Backbeat legend: Doris Day

Jul 2019 Backbeat legend: Doris Day

The music and songs of Doris Day 1922 – 2019 – her films awards and her personal life.

Last month, JOHN FIRMINGER looked back at the life of the true legend Doris Day, who died in May. This month, DEREK MEAD recalls her life in music and films.

DORIS DAY was bom on April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati although for much of her life she apparently believed she had been bom in 1924.

However on her 95th birthday her birthcertificate was found with the date of birth 1922. Her father was a music teacher and choirmaster and all of her grandparents were German immigrants; her parents separated and she had two older brothers, one who died before her birth.

In the 1930s, she became interested in dance, although in October, 1937, she was injured in a car accident and her dancing career was cut short. However, she then turned to music, listening to many famous singers of the time with a particular admiration for Ella Fitzgerald, and her mother Alma arranged singing lessons with teacher Grace Raine who had a considerable eff ect on her singing and career.

Doris said Raine had been the most serious influence on her career, including her singing style. She was married four times, all with considerable unhappiness, firstly to Al Jorden and they had a son, her only child, who died in 2004: secondly to George Weidler: thirdly to Martin Melcher, a musician who produced many of her fi lms, and they adopted her son: and fourthly to Barry Comben.

She was a Republican, a practising Christian Scientist, and a vegetarian. After retirement, she lived in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cali-fornia, where she owned the Cypress Inn.

During her life, she had developed an interest in animal welfare, and in 1978, she founded what later became The Doris Day Animal Foundation and the Animal League, which then became part of the Humane Society of the United States. She also opened a centre for neglected horses. The Animal Foundation announced her death on May 13, 2019.

Music and Song
Doris commenced her career as a big band singer in 1939 when she adopted the stage surname ‘Day’ as ‘Kappelhoff was too long. Her fi rst hit was ‘Sentimental Journey’ in 1945, a World War Two anthem for troops wishing to return home. She left ‘Les Brown and His Band of Renown’ to commence a solo career, and between 1947 and 1967, she recorded more than 650 songs and became probably the most loved and cer-tainly the highest-paid singer of the 20th century, usually in the Top 10.

Her major successes during those years were ‘I got the Sun in the Mornin” 1946, ‘Its Magic’ 1948 ‘Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered’ 1950 ‘Its a Lovely Day Today’ 1951 ‘A Guy is a Guy’ 1952 ‘Secret Love’ 1954 ‘Que Sera Sera’ 1956 ‘Move over Darling’ 1962.

Her major LP successes were ‘ Calamity Jane’ soundtrack 1953 ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ soundtrack 1955, ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ 1963.

Her Single Hit Records included ‘Sentimen-tal Journey’ 5 million, ‘Secret Love’ 1 million, plus ‘Everybody Loves a Lover’ and ‘ Move Over Darling’.

Her f lm career lasted for 20 years and included ‘Calamity Jane’ 1953, Love Me or Leave Me’ 1953 – said by many to be her greatest performance, with the soundtrack being a No.1 hit ‘Pillow Talk’ 1959, ‘Move Over Darling’ 1963. She turned down the role of Mrs Robinson in ‘The Graduate’ on moral grounds and Anne Bancroft was handed the opportunity.

After her final film in 1968, she starred in CBS Sitcom ‘The Doris Day Show’ from 1968 to 1973. This followed the death of her third husband Martin Melcher in 1968, when she discovered he and his business partner had squandered her earnings, leaving her in deep debt, and that she had been ‘signed up’ for a TV series and TV specials without her knowledge. Litigation ensued with her involved as a co-defendant, and eventually, she won a multi-million dollar judgement against their lawyer.

Doris Day received many awards from local national and international sources.

1949-1958 – Billboard’s annual disc jockey poll voted her number one female vocalist nine times even though her singing prowess was being overtaken by her box office appeal.

1950 – Voted their favourite star by US Servicemen in Korea. 1951- Became the oldest artist to achieve a UK Top 10 with an album featuring new material.

1955 – It was agreed that she should have received an Oscar nomination for her perfor-mance in ‘Love Me or Leave Me’.

1959-1970 – Nine Laurel Award nominations winning four times for best female perfor-mance in eight comedies and one drama.

1959-1969 – Received six Golden Globe nominations for best female performance in three comedies one drama and one musical plus her television series.

1960 – Nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress.

1981 – Inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She declined tribute off ers from American Film Institute and from the Kennedy Center Honors because personal attendance was required. A campaign was created to gather sup- port for an Honorary Academy Award for her career and status.

1989 – Given the Cecil B DeMille Award for career achievement in motion pictures.

1998-1999-2012 – Received three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards for her recordings.

2004 – Awarded the Presidential medal of Freedom by President George W Bush for her achievements in the entertainment industry and for her work on behalf of ani-mals. President Bush said ‘Doris Day is one of the greats and America will always love its sweetheart’.

2007- Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

2008 – Awarded Grammy lifetime Achievement in Music.

2010 – First ever Legend Award from Society of Singers.

2011 – The Los Angeles Film Critics Association Career Achievement Award.

2012 – The Los Angeles Film Critics Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

She was ranked sixth among box office performers. She became the biggest female film star in the early 1960s and was one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

She said: ‘Diff erent films resonate with viewers for different reasons but the common thread seems to be that my films are uplifting.”

She had been very private after retirement accepting the Cecil B Demille award at the Golden Globes in 1989, with her last interview five years later. The style of her films meant she became someone who stood for a time of innocence – a contrast to Marilyn Monroe.

Her 1976 book detailed her money troubles plus three broken marriages and provided a different picture of a film star. She never won an Oscar but was awarded the Presidential medal of Freedom in 2004.

She starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ singing Que Sera Sera in 1956. She was one of few film performers who was also a pop star.

Her 1953 film ‘Calamity Jane’ was much admired but she suffered a nervous breakdown afterwards. She was very popular with fellow actors as well as her public and Bob Hope said she was the greatest talent he ever worked with.

Her last release the compilation album ‘My Heart’ achieved number one in the UK in 2011.

Finally and soon after her death her foundation said she had requested ‘no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker’.