Doris Day

Active - 1948 - 2009  |   Born - Apr 3, 1922 in Evanston, Ohio, United States  |   Died - May 13, 2019   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

The epitome of the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality and "Que Sera Sera" mantra, Doris Day has weathered the numerous storms of both career and personal life, using these carefree and easygoing sentiments as a testament to the endearing endurance and eternal optimism that defines her infectiously positive outlook on life.

Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in Evanston, OH, Day's optimistic philosophies would be tested from her earliest experiences. With childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina dashed after being involved in a near-fatal car crash, Day took to heart her mother's suggestion of refining her skills as a vocalist. Possessing a voice of distinct beauty at the youthful age of 14, Day was soon discovered by a vocal coach who arranged an appearance on a local radio station WLW. The rest, as they say, is history.

Soon after her radio appearance, Day was approached by local bandleader Barney Rapp, leading the young songstress to adopt the moniker that would soon become a household name. Revealing her birth name to Rapp after auditioning with the song "Day By Day," Rapp jokingly suggested that her name was nice, though a little long for the theater's marquee. With her auditioning ballad becoming the inspiration for her stage persona, 14-year-old Day now had all the makings of a starlet ripe with potential. Discovered shortly after by big-band maestro Les Brown in 1940, Day toured briefly with his band, soon departing to accept the marriage proposal of sweetheart Al Jorden and pursue dreams of starting a family. Day's matrimonial happiness was short-lived, however, when Jorden's violent and jealous tendencies proved to be too much to take. Soon after the birth of their son in 1942, the couple divorced and Day rejoined Les Brown and his band, leading to the collaboration that would project the young singer into the heart of millions -- "Sentimental Journey."

Day's contribution to film began with her appearance in Warner Bros.' romantic musical Romance on the High Seas (1948). The film, in which she co-starred with Jack Carson, was recognized with an Oscar nomination for the song "It's Magic," providing young Day with her first success as a pop singer. Throughout the 1950s, Day's wholesome image sustained her film career with successful turns in musicals (Calamity Jane [1953]) and romantic comedies (Teacher's Pet [1958]). Day's successful film career continued well into the 1960s with highlights including Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Pajama Game (1957), and Pillow Talk (1959). The latter is considered among the best of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedies, with her image as the innocently alluring virgin breathing new life into her previously wholesome persona.

In April of 1968, just as she was beginning five-year contract with CBS for The Doris Day Show, Day's film career came to an abrupt end with the death of her husband/manager/producer Marty Melcher. Left penniless and deep in debt through a series of Melcher's sordid investments, Day soon bounced back. Awarded a 22-million-dollar settlement, Day found success in television with The Doris Day Show. Her future television ventures, including Doris Day Today (1975) and Doris Day's Best Friends (1985) (which included one of the last appearances of a gravely ill Rock Hudson) were just a few examples of Day's enthusiastic and enduring nature. In 1975 Doris Day authored her biography, Doris Day: Her Own Story, which became a number one best-seller. Day went on to become an active and vocal supporter of animal rights, focusing the majority of her attentions on her Animal League and Animal Foundation organizations, as well as owning the pet-friendly Cypress Inn in Carmel, CA.

Movie Highlights

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  • Initially aspired to become a professional dancer, but abandoned her plans when, at age 14, her leg was injured in a near-fatal automobile accident.
  • Made her film debut in the 1948 musical Romance on the High Seas; final big-screen appearance was in the 1968 comedy With Six You Get Eggroll.
  • Sang the Oscar-winning song "Que Sera, Sera" (in the 1956 film The Man Who Knew Too Much), which appeared on the National Endowment for the Arts' list of the top 365 Songs of the Century.
  • Marty Melcher, her manager and third husband, reportedly squandered nearly $20 million of her earnings during their marriage and left her deeply in debt when he died in 1968.
  • Released a revealing autobiography, Doris Day: Her Own Story, in 1975.
  • After largely retiring from the entertainment business in the late '70s, devoted herself to the cause of animal welfare.
  • Was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, but fear of flying kept her from traveling to Washington, DC, to accept the award from President George W. Bush.