Monday, May 13, 2019

Doris Day

"My public image is unshakably that of America's wholesome virgin, the girl next door, carefree and brimming with happiness.  An image, I can assure you, more make-believe than any film part I ever played.  But I am Miss Chastity Belt, and that's all there is to it."
Doris Day, in "Doris Day: Her Own Story," a 1976 book by A.E. Hotchner based on a series of interviews conducted with Ms. Day

Legendary actress Doris Day passed away today, May 13, 2019.  She was 97.  A celebrated singer and actress, she truly defined an era of film.  She was the biggest female star of the early 1960s and ranked sixth among box-office performers by 2012.  Day received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Legend Award from the Society of Singers, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and received the Cecil B. Demille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.  In 2004, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

In tribute at for that award, President Bush would say, "In the years since, she has kept her fans and shown the breadth of her talent in television and the movies.  She starred on screen with leading men from Jimmy Stewart to Ronald Reagan, from Rock Hudson to James Garner.  It was a good day for America when Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio decided to become an entertainer.  It was a good day for our fellow creatures when she gave her good heart to the cause of animal welfare.  Doris Day is one of the greats, and America will always love its sweetheart."

Through it all, she was known for an image that was never exactly a perfect fit.

"The succession of cheerful, period musicals I made, plus Oscar Levant's highly publicized comment 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 perhaps the film she is most well-known for, Pillow Talk, the entire conceit of the film was designed as a way to show an unmarried man and woman in bed while getting around the Motion Picture Production Code.  She portrayed many working women at a time when that went against the norm.  She worked in greater dramatic works like Love Me or Leave Me, The Man Who Knew Too Much with Hitchcock, and Midnight Lace.  Her personal life was even more removed from this image.  Day was married four times, which carried their fair share of heartache.  Her first husband was abusive.  Her third husband's death revealed he had squandered most of her earnings leaving her deeply in debt.

Day retired from film after With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968.  After a short stint in television, she focused primarily on her music and on animal activism.  Day co-founded Actors and Others for Animals in 1971, as well as the Doris Day Pet Foundation (now Doris Day Animal Foundation) in 1978, and the Doris Day Animal League in 1987.  Day actively lobbied for legislation designed to safeguard animal welfare and originated what would become the World Spay Day.

Though reserved and removed from the public life, she had not become a recluse in later life, despite reports to the contrary.  Instead, she found a quiet life she appreciated.  "I've been blessed with good health, great friends, a wonderful career and many precious four-leggers.  I'm very grateful." Day revealed in her last exclusive interview with Closer Weekly, released just after her birthday in April this year.

Through Day's life, we see the kind of positive outlook and attitude that made her signature song so powerful.

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

We don't know what the future will bring.  We can only hope to face it with half as much grace and fortune as she did.

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