Doris Day, wholesome Hollywood legend, has died at age 97
May 14, 2019
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Doris Day, the beloved and perennial girl-next-door whose career as a singer and actress spanned almost 50 years and made her one of the biggest stars of her time, has died.

She was 97.

The Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed Day died early on Monday (local time) at her Carmel Valley, California, home.

The foundation said in an emailed statement she was surrounded by close friends and “had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia.”

Doris Day’s most famous role was in Calamity Jane. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia

The foundation also said she requested “no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker.”

Hollywood stars rushed to pay tribute to the late star.

Beatles legend, and passionate animal rights advocate, Paul McCartney, said Day was “a true star in more ways than one”.

“I had the privilege of hanging out with her on a few occasions,” McCartney wrote on his website.

Doris Day was a beloved star of the 1950s and 1960s. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Doris Day pictured on her 97th birthday last month. Picture: Doris Day Animal FoundationSource:Supplied

“Visiting her in her Californian home was like going to an animal sanctuary where her many dogs were taken care of in splendid style. She had a heart of gold and was a very funny lady who I shared many laughs with.

“Her films like Calamity Jane, Move Over, Darling and many others were all incredible and her acting and singing always hit the mark. I will miss her but will always remember her twinkling smile and infectious laugh as well as the many great songs and movies she gave us. God bless Doris.”

The one, the only, the woman who inspired so much of what I do... Doris Day I love you, my calamity Jane. An iconic woman who I was hugely honoured to meet and share precious moments with. Rest in peace x pic.twitter.com/brkli7fKYE

The great Doris Day left us and took a piece of the sun with her. She brighten our lives and lived out her life with dignity. May she rest peacefully. ❤️

For those of us in my generation, Doris Day was synonymous with Hollywood icon. She would no doubt remind us, upon this day of her passing, “Que sera sera,” but we will miss her dearly anyway. Rest now in our hearts forever, Ms. Day.

McCartney’s designer daughter, Stella McCartney, an animal rights advocate, also paid tribute to Day. “The one, the only, the woman who inspired so much of what I do … Doris Day I love you, my calamity Jane,” McCartney tweeted. “An iconic woman who I was hugely honoured to meet and share precious moments with. Rest in peace.”

Playwright Paul Rudnick tweeted in part, “Doris Day was kind and decent, onscreen and off; she maintained her friendship with Rock Hudson after his AIDS diagnosis, in a climate of fear and abandonment — one of his last appearances was on a TV show with her.”

Doris Day and her friend Rock Hudson were cinema’s golden couple. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

BOX OFFICE DRAW

With her lilting contralto, wholesome blonde beauty and glowing smile, Day was a top box office draw and recording artist known for such films as Pillow Talk and That Touch of Mink and for such songs as “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much.

But over time, she became more than a name above the title: Right down to her cheerful, alliterative stage name, she stood for a time of innocence and G-rated love, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe.

The running joke, attributed to both Groucho Marx and actor-composer Oscar Levant, was that they had known Day “before she was a virgin.”

Doris Day and Cary Grant in the 1962 comedy, That Touch of Mink. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Day’s Hollywood career began after she sang at a Hollywood party in 1947; between

1948 and 1969, she appeared in 39 films.

After early stardom as a band singer and a stint at Warner Bros., Day won the best notices of her career with 1955’s Love Me or Leave Me, the story of songstress Ruth Etting and her gangster husband-manager.

Sorry to hear of Doris Day's passing. We got to know Doris when Mom worked with her. They talked frequently until Mom's passing. We all shared our love for animals. I’m happy & proud to say I knew her & loved seeing her close friendship with my mother. They truly loved each other pic.twitter.com/EjhNsPxfRw

We’ve lost another great Hollywood talent. Take a minute to appreciate the legendary Doris Day: https://t.co/72ssvivryz

This morning I was saddened to learn that Doris Day who starred in a film I had written "The Thrill Of It All" had passed away at 97. Just a week ago, I contacted her and welcomed her to the 97 Year Actor's Club.

For those of us in my generation, Doris Day was synonymous with Hollywood icon. She would no doubt remind us, upon this day of her passing, “Que sera sera,” but we will miss her dearly anyway. Rest now in our hearts forever, Ms. Day.

We're sad to hear of the passing of Doris Day. In 1952, Ronald Reagan starred alongside Ms. Day in "The Winning Team" (photo courtesy Warner Brothers). She was Hollywood royalty - a true legend in her time. Rest in Peace, Ms. Day. pic.twitter.com/dmyaBf3S9q

She followed with Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring with James Stewart as an innocent couple ensnared in an international assassination plot. She sang “Que Sera, Sera” just as the story reached its climax. The 1958 comedy Teacher’s Pet paired her with an ageing Clark Gable.

