Talk About Snubs! Why Hasn’t Doris Day Received an Honorary Oscar?

Those snubbed by Oscar through the years have names familiar to us.  Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Edward G. Robinson, Irene Dunne and Barbara Stanwyck are but a few of the glaring competitive Oscar omissions.  These people are consistently mentioned when we name our favorite actors due to the countless hours we spend we them on any given day.  And we will not likely stop complaining about their Oscar snubs any time soon, but at least these and others have been deemed worthy of honorary, lifetime achievement awards from the Board of Governors of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).  At least.  Why those Governors have failed to place Doris Day‘s name alongside the others as a recipient of an honorary award is a mystery to me, something that fuels my anger and disappointment more with each passing year.


If only to quell my displeasure about Doris Day being completely ignored by AMPAS I plan to present a case for why this is such an incomprehensible oversight, but this is not intended as a diss toward anyone who’s been chosen.  While I think she is more deserving than certain recipients there are many people who’ve left indelible marks in motion pictures and who continue to entertain us endlessly.  I also recognize this is subjective.  But comparisons in my own mind only serve to make the Day oversight even worse because I think there is no set rule as to how many of these awards can be presented in a given year meaning including her name would not exclude anyone else.  In addition, the Board of Governors can and has decided to forgo honorary Oscars in certain years three of which were after Doris Day stopped making movies, which means they preferred to award no one over honoring someone who left a long-lasting mark in the movies.  I don’t get it.

From the Oscars:

The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, also an Oscar statuette, is given “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

If you read through any number of descriptions associated with honorary Oscars you’ll see words and phrases like “remarkable contributions,” “lifetime achievement,” “passion”, “dedication.  All of these go hand-in-hand with Doris Day.  Perhaps the governors think of Day’s films as fluff, as contributions with little value.  I don’t actually know, but they couldn’t be further from the truth if that’s the case.  I gauge the reaction of fans by online activity and when TCM has honored Doris Day with either month or day-long tributes her movies garner wonderful energy and excitement.  People’s appreciation of her work does not diminish so why she’s remained absent in the hearts and minds of these Academy voters is a mystery.

For housekeeping purposes it’s important to note that Doris Day received one competitive Oscar nomination in her career as Best Actress for Michael Gordon’s Pillow Talk (1959).  I think that should have been her second nomination because Day’s performance in Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me (1955) is stellar.  But let’s put that snub aside for now and concentrate on the entirety of her career.

She matched Cagney at every turn on "Love Me or Leave Me"
She matched Cagney at every turn on “Love Me or Leave Me”

Ms. Day’s movie career spanned twenty years from 1948 with her debut in Michael Curtiz’s Romance on the High Seas to 1968 with her final film appearance in Howard Morris’ With Six You get Eggroll.  That span is not a long one compared to many others who’ve received honorary recognitions from AMPAS, but it was an impressive run on several fronts.  Impressive enough, in fact, to garner Ms. Day lifetime achievement recognitions from several entities.  In 1989 she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press.  In 1991 she was honored with the American Comedy Award for lifetime achievement.  In 2004 Day received the highest civilian honor possible when President George W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Four years later, in 2008 Day was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  The Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave her a lifetime honor in 2011.  2010 brought her the Legend Award from the Society of Singers followed by the Online Film & Television Association Hall of Fame induction in 2012.  All of these are worthy mentions in this Oscar snub entry because they are all tied in to her work in motion pictures.  For instance, several of her notable songs are from the movies.  Add to all of that the fact that Doris Day was a top box office draw.  When things were tough in the country and the world with serious matters plaguing the lives of many people they went to see Doris Day movies because they were Doris Day movies.  Day helped them escape those difficulties for a little while.  The Academy has not necessarily been generous to laughter through the years yet most actors say it is far more difficult to make people laugh than it is to make them cry.  Well, Doris Day made them laugh during tough times.  That alone should be reason enough for a special honor.

