Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


DAY, Doris

(b Doris Kappelhoff, 3 April '24, Cincinnati OH) US singer, actress; one of the most successful box office stars of all time. Studied dancing in Hollywood; turned to singing after a car crash broke her leg at age 14; on WLW in Cincinnati bandleader Barney Rapp changed her name to Day. With Bob Crosby '40 in Chicago, later that year to the Les Brown band, and sang on big hits 'My Dreams Are Getting Better' and 'Sentimental Journey', the last especially forever her song. She duetted with Buddy Clark on another gold disc 'Confess'/'Love Somebody' '47. A date at Billy Reed's Little Club led to a screen test '48; her first film Romance On The High Seas '48 with Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne score gave her her first big solo hit 'It's Magic'. Series of mostly backstage musicals for WB (co-stars Ronald Reagan, Gene Nelson, Jack Carson, Gordon McRae); co-starred with Kirk Douglas in Young Man With A Horn '50; with comic Danny Thomas '52 in biopic of lyricist Gus Kahn. Big hits '52 with 'A Guy Is A Guy', duet with Frankie Laine on '42 South African song 'Sugarbush'; duets with Johnnie Ray incl. 'Let's Walk Thata-way' (no. 4 UK). Big hit film Calamity Jane '53 in role similar to that of Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun: co-starred with Howard Keel incl. exhilarating opener 'The Deadwood Stage', Oscar-winning ballad 'Secret Love' (her first no. 1, USA '54). Last WB film was Young At Heart '55 with Frank Sinatra (musical remake of Four Daughters '38); biopic of Ruth Etting Love Me Or Leave Me '55 for MGM (co-star Jimmy Cagney) gave her a good dramatic as well as singing role as well as chart hit 'I'll Never Stop Loving You'; soundtrack was no. 1 LP. 'Que Sera, Sera' ('Whatever Will Be, Will Be') won an Oscar, from Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (no. 2 hit). The Pajama Game '57 was probably her best musical film and a big commercial hit; Billy Rose's Jumbo '62, her last musical, did not do well at the box office (Busby Berkeley's last film, but the wooden leading man Stephen Boyd didn't help). In late '50s she began a series of light comedy films with Rock Hudson, Clark Gable, James Garner, Jack Lemmon; best-known was Pillow Talk '59 with Hudson (considered sexy at the time). Minor hits with some title songs 'Tunnel Of Love' '58, 'Anyway The Wind Blows' '60 (from Please Don't Eat The Daisies); last top 40 hit was 'Everybody Loves A Lover' '58 (no. 6). Eight 10]im[ LPs charted '49--55; 12]im[ Day By Day '57 was no. 11. Show Time with Axel Stordahl was also highly rated, Cole Porter much taken by her version of 'I Love Paris'.

As films tapered off she did the The Doris Day Show on TV '68--72; retired '70s except for occasional TV special; formed Pet Foundation in LA; back on TV '85 in Doris Day's Best Friends with executive prod. son Terry. Her girl-next-door image was famously sent up by Oscar Levant: 'I knew her before she was a virgin'; but 39 films in 20 years, nearly all hits, made her a top box office star and hid her sometimes turbulent private life, first two marriages to musicians, the third to Marty Melcher ending in his death '68: he wasted $20m of her money on harebrained investments and left her owing half a million, but she was loyal to him for 17 years. Apart from compilations and film soundtracks, there was Duet with Andr‚ Previn trio on Polydor '83. Bear Family in Germany have reissued her complete Columbia recordings in boxed sets with big booklets: six-CD It's Magic, five-CD Secret Love, five-CD Que Sera, Sera, eight-CD Move Over Darling (incl. '68 recordings for Arwin), plus two-CD Pillow Talk soundtrack with dialogue segments. Day Dreams '92 was an off-Broadway show starring Patty Carver which concentrated on her private life, a mistake; Definitely Doris in London '96 was a rewrite, still with Carver. Paul Weston, who arranged and conducted Day's albums Day By Day and Day By Night, described them as 'some of the best singing she ever did'. Asked if he thought she was underrated, he replied, 'She underrated herself. I don't think Doris ever knew what a good singer she was.' A. E. Hotchner's Doris Day: Her Own Story '75 is better than most such books.