Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff (born April 3, 1922) is an American singer, actress, and animal welfare advocate known as Doris Day. Having achieved success as a Big Band singer, film actress, recording artist, and radio and television performer, Doris Day remains one of America's best-loved entertainers. A vivacious blonde with a wholesome image, Day was among the actresses of the 1950s and 1960s with the highest profile. Able to sing, dance, and play comedy and dramatic roles, she became one of the biggest box-office stars in Hollywood. She has 39 films to her credit, as well as over 75 hours of television work, and has recorded well over 650 songs. She is an Academy Award nominee, as well as a Golden Globe and Grammy Award winner.
Day now lives on an 11 acre ranch near Carmel, California and has recently been going by her given name, Doris Kappelhoff, despite rumors in the tabloid press that she had adopted the name Clara Kappelhoff. Clara is a nickname originally given to her by her Tea for Two co-star Billy De Wolfe, and close friends have called her that for decades.
The youngest of three children, she had two brothers: Richard, who died before she was born, and Paul, a few years older. She was named after silent movie actress Doris Kenyon, whom her mother admired.
Growing up in the 1930s, Day developed an interest in dance. By the mid-1930s, she formed a dance duo that performed locally in Cincinnati, until a car accident on October 13, 1937 damaged her legs and curtailed her prospects as a professional dancer. However, while recovering, Day took up singing. Soon she began to take lessons, and at the age of 17 began performing locally.
It was while working for local bandleader Barney Rapp in 1939 or 1940 that she adopted the stage name "Day" as an alternative to "Kappelhoff," at his suggestion. Rapp felt her surname was too long for marquees. The first song she had performed for him was Day After Day, and her stage name was taken from that. After working with Rapp, Day worked with a number of other bandleaders including Jimmy James, Bob Crosby, and Les Brown. It was while working with Brown that Day scored her first hit recording, "Sentimental Journey," which was released in early 1945. It soon became an anthem of the desire of World War II demobilizing troops to return home. This song is still associated with Day, and was re-recorded by her on several occasions, as well as being included in her 1971 television special.
The success of this film established her as a popular film personality, and provided her with another hit recording It's Magic. In 1950, U.S. servicemen in Korea voted her their favorite star. Early publicity saddled her with such unflattering nicknames as "The Tomboy with a Voice" and "The Golden Tonsil". She continued to make minor and frequently nostalgic period musicals such as Starlift, On Moonlight Bay, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, and Tea For Two for Warner Brothers, but 1953 found Day as pistol-packin' Calamity Jane in what has become one of Hollywood's most enduring musicals, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Secret Love (her recording of which became her fourth U.S. No. 1 recording).
After filming Young at Heart (1954) with Frank Sinatra, Day chose not to renew her contract with Warner Brothers, and instead freelanced under the management of her third husband, Martin Melcher, whom she married in Burbank on her 27th birthday, April 3, 1951 with the ceremony performed by Justice of the Peace Leonard W. Hamner. Day had divorced saxophonist-songwriter George W. Weidler (*September 11, 1917 – †July 26, 1995) of Les Brown's band, brother of Virginia Weidler on May 31, 1949 in Los Angeles in an uncontested divorce action after marrying him on March 30, 1946 in Mount Vernon, New York, separating in April 1947 and filing for divorce in June 1948. Day's first husband was trombonist-musician Albert Jorden (*February 1, 1917 – †July 1967) from Evanstown, Ohio, of Barney Rapp's Ohio-based band, and later of Jimmy Dorsey's band in New York, from March 1941 at City Hall in New York until their divorce in 1943. Her range of acting broadened to include more dramatic roles. In 1955, she received some of the best notices of her career for her portrayal of singer Ruth Etting in Love Me or Leave Me, co-starring James Cagney. Doris would later call it, in her autobiography, her best film. She continued to be paired with some of Hollywood's top stars, including Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Cary Grant, David Niven, and Clark Gable.
In Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), she sang Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be), which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. According to Jay Livingston, who wrote the song with Ray Evans, Day preferred another song used briefly in the film, "We'll Love Again", and skipped the recording for Que Sera, Sera. When the studio pushed her, she relented, but after recording the number in one take, she reportedly told a friend of Livingston's, "That's the last time you'll ever hear that song." The song was used again in her film, Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), and was reprised as a brief duet with Arthur Godfrey in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). It also became the theme song for her television show (1968-1973). The Man Who Knew Too Much was her only film for Hitchcock and, as she admitted in her 1975 autobiography, she was initially concerned at his lack of direction. She finally asked if anything was wrong and Hitchcock said everything was fine — if she wasn't doing what he wanted, he would have said something.
After the critical and popular success of Teacher's Pet, Day's popularity at the box office seemed to wane, and some critical attention focused on perceived elements of "blandness" in her on-screen persona, although in some foreign markets (Germany, Britain and the Commonwealth), she remained a top box office draw. A dynamic performance in The Pajama Game received warm critical notices, but box office returns were disappointing. In the case of The Tunnel of Love and It Happened to Jane, both the critical and popular response was uneven. As a result, from 1957 to 1959, she was no longer regarded a "Top Ten Box Office Draw" by U.S. film exhibitors. This development may have been linked to a marked decline in popularity of musical films during the late 1950s, as well as to some poor choices in material made by Melcher on his wife's behalf. In addition, Day's popularity as a recording artist was diminished due to the growing popular taste for rock and roll. Que Sera, Sera, for instance, was never a No. 1 hit, being kept from the top by Elvis Presley's recording of Hound Dog.
By the late 1960s, the sexual revolution and promiscuity of the maturing baby boomer generation had refocused public attitudes about sex. Times changed, but Day's films did not. Critics and comics dubbed Day "the world's oldest virgin", and audiences began to shy away from her repetitive roles. As a result, she slipped from the list of top box-office stars, last appearing in the Top 10 in 1966 with The Glass Bottom Boat, her final substantial hit. Day herself found many of her late films to be of very poor quality - her least favorite was Caprice, co-starring Richard Harris) - and did them only at the insistence of Melcher. One of the roles she supposedly turned down was that of middle-aged adulteress Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (a role that went to Anne Bancroft). In her published memoirs (co-authored by A.E. Hotchner), Day said that she had rejected the part on moral grounds. Her final feature film, With Six You Get Eggroll, was released in 1968.
The impact of changing public tastes could be seen in the waning popularity of Day as a recording artist. Albums like Duet and Latin for Lovers garnered critical praise, but little commercial success in the U.S., although sales remained strong in some overseas markets like Britain. Day's last major hit single came in the UK in 1964 with "Move Over, Darling", co-written by her son specifically for her. The recording was a notable departure for Day, with its distinctly contemporary-sounding arrangement and, especially, her breathy and suggestive delivery of the lyrics. It was perhaps for this reason that it was banned by the BBC, and was labelled "distasteful" by senior management. In 1967, Day recorded her last album, The Love Album, essentially concluding her recording career, though this album was not released until 1994.
In October 1985, the state Supreme Court rejected Rosenthal's appeal of the multimillion-dollar judgment against him for legal malpractice, and upheld conclusions of a trial court and a Court of Appeal that Rosenthal acted improperly. In March 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the lower court's judgment. In June 1987, Rosenthal filed a $30-million lawsuit against lawyers he claimed cheated him out of millions of dollars in real estate investments, naming Day as a co-defendant, describing her as an "unwilling, involuntary plaintiff whose consent cannot be obtained." Rosenthal said that the millions of dollars he and Day lost were in real estate sold after Melcher died in 1968, in which Rosenthal asserted that the attorneys gave Day bad advice, telling her to sell, at a loss, three hotels, in Palo Alto, Dallas, and Atlanta, and some oil leases in Kentucky and Ohio. Rosenthal claimed he had made the investments under a long-term plan, and did not intend to sell them until they appreciated in value. Two of the hotels sold in 1970 for about $7 million, and their estimated worth in 1986 was $50 million.