But ok.  I’m a reasonable sort of gal so let’s take popularity out of this serious equation because we know audience turn out and Oscar are not bedfellows.  But that’s not to say that our opinions don’t matter.  Audiences recognize talent as expertly as any member of the Board of Governors.  Sometimes better than.  As Billy Wilder famously said “An individual member of the audience may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark – that is critical genius.”  With that in mind we must give Ms. Day’s appearance on top box-office lists consideration as you can bet theater owners did when she ruled the screen.  Her popularity was impressive and although Oscar may not care outwardly the revenue from her movies would have served the industry well.  According to Quigley’s Doris Day broke into the top ten box-office draws list in 1951 and held the top spot in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964 winning the Golden Globe Henrietta Award for World Film Favorites in 1958, 1960 and 1963.  In other words she was an audience favorite for the entire span of her movie career and although the correlation between popularity and an Oscar win doesn’t exist getting people to movie theaters constitutes enriching lives and furthering the plight of the Academy, both of which have been stated as criteria for honorary Oscars through the years.  That’s not to mention Doris’ 21 top ten singles some of which (again) are songs from her pictures, which guaranteed not only increased audience attendance, but Oscar nods for the movies.  Examples…

Doris Day’s debut picture, the Curtiz/Berkeley collaboration, Romance on the High Seas received two Oscar nominations – Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Song for “It’s Magic.”  Can you discount Doris Day’s interpretation of the song or her contribution to the music in the movie completely when considering these for nods?  I don’t think so.

"It's Magic"
“It’s Magic”

Who sang the Oscar-nominated “It’s a Great Feeling” from the movie of the same name the following year?  Why, Doris Day did.  That was the only Academy Award nomination for this David Butler musical.

In 1954 David Butler’s Calamity Jane (1953) received three Academy Award nominations – Best Sound, Recording, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Original Song, “Secret Love,” which won that year’s Oscar – the only win for the film.  Did Doris’ interpretation of that song has nothing to do with the win?  Again, I don’t think so.  The recording of “Secret Love” by Doris Day, by the way, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

"Secret Love"
“Secret Love”

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 release The Man Who Knew Too Much received only one Academy Award nomination, which it won.  That nomination and win wasn’t for Hitchcock’s great direction.  It also had nothing to do with Bernard Herrmann’s score or with for George Tomasini’s editing, which is superb.  No.  The only Oscar nomination received by The Man Who Knew Too Much was for the gold record-awarded Original Song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” performed by Doris Day.  This recording of the song, which became singularly attached to Ms. Day was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.

"Que Sera, Sera"
“Que Sera, Sera”

If you think that simply singing songs in movies doesn’t warrant lifetime achievement credits then you might be of the same mind as the Board of Governors and the Academy in its entirety.  I mentioned this fact in my rant of Judy Garland’s snub for A Star is Born (1954) and again when I discussed Doris Day’s in Love Me Or Leave Me.  It seems as though people don’t recognize that emoting a song, telling a story effectively through song must go a step or two beyond merely acting.  Think about how many great actors we’ve had through the years then subtract how many have been able to effectively tell stories through song and you’re left with only a handful of artists.  That’s special enough on its own merit, but singing songs is not the only thing Doris Day did well.  She should also be recognized for several of the other criteria the Board of Governors itself has stated merit lifetime achievement honors.  Her work in the movies includes all of those key words mentioned above, “remarkable contributions,” “lifetime achievement,” “Passion”, “dedication.”  How could it be otherwise when most of her films resulted in hits on more than one medium of communication thanks to her talent alone?  Not to mention, by the way, that Ms. Day also qualifies for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award because of her lifelong dedication to animal welfare, a cause people the world over are passionate about.  The work of the Doris Day Animal Foundation is one great example although her outreach in this regard goes well beyond that.  Doris Day has spent a lifetime improving the lives of animals and in turn has bettered the lives of countless people.  Really, Governors?  That’s not worthy?


One other thing – with regards to the Academy Board of Governors deciding not to present honorary Oscars on any given year.  Since Doris Day’s last film appearance in 1968 the Governors conferred no honorary Oscars in at least three years – 1976, 1987 and 2008.  Apparently they couldn’t come up with a worthy nominee for those three years.  How a top box-office draw, top-selling recording artist, outstanding comedienne, proven dramatic actress, style icon and humanitarian didn’t make the cut is beyond me.  She should’ve been tops on the list since she stopped making movies.

