If you visit the TCM website you’ll see a very special feature prominently displayed, a TCM Original recording of an audio interview conducted by Robert Osborne with Doris Day. The interview, which is a must listen for all fans is part of Turner Classic Movies’ celebration commemorating Day’s 90th birthday tomorrow, April 3, which also includes an entire day of Day movies on the network. Mr. Osborne opens the interview by telling Ms. Day that she remains the most requested star by fans of TCM, a fact she seems genuinely surprised by. But she’d be the only one. Doris Day is referred to quite often on all social media platforms by fans of classic film, fans of classic television, fans of the standards and fashion aficionados. We just can’t get enough of her. As one of Hollywood’s true triple threats, Day’s legacy shines bright, which is why I expect the planned TCM tribute tomorrow will push DVRs to their limit.
Following is my own tribute to Doris Day, a star I grew up watching and listening to. I wish we’d see and hear more from her these days, but am grateful she did so much to entertain us, so much we can revisit – endlessly.
Born Doris von Kappelhoff, on April 3, 1924 in Cincinnati, Ohio Doris Day would conquer all mediums of entertainment – she was a hit on radio first as the featured vocalist with popular bands and then as a solo artist who recorded several singles that surpassed the one million seller mark.
As a child, Doris had aspirations of becoming a dancer studying ballet and tap for years. But her dreams of dancing professionally were thwarted when she shattered her leg in a car accident. As the daughter of a music teacher she started taking voice lessons during her recovery, but as she states in the interview with Robert Osborne, she knew she had a good singing voice since the age of five.
Ms. Day began her professional career singing on the radio, as mentioned above, and became a sensation during World War II while singing with Les Brown and his orchestra.
“The happiest times in my life were the days when I was traveling with Les Brown and his band.”
Her first big hit with Les Brown was the recording of “Sentimental Journey” in 1945:
Her first solo hit happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time. With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn it’s Day’s beautiful rendition of “It’s Magic.” This song was introduced by Doris Day in her film debut, Michael Curtiz’ Romance on the High Seas in 1948.
“It’s Magic” would also be used by Day as the theme song of “The Doris Day Show” on radio, which premiered in 1952. Here’s an episode of that show with guests Gordon MacRae and Mary Wickes:
Doris Day had another hit with yet another favorite of mine (can I help having great taste?):
[on recording “Secret Love” for the movie Calamity Jane (1953)]: “When I first heard “Secret Love” I almost fainted, it was so beautiful. When we finally got around to doing the pre-recording, Ray Heindorf, the musical director at Warner’s, said he’d get the musicians in about 12:30 so they could rehearse. That morning I did my vocal warm-up, then jumped on my bike and rode over to Warner’s – we lived in Toluca Lake at the time, which was just minutes from the studio. When I got there I sang the song with the orchestra for the first time. When I’d finished, Ray called me into the sound booth, grinning from ear to ear, and said, “That’s it. You’re never going to do it better.” That was the first and only take we did.”
Several hit songs later Day introduced another memorable song in a movie. This one would become a hit, the theme in a subsequent television show Day starred in and would become her signature song. That song is “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. “Que Sera” and was introduced by Doris in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956. She would sing it again in Charles Walters’ Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) and Frank Tashlin’s The Glass Bottom Boat (1966).
Here’s a clip of the opening of the television version of “The Doris Day Show,” which ran from 1968 to 1973 featuring “Que Sera, Sera” as its theme song:
Doris Day signed a contract with Warner Bros. in 1946 and made her film debut as a replacement for Betty Hutton in High Seas. She started her film career in a starring role, which is pretty amazing. Day adored Michael Curtiz, her first director, with whom she would make three movies. In the TCM interview the star comments on how influential the director was to her career, “Curtiz discouraged me from taking acting lessons. He told me I didn’t need it.” She goes on to say that she was never nervous about performing or appearing in a picture, it felt natural to her, a fact that translates beautifully on the screen where Day always seems to be having a good time.
Ms. Day continued her recording career while making movies throughout the 1950s and 1960s with many of the hits coming from the soundtracks of her movies. She was one of the top box-office draws during those years, ever popular with audiences who connected with her romantic comedies in particular. The most acclaimed of those being Michael Gordon’s Pillow Talk (1959) for which Day received her only Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Popular romantic comedies:
Although it was Doris’ romantic comedies that ruled the day she appeared in several dramatic films in which she demonstrates serious acting chops. Three dramas that come to mind in which she was particularly good are Michael Curtiz’ Young Man with a Horn (1950) with Kurt Douglas, Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me (my favorite) opposite James Cagney in 1955 and David Miller’s Midnight Lace with Rex Harrison. As Robert Osborne mentions in his interview, Doris Day could not be pigeonholed in any one genre of film and was one of the few talents who made seamless transitions from musicals to comedies to dramas.
Any way you cut it, Doris Day’s is a stellar career that is matched by few others. While the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has failed to recognize her achievement in film through the decades, Day has received more than her share of recognition. She was nominated for five Henrietta Awards for World Film Favorite – Female, winning three times. She was nominated for a Golden Globe six times for her work in both film and television. She never won a competitive Globe, but was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1989. Among many other acknowledgements she won lifetime achievement honors from both the American Comedy Awards in 1991 and The Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 2011. In 2004, President George W. Bush gave Day the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying that “She captured the hearts of Americans while enriching our culture.”
As we know, however, audiences rarely go to the movies because of awards. They go to be entertained – to laugh, to cry, to be moved and to see what the stars are wearing. For all of that they went to see Doris Day.
Images of a style icon…
If you’re interested in Doris Day as a style icon, by the way, you might want to visit GlamAmor where fashion in film expert Kimberly Truhler has dedicated several articles to the star and subject.
Doris Day announced that she was retiring from acting in 1975. Osborne asks Doris why she walked away from her incredible career and she replies that she doesn’t know why. She loved acting and performing and still sings regularly, which is wonderful to know.
Day has devoted much of her time since her retirement from show business to working as an animal rights advocate. To support this cause, she founded the Doris Day Animal League, which worked on lobbying for animal-related issues. The organization is now part of the Humane Society of America. She even made a brief return to television in the mid-1980s for a show about animals called “Doris Day’s Best Friends.” In 1998, she established the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which supports numerous animal-related projects and organizations. (Doris Day.com)
By the way, you can send Doris a birthday greeting by signing a card available at the Doris Day Animal Foundation page.
Doris Day’s talent is one for the ages, which pretty much guarantees she’ll remain a favorite with audiences for generations. With this post I extend warm birthday wishes to one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th Century who has brought so much joy to so many.
“I like joy; I want to be joyous; I want to have fun on the set; I want to wear beautiful clothes and look pretty. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that`s all I want. I like it. I like being happy. I want to make others happy.”
And you have! Happy birthday, Doris Day.