn’t know about Ms. Doris Day.
Doris Day was born on April 3, 1922. The great depression era, in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Day” was a stage name she later took, her birth name was Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff. From a young age, she took dance lessons, however, an accident when she was just 13-years-old limited her dancing. In her recovery time, she took to singing and found she was naturally talented. When she turned 16, she landed a singing gig with Bob Crosby’s Bobcats, branding herself “Doris Day” after the famous song “Day after Day.” A year later, she was singing for Les Brown’s Band of Renown. It wasn’t long before she had her first movie offer, Romance on the High Seas.
Day’s career consisted heavily of musical romantic comedies, i.e., the type of films that we see the least today. The type of movies that starred names like Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, and the like. If you haven’t seen any of them, you should, and there’s plenty to choose from starring Day. From 1948 – 1968, Day, a rising movie star, appeared in 39 films showing audiences “girl next door” mixed with spunky and wholesomely unattainable. Given the fact that she made movies in the early fifties and sixties, the films may seem dull compared to today’s everything-hot-and-heavy films.
But, for the time, it was perfect. She was sexy and fun but was still considered a “wholesome” woman. Most of her films, especially in the ’60s centered around the idea of men wanting to bed her and her telling them no… until they proposed. Again, not most of today’s movies, but when you hear her sing and watch the dances, you can see what film producers were going for, and it’s great.
From Calamity Jane, where she plays just-like-the-boys pants wearin’ and gun slingin’ tomboy during the wild west, to By the Light of the Silvery Moon where she is WORKING to get this soldier dude to marry her (spoiler alert: he does), and Pillow talk, Tea for Two (which has the catchiest title track performance in the movie), Send Me No Flowers, the breezy Lullaby of Broadway, That Touch of Mink, The Pajama Game, Lover Come Back, and Young Man With a Horn manages to showcase both Day’s talent, skill, and heart.
All of her movies killed in the box office. And then just like that, she quit acting in 1968. Day was even offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate- much later down the road. Which, to be honest, I never have seen (I know, I know), but let me tell you, she would have been fantastic in it. She turned the movie down, many speculate it was because she didn’t want to be a “sex-in-the movies” actress. Not because she was a prude, but because that was her choice. She liked her image, it made her millions, and she was happy with what she gave the world and industry. Her final film was With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968. As an acting retiree, she became an animal rights activist and founded the Doris Day Animal Foundation.
Just as lovable as the movies themselves were the songs she sang in the film. They were all superbly written, and many of her performances earned her nominations for Academy Awards. “Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” from he collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock The Man Who Knew Too Much (with Jimmy Stewart) and “Secret Love” from Calamity Jane. The former was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.
Doris Day’s love life on film differed from her on-screen romances. She married four times, many of the unions were unlucky. The first was to Al Jordan, a trombonist. He was schizophrenic and later committed suicide. She and Al did have a child, Day’s only son, Terry Jordan. Her second husband was George William Weidler, a saxophonist, her third husband was film producer Martoni Melcher. He adopted Day’s son during their union, and he later became known to the world as Terry Melcher, a renowned record producer. Day’s final marriage was to Barry Comden. Day was also linked to co-star Rock Hudson; however, they were just friends.
In 2019, Doris Day died in her Carmel, California home after contracting pneumonia. There was no public funeral service to honor her, but her talent and smile will live on forever.