Doris Day remains one of the most beloved figures in motion pictures decades after her retirement because the appeal and depth of her talent are timeless.  Several generations love the movies thanks to Doris Day.  That would be ‘lifetimes’ that owe gratitude to this legend.  We owe none to the Oscars, however – a body which should represent the movies and bring credit to the industry – for ignoring Doris Day for this long.  I know many feel just as I do about this.  We are legion.  The Academy has failed in this instance.  Doris Day deserves an honorary Oscar and we deserve to see her receive it.

For Snubs week in the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, a yearly event I am honored to co-host, I argue for Doris Day and ask the Academy – why hasn’t she received an honorary Oscar?  I really want to know.

Please visit Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled to read more about Oscar Snubs through the years.

There is a lot to look forward to as the 31 Days heat up so stay tuned to Outspoken & Freckled, Paula’s Cinema Club and Once Upon a Screen as we commemorate bloggers who honor Oscar through the years.  Topics still to come include CRAFTS, MOVIES and DIRECTORS.

Since this event was inspired by TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar festival I must insist you tune in and watch Oscar-winning movies scheduled by actor connections through March 2nd.


27 thoughts

  1. You make a fantastic case – I couldn’t possibly agree more…especially regarding what an unappreciated art it is to tell a story through song. She’s become one of my very favorite performers ever since I saw Love Me Or Leave Me – there’s no one like her!

    I didn’t realize she sang FOUR Oscar winning songs – that must be a record, surely.

    1. Lets not forget Doris in “Midnight Lace” . She was fantastic in that film. Ya know Doris was a great crier. No one could turn

  2. You’ve cut through to the core of my heart by spotlighting Doris Day. Sing, dance, drama, comedy and cute as a button. What MORE does the Academy want? Here’s to Doris Day!!!!

  3. I think the recipients of special Oscars ought to be people who are, beyond question, deserving, due to their contributions to the motion picture industry, their popularity with audiences, and so forth. Doris Day’s deservedness is beyond question. I saw many of these Oscars awarded over the years. To people such as Charles Chaplin, Barbara Stanwyck, Lillian Gish, Bob Hope, Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Mary Pickford, Henry Fonda, Hal Roach, Elia Kazan, Myrna Loy, Deborah Kerr, Peter O’Toole, Maureen O’Hara, and Stanley Donen.

    A few of the choices the Academy has made more recently have been questionable, in my opinion. No one could possibly question whether Doris Day, one of Hollywood’s all-time biggest names and most popular stars, deserves an award of this kind.

    People like Miss Day are who should be given special Oscars.

  4. Bravo! Doris Day is a seminal movie star, excelling in all genres, and she’s a humanitarian. As a student of how women are portrayed in movies, I view her as a feminist icon, too. Think about those Doris/Rock comedies. She always had a great job and an authentic sense of her self.

    I wonder if the Academy doesn’t honor her because they’re reasonably sure she won’t show up. I remember reading that whenever she was given tickets in the past, she gave them away, which pissed off AMPAS. (Of course, just because I read it somewhere doesn’t make it true.)

  5. I so agree. Love her. And I’ve thought her career has been underrated for years. That Love Me or Leave Me performance more than proved her dramatic ability. And not only could she sing, let’s not forget she started as a dancer and did a little dancing in many of her films. She absolutely deserves a Lifetime Achievement award — and they better hurry up!

  6. You put forth a great case for Doris Day to be awarded an honorary Oscar by the Academy. Of course, being the rabid Day fan that I am, I agree with your arguments completely. How can anyone forget the audiences excitement and joy at the 2015 TCM Film Festival when “Calamity Jane,” restored and looking like new, burst onto the screen? The movie was made all the more enjoyable because the audience was taken with the depth of Day’s extraordinary talent. Academy, give Day that Oscar already!

  7. Lets not forget “Midnight Lace”. Doris was fantastic in that film. She was a great crier. Tony Randall said she could keep the tears streaming take after take. I loved her. Rock Hudson loved her too. He called her Eunice. She certainly deserves an award.

  8. Your case for Doris Day is not only
    right on but quite entertaining to read. I agree totally. My understanding is that she has turned down the academy’s offer to come receive the award. I think they should give one to her anyway.

  9. Sadly, that did not happen 😦 Doris Day so deserved an honorary Oscar for her unforgettable screen performances.

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