A Tribute to Doris Day
For all of her squeaky-clean image throughout most of her career, Doris Day had her share of heartbreak and disaster in her life, including divorced parents, a brother who died young, a serious auto accident as a teenager, two early failed marriages, the death of her third husband, a bout of nervous exhaustion, the loss of her son, Terry Melcher, in 2004, and an agent who squandered her considerable fortune.
But she also spent several years at the top of the box office rankings in the 1960s, entertaining millions of people with her singing and acting, and has attracted a legion of loyal fans, despite being retired for more than two decades. Some critics may have dismissed much of her work as trivial, but the fact remains that she was a thorough professional and delivered many strong performances opposite stars like James Cagney, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Frank Sinatra.
Born Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 3, 1924, she had originally hoped to be a ballet dancer, but that dream died when she was seriously injured in an automobile accident and was hospitalized for a year at the age of 14, just after winning a talent contest as a dancer.
But she didn’t let that stop her. She took singing lessons, and got jobs singing with bands in the 1940s, including Bob Crosby and Les Brown. She later appeared with Frank Sinatra and Artie Shaw on Saturday Night Hit Parade. She first appeared on film in 1948, in Romance on the High Seas, when Betty Hutton was unable to do the part.
She lent her talents to a string of Warner Brothers light musical comedies from 1949 to 1955, including It’s a Great Feeling, My Dream Is Yours, Tea for Two,The West Point Story, Lullaby of Broadway, On Moonlight Bay, April in Paris, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Lucky Me, and Young at Heart. Her most memorable films during this period were probably Calamity Jane(1953), Alfred Hitchcock’s remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), in which she appeared with Jimmy Stewart and sang what was to become her trademark song, “Que, Sera, Sera,” and 1957’s The Pajama Game, the Broadway hit that featured brilliant choreography by Bob Fosse.
Starting in the late 1950s Doris appeared with Cary Grant and Rock Hudson in several successful romantic comedies, including Pillow Talk (1959), which resulted in her only Academy Award nomination. Others included Lover Come Back (1962), That Touch of Mink (1962), Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960),Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962), Send Me No Flowers (1964), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) was her final film appearance, following the death of her husband Martin Melcher.
Like many other film stars of the era, she jumped to television, scoring a hit withThe Doris Day Show, which ran from 1968 to 1973.
But somehow her husband and her manager had managed her into bankruptcy. Luckily she won a court settlement which allowed her to maintain a lifestyle befitting a star. However, she gave up performing completely, and became an animal rights activist, running the Doris Day Animal Foundation and living in Carmel, California.
In putting together this article it occurred to me just how many Doris Day film titles were also the titles of songs I grew up listening to in the 50s and 60s:Love Me or Leave Me, Lover Come Back, On Moonlight Bay, Tea For Two, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Lullaby of Broadway, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, April in Paris, the list goes on and on. And on top of that, many other songs from her films were also popular hits of the time. It emphasizes the fact that Doris began her professional career as a singer, and music almost always played an important part in her movies.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Doris Day Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters