The word legend is used far too often and very often without credence, but in the case of Doris Day, legend is the very least she could be called.
Despite numerous literature and websites which say otherwise, she was born Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff on 3rd April 1922 in Ohio. She began singing in 1945 with Les Brown & his Band with her debut being Sentimental Journey in 1945. About 18 months she left for a solo career which lasted over 40 years. It tied in the with the start of her film career – her first being as Georgia Garrett in Romance on the High Seas in 1948 which she landed after the songwriters Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn recommended her to Warner Brothers after hearing her sing Embraceable You.
Over a 20 year film career her most well known character was in the title role of Calamity Jane in 1953 and with James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956 where she played the role of Jo McKenna. In that film she first performed the song Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera) which won the 1956 Oscar for Best Original Song and she later used as the theme to her own sitcom The Doris Day Show.
Her best-known films are those with Rock Hudson especially her first – 1959’s Pillow Talk. He once said of her, “I suppose she was so clean-cut, with perfect uncapped teeth, freckles and turned-up nose, that people just thought she fitted the concept of a virgin, but when we began Pillow Talk we thought we’d ruin our careers because the script was pretty daring stuff. The movie’s plot involved nothing more than me trying to seduce Doris for eight reels.”
In 1963 she starred with James Garner in a remake of the 1940 film My Favorite Wife which became Move Over, Darling the title track of which became her last UK hit reaching number eight in 1964 and produced by her son Terry Melcher. Terry went on to produce songs for the Byrds and the Beach Boys and died in 2004 at the age of 62.
Terry’s father, Martin (Doris’ third husband) squandered all her earnings and she was left with very little so after he died in 1968, she turned to television until she had recouped her money. She did this until 1973.
Her last film was in 1968 in the peculiarly titled With Six You Get Eggroll for which she garnered a Laurel Award nomination for best female comedy performance. Her last regular television appearance was in 1985 when she returned to host 26 episodes of Doris Day’s Best Friends.
In 1989, she made her last real public appearance when she accepted an award at the Golden Globes. After that, she became a very private person deciding to look after her numerous pets and adopted stray animals as well as running her own Doris Day Animal Foundation which she founded in 1978. She did make one further appearance in 2004 when she given a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W Bush who, on the day, said, “It was a good day for America when Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio decided to become an entertainer.”
In 1996, I visited the ‘Avenue of the Stars’ in Hollywood – the place where the rich and famous live and there were some novelty items including Engelbert Humperdinck’s completely pink house and Leslie Neilson giant stone sack of potatoes which adorned his front lawn, but the two houses where you could see absolutely nothing – apart from a high wall and much foliage was Barbra Streisand and Doris Day’s houses, thus cementing the latter’s decision to become reclusive.
In 2011, she received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award and three years later decided to release a ‘new’ album which was called My Heart. It consisted mostly of songs she had recorded for Doris Day’s Best Friends but never released commercially.
In an interview with the New York Times, Doris summed up her philosophy in the words of one of her biggest hits, “Que Sera, Sera (What will be, will be), never liked unhappy endings. It upsets me when the hero or heroine dies. I would like them to live happily ever after. Except in movies, nobody lives happily ever after,” she continued, “during the painful and bleak periods I’ve suffered through these past years, my animal family has been a source of joy and strength to me. I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent, devoted companionship of your pets that you can get from no other source. I have never found, in a human being, loyalty comparable to that of any pet.”