She IS a star, one of the last from the 1940s.
When she sang It’s Magic to Jack Carson in their first film together it really was magic between her and the film going public, who embraced her and kept her on top of the box office for 20 years. She was a superb singer, and a formidable actress.
Born Doris May Ann Kappelhoff in 1922, of solid German stock, Doris reached her peak of movie popularity in the Fifties with strong appearances in two memorable titles: Love Me or Leave Me, a 1955 biopic of singer Ruth Etting, which won a best actor Oscar for Day’s costar, James Cagney; and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, costarring James Stewart. It’s in this film that Doris managed to seamlessly integrate her vocal skills with her plot-pivotal renditions of Que, Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).
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.
The studio pulled out all stops to introduce their new movie queen. Beside Carson, her Romance on the High Seas costars were Janis Paige and Don Defore, and the cast included such recognizable supporting players as Oscar Levant, S.Z. Sakall, Eric Blore and Franklin Pangborn.
Michael Curtiz produced and directed, Julius J. Epstein and I.A. Diamond wrote the screenplay, and Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn provided the music — including the fore mentioned Oscar-winning song It’s Magic.
By the close of the Fifties, Doris began the first of three Pillow Talk titles opposite Rock 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.
In 1963’s Move Over, Darling, a remake of a 1940 screwball comedy, Doris played one half of a married couple with James Garner. Day, wrote Garner in his memoirs, was so sweet and so professional — she made everyone around her look good.
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. Please indulge the following anecdote about Melcher and one of the singing Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, who was renowned for her fierce temper.
Her first husband was Melcher, then her agent and road manager. By 1949 he noticed that Patty’s career was waning, and he turned his interest to an up and coming star by the name of Doris Day.
One night Doris’ neighbors were treated to the sight and sound of Patty Andrews as she battered Doris’ front door with a baseball bat while shouting epithets about Day stealing her husband. Patty was probably lucky to lose Melcher (he and Doris eventually married) before he squandered her fortune as he later did with Day’s.
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 has devoted herself to her lifelong passion — caring for animals. Her career covers slightly more than 40 movie titles, and countless tv and vocal credits. She remains what she was back then — a STAR.