Actress, singer, animal rights activist, “America’s sweetheart”, and an altogether legend, the extraordinary Doris Day has passed away at the age of 97. The Doris Day Animal Foundation (first formed in 1978 as the Doris Day Pet Foundation) said in a statement: “Doris Day passed away early this morning at her Carmel Valley home, having celebrated her 97th birthday on April 3 of this year. Nearly 300 fans gathered in Carmel last month to celebrate Day’s birthday. Day had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia, resulting in her death. She was surrounded by a few close friends as she passed.”
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1922 nearly a century ago, as Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff, she started her career in show business as a big band singer in 1939. One of the biggest hits during the World War II period was ‘A Sentimental Journey‘ by Les Brown & His Band of Renown, with vocals by Day, and it became one of her biggest hits as well. She left Les Brown’s band for a solo career, and recorded more than 650 songs from 1947-1967 alone. She was perhaps most well known for her track, ‘Que Sera Sera‘ which was featured as an integral plot device in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” which she also starred in. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Music critic Will Friedwald has previously complimented her vocals, technically and artistically, stating: “She really is sort of the mother of all tuneful, sunny blondes but at the same time there’s definitely a dark side to her. You know, she can explore that kind of emotion very effectively in song.”
Her most recent album ‘My Heart’ was released in 2011, making her the oldest artist to hold a UK Top 10 with an album featuring new material. Known for her girl next door persona, Day starred in 39 films, most of which are considered beloved classics, such as the musical drama “Love Me or Leave Me” also starring Jimmy Cagney, “Young at Heart” opposite Frank Sinatra, “Teacher’s Pet” with Clark Gable, and musical “Calamity Jane” which gave her an Academy Award winning song, ‘Secret Love‘.
According to Day, her favorite film to act in was “Calamity Jane“, she explained, “I was such a tomboy growing up, and she was such a fun character to play. Of course, the music was wonderful, too—’Secret Love,’ especially, is such a beautiful song.” Director Norman Jewison who worked with her on two films in the ’60’s said of her acting, “She was a good girl. She wasn’t snide. She wasn’t too smart. She brought a kind of an honesty and a freshness. And she was also strangely sexy.”
She turned her attentions to television in 1968 with her situational comedy “The Doris Day Show” which ran for five seasons and 128 episodes. In the 1985-86 season, Day hosted a talk show “Doris Day’s Best Friends” which was canceled after 26 episodes, despite the worldwide publicity and popularity it welcomed, much coming from her interview with Rock Hudson, who was visibly showing the first public symptoms of AIDS. Prior to the interview and his tragic death a year later, Hudson and Day were “great friends”, and had filmed three films together including 1959’s “Pillow Talk“. She spent much of her time and focus as an animal rights activist, since the 1970’s, “passionately working on behalf of dogs, cats, horses, sea lions, raptors and other animals in need of rescue, veterinary care and adoption”, which is said to continue in her memory with the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Reminisce with ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me‘ and ‘Que Sera Sera‘ below.