Doris Day, pictured in Paris in 1955, was a global superstar in her heyday. Picture: APSource:AP

But she found her greatest success in slick, stylish sex comedies, beginning with Pillow Talk, which was a global smash. She and Hudson played two New Yorkers who shared a telephone party line.

The film was the first of her first of three films with Hudson, which she said caught up with “the contemporary in me.”

The two were the biggest box-office draws of the 1950s and 1960s.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson in the 1959 film Pillow Talk. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia

She followed with The Thrill of It All, playing a housewife who gains fame as a TV pitchwoman to the chagrin of obstetrician husband James Garner.

The nation’s theatre owners voted her the top money-making star in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964.

Her first singing hit was the 1945 smash “Sentimental Journey,” when she was barely in her 20s. Among the other songs she made famous were “Everybody Loves a Lover,” “Secret Love,” and “It’s Magic,” a song from her first film, Romance on the High Seas.

Critic Gary Giddins called her “the coolest and sexiest female singer of slow-ballads in movie history”.

Doris Day with Australian Rod Taylor. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Doris Day and David Niven. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Romance on the High Seas had been designed for Judy Garland, then Betty Hutton. Both bowed out, and Day, recommended by songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, won the role. Warner Bros. cashed in on its new star with a series of musicals, including Calamity Jane, My Dream Is Yours, Tea for Two and Lullaby of Broadway.

Her dramas included Young Man with a Horn, with Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, and Storm Warning, with Ronald Reagan and Ginger Rogers.

Her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll, a 1968 comedy about a widow and a widower who blend families.

Doris Day at the Golden Globes in 1989. Picture: APSource:AP

In the 1960s, Day discovered that failed investments by her third husband, Martin Melcher, left her deeply in debt. She eventually won a multimillion-dollar judgment against their lawyer.

With movies trending for more explicit sex, she turned to television to recoup her finances. The Doris Day Show was a moderate success in its 1966-1973 run on CBS in the US.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson in 1985, the year he died from AIDS-related complications. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Limited

EARLY TALENT

Born to a music teacher and a housewife in Cincinnati, Day dreamt of a dance career but at age 12 broke her leg badly when a car in which she was travelling was hit by a train. Listening to the radio while recuperating, she began singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, “trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.” Day began singing at a Cincinnati radio station, then a nightclub, then in New York.

A bandleader changed her name to Day after the song “Day after Day” to fit it on a marquee.

A marriage at 17 to trombonist Al Jorden ended when, she said, he beat her when she was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to her son, Terry, in early 1942. Her second marriage also was short-lived. She returned to Les Brown’s band after the first marriage broke up.

Doris Day with her husband Martin Melcher in 1955. Picture: APSource:AP

TRAGEDY AND TROUBLES

Despite her seemingly perpetually sunny and smiling exterior, Day’s life took a number of tragic turns, including the death of her only child, three divorces and the death of another husband who turned out to have squandered her earnings, leaving her deeply in debt.

Her 1976 tell-all book, Doris Day: Her Own Story, chronicled her money troubles and three failed marriages, contrasting with the happy publicity of her Hollywood career.

“I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, America’s Virgin, and all that, so I’m afraid it’s going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together,” she wrote.

She was married four times but only had one child, Terry Melcher, who died in 2004 after battling melanoma.

Doris Day was America’s sweetheart. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Supplied

Day had married Martin Melcher, who worked in her agent’s office, in 1951. He became her manager, and her son took his name. In most of the films following Pillow Talk, Melcher was listed as co-producer. Melcher died in 1969. In her autobiography, Day recalled her son telling her the $US20 million ($A28 million) she had earned had vanished and she owed around $US450,000 ($A650,000), mostly for taxes.

Terry Melcher became a songwriter and record producer, working with such stars as the Beach Boys. He was also famous for an aspiring musician he turned down, Charles Manson. When Manson and his followers embarked on their murderous rampage in 1969, they headed for a house once owned by Melcher, and instead came upon actress Sharon Tate and some visitors, all of whom were killed.

Doris Day, Tony Curtis, right, and Buddy Adler at the Hollywood Foreign Press’ awards in 1958, a precursor to the Golden Globes. Picture: APSource:AP

Day married a fourth time at age 52, to businessman Barry Comden in 1976. Her wholesome image was referenced in the song “I’m Sandra Dee” in the musical Grease, which included the lyrics: “Watch it, hey, I’m Doris Day/ I was not brought up that way/ Won’t come across/ Even Rock Hudson lost/ His heart to Doris Day.”

In later years, she lived quietly near Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where she was an animal welfare activist and founded the Doris Day Animal Foundation.

Doris Day, circa 1955. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

At one point she had 30 dogs living in their own area of her house but by April 2012, was down to six dogs and four cats.

Day never won an Oscar but she received many awards during her long and varied career including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

Day is survived by her grandson, Ryan Melcher.

She celebrated her 97th birthday on April 3.