In July 1987, after a hearing panel of the State Bar Court, after 80 days of testimony and consideration of documentary evidence, the panel accused Rosenthal of 13 separate acts of misconduct and urged his disbarment in a 44-page unsigned opinion. The panel's findings were upheld by the State Bar Court's review department, which asked the justices to order Rosenthal's disbarment. He continued representing clients in federal courts until the U.S. Supreme Court disbarred him on March 21, 1988. Disbarment by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals followed on August 19, 1988. The case illustrates the hazards of a lawyer also functioning as agent and manager.
The Supreme Court of California, in affirming the disbarment, held that Rosenthal engaged in transactions involving undisclosed conflicts of interest, took positions adverse to his former clients, overstated expenses, doubled-billed for legal fees, failed to return client files, failed to provide access to records, failed to give adequate legal advice, failed to provide clients with an opportunity to obtain independent counsel, filed fraudulent claims, gave false testimony, engaged in conduct designed to harass his clients, delayed court proceedings, obstructed justice and abused legal process.
Terry Melcher later commented that it was only his stepfather's premature death that saved Day from financial ruin. It remains unresolved whether Melcher worked in collusion with Rosenthal to pillage her vast earnings, or was himself duped. Day herself has stated publicly that she believes Melcher innocent of any deliberate wrongdoing. In her words, he "simply trusted the wrong person" completely, until it was too late.
According to Day's autobiography, as told to A. E. Hotchner, the usually athletic and healthy Melcher had an enlarged heart. Another factor in his death may be his conversion to the Christian Science religion during his relationship with Day, and his newfound religious beliefs led him to delay going to the doctor for some time. Most of the interviews on the subject given to Hotchner (and included in Day's autobiography) paint a very unflattering portrait of Melcher. Author David Kaufman asserts that one of Day's costars, Louis Jourdan, maintained that Day herself disliked Melcher. Day's own statements regarding her relationship with Melcher belie that assertion.
Upon her husband's death, Day learned that he had committed her to a TV series, which became The Doris Day Show. "It was awful," Day told OK! Magazine in 1996. "I was really, really not very well when Marty passed away, and the thought of going into TV was overpowering. But he'd signed me up for a series. And then my son Terry took me walking in Beverly Hills and explained that it wasn't nearly the end of it. I had also been signed up for a bunch of TV specials, all without anyone ever asking me."
Day hated the idea of doing television, but felt obligated. "There was a contract. I didn't know about it. I never wanted to do TV, but I gave it 100 percent anyway. That's the only way I know how to do it." Melcher died on April 20, 1968, and the first episode of the TV show was aired on September 24, 1968.
From 1968 to 1973, The Doris Day Show aired with "Que Sera, Sera" as its theme song. Day grudgingly persevered as long as she needed the work to help pay off her debts, and only after CBS had ceded creative control to Day and her son. The show was so successful that it ran for five years. It also functioned as a lead-in to the hugely popular Carol Burnett Show. Despite its successful run, today Day's show is chiefly remembered for its abrupt changes in casting and premise from season to season. It has not been as widely syndicated as many of its contemporaries, and has been little seen in markets outside the U.S. and Britain.
By the end of the TV series in 1973, Day was approaching 50, and public tastes had changed to such a degree that her firmly established wholesome persona was now completely out of fashion. She essentially retired from acting when The Doris Day Show ended, but her popularity is widespread to this day. In addition to her series, Day completed two TV specials, The Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff Special in 1971 and Doris day toDay in 1975. She also appeared in one of John Denver's TV specials (1974), parodying her (and his) sunny public image to good effect.
