We all know about her musicals with Gordon MacRae and others and her comedies with Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Jim Garner and others.
But what about Doris Day the dramatic actress?
She got her chance at Warners who cast her in 1951’s Storm Warning, a film about the Ku Klux Klan. Her costars were Ginger Rogers (above right) and Ronald Reagan.
After showing what she could do with James Cagney in Love Me or Leave Me, Doris landed the lead with Louis Jourdan (grappling with Doris above) in Julie. This 1956 outing is a murky domestic drama about the suspect death of Doris’ husband.
She (above) hit her stride with James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. It’s in this film that Doris managed to seamlessly integrate her vocal skills (with her plot-pivotal renditions of Que, Sera Sera or “Whatever Will Be, Will Be”) and her dramatic force as a mother determined at all costs to retrieve her kidnapped son.
Born Doris May Ann Kappelhoff in 1922, of solid German stock, Doris reached her peak of movie popularity in the Fifties with, as mentioned, a powerful performance in 1956’s Love Me or Leave Me, the 1955 biopic of singer Ruth Etting, which won a best actor Oscar for Cagney.
But it was the delightful 1948 musical Romance On The High Seas that was her first movie following a career as a band singer, including touring with the Les Brown band and entertaining the troops with Bob Hope.
It was with the Brown band that Doris memorably recorded Sentimental Journey, which turned into 1945’s No. 1 hit, Doris’ first chart topper. (Her rendition of the song is marvelous, and holds up beautifully today.) Soon after, a screen test landed her a contract with Warner Bros.
By the close of the Fifties, Doris began the first of three Pillow Talk titles opposite Hudson, which won her a best actress Oscar nomination. She and Hudson became lifetimes friends, one of many similar friendships sealed with other male costars.
Her off-screen marital life was less successful. Day has been married four times, most memorably to manager Martin Melcher, a 17-year-union that left her, to put it mildly, in financial distress.
Like Dorothy Lamour and Debbie Reynolds, Day was compelled to jump start her later-stage career — thus all those tv appearances including her eponymous series from 1968 to 1973 — to dig herself out of a financial hole.
Since the 1980’s Day devoted the rest of her days to her lifelong passion — caring for animals. She died last year in her beloved Carmel, Calif. at the age of 97.
Her career covers slightly more than 40 movie titles, and countless tv and vocal credits. She remained what she was back then — a STAR — notably in her dramatic roles.