In 2006, The Humane Society of the United States merged with the Doris Day Animal League. Staff members of the Doris Day League took positions within The HSUS, and Day recorded some public service announcements for The HSUS, which is now managing Spay Day USA, the one-day spay neuter event she originated some years before.
After her autobiography was published, Day was married one more time, also ending in divorce.
The revelations contained in the book about Day's private life, and the testimony of many of her friends about aspects of her life and career (most were scathing with regard to husband number three Marty Melcher) helped to make the book a bestseller. In promoting the book, Day caused a stir by rejecting the "girl next door" and "virgin" labels so often attached to her. As she remarked in her book, "The succession of cheerful, period musicals I made, plus Oscar Levant's widely publicized remark about my virginity ('I knew Doris Day before she became a virgin') contributed to what has been called my 'image,' which is a word that baffles me. There never was any intent on my part either in my acting or in my private life to create any such thing as an image." In an interview with Barbara Walters, she commented, "I don't know where that label came from. Maybe it's the way I look. Do I look like a virgin?" In later interviews, Day went on to say she believed people should live together prior to marriage, something that she herself would do if the opportunity arose. Her candor won her admiration among reviewers and possibly contributed to the book's success. At the conclusion of this book tour, Day seemed content to focus on her charity and pet work and her business interests. (In 1985, she became part-owner of the Cypress Inn in Carmel, California.)
The mid-1980s saw a renewed period of activity. In May 1983, she became a grandmother, and in 1985 briefly hosted her own talk show, Doris Day's Best Friends on CBN. The show generated unexpected press when her old friend Rock Hudson appeared in the first episode. Day was taken aback by Hudson's emaciated frame, as he had always been in top physical condition. Soon after, she and the world learned that he was dying of AIDS. Day and Hudson were good friends off-screen, but she would later claim she never knew he was gay. Despite the world-wide publicity the show received, it was canceled after 26 episodes.
Her son Terry first made a brief attempt to become a surf music singing star, then he became a staff producer for Columbia Records in the 1960s, and was famous for producing some latter day recordings by The Beach Boys and The Byrds. In November 2004, after a long period of illness, he died from complications of melanoma (skin cancer), aged 62.
During the 1990s, interest in Day grew. The release of a greatest hits CD in 1992 garnered her another entry onto the British charts, while the inclusion of the song "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" in the soundtrack of the Australian film Strictly Ballroom gained her new fans.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the progressive release of her films and TV series and specials on DVD fed into this renewal of interest in her work, a fact underlined by the development of new websites devoted to Day and a growing number of academic texts analyzing various aspects of her career. In 2006, Day recorded a commentary for the DVD release of the fifth (and final) season of her TV show. Day in recent years also participated in telephone interviews with a radio station that celebrates her birthday with an annual Doris Day music marathon. These interviews have been podcast and are currently downloadable.
In 2004, Doris Day was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom but declined to attend the ceremony because of a fear of flying. She turned down a tribute offer from the American Film Institute, but did receive, and went to Los Angeles to accept, the Golden Globe's Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in 1989. The actress did not accept an invitation to be a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors for undisclosed reasons. Liz Smith, a long-time entertainment gossip columnist, and movie critic Rex Reed have mounted vigorous campaigns attempting to drum up support for an honorary Academy Award for Day to herald her spectacular film career and her status as the top female box-office star of all time.
Day was honored with a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in Music in February 2008.
Two new biographies, coincidentally bearing the same cover photograph, were published in June 2008. Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door (Virgin Books) by David Kaufman, and Doris Day: Reluctant Star (JR Books) are "reputed" to tell Day’s "incredible, previously untold story."
At the time, some stations affiliated with the ABC Radio Networks were broadcasting the song when newscaster Don Gardiner broke in with the very first network broadcast bulletin of the incident. An excited Gardiner initially stated only that three shots were fired at Kennedy's motorcade, and would confirm the President's death in a subsequent update. The network, which in those days fed popular music programming during the day to affiliates wishing to take the feed, did not begin continuous coverage until further details unfolded.