Doris Day, Hollywood legend, died at 97
May 13, 2019 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Doris Day, the freckle-faced movie actress whose irrepressible personality and golden voice made her America’s top box-office star in the early 1960s, died on Monday at her home in Carmel Valley, Calif. She was 97. “My public image is unshakably that of America’s wholesome virgin, the girl next door, carefree and brimming with happiness," she said. “An image, I can assure you, more make-believe than any film part I ever played.” NYT obit. Doris Day helped America look at AIDS with empathy and love for Rock Hudson. A life in photos. Doris Day: A Hollywood Legend Reflects On Life
posted by gryphonlover (57 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Que sera sera.

posted by oneswellfoop at 10:11 PM on May 13 [10 favorites]

posted by bryon at 10:13 PM on May 13

whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see... Que sera sera.

posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:36 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

A woman with a big heart; a true champion of animals and kindness in general. RIP, Ms Day.

posted by Halo in reverse at 10:37 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 10:44 PM on May 13

I have always loved "The Black Hills Of Dakota".
posted by rongorongo at 10:45 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


A favorite: "Someday I'll find you."
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:47 PM on May 13

Spoiler alert for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956.)

My first Doris Day was watching the Hitchcock movie as a little kid with my dad. The dramatic conclusion with her son hearing her sing and whistling along to Que Sera Sera has always been the first to come to mind. It was years later that I learned about her animal rights activism and that she lived on the central coast of California.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:51 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


I don’t exactly feel wrecked, but it feels like a ball, like it’s going to build up into something or just churn in me. Rest in Peace.

I remember finding her movies in high school, and they were old then, a bygone era. (A.O Scott on Lover Come Back as one of the ideal romcoms.) I only really learned about her music career after Nellie McKay did her cover album, so everything came to me backwards and still only in bits. Such a performer! So boxed in by type, so mistreated by husbands, so able to make comebacks! (The episode of You Must Remember This that touches on her career is quite good.)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:02 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

posted by lapolla at 11:04 PM on May 13

She was born at peak Doris.
posted by pracowity at 11:57 PM on May 13

I am tearfully happy thinking of all the wagging tails that met her at the Rainbow Bridge.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:56 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]

One of my favorite one-liner quips:

Oscar Levant: I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.

posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:40 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

posted by Jilder at 4:26 AM on May 14

posted by filtergik at 4:34 AM on May 14

A friend pointed out that the first living person named in "We Didn't Start the Fire" has now dropped from the first stanza to the fourteenth (with Chubby Checker now) which is a very weird way to look at history and at Doris Day in particular but says something about her longevity and the shadow she cast.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:45 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]

Hey There.

posted by Bee'sWing at 5:00 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

posted by lordrunningclam at 5:07 AM on May 14

posted by drnick at 5:13 AM on May 14

posted by mochapickle at 5:50 AM on May 14

posted by Cash4Lead at 6:00 AM on May 14

When I was a little kid, for a year or so, our class teacher was a very clever and energetic bearded guy who was obsessed with Doris Day. He would find excuses to talk about her and play her records and the fairy-tale-based class plays he devised for us would always include a Doris Day track somewhere, to the confusion of the parents watching. There must be hundreds of now middle aged people in London who know all the words to The Deadwood Stage and can’t remember why.
posted by w0mbat at 6:05 AM on May 14 [14 favorites]

She was also the patron saint of good parking - it's rumored that if you say her name when looking for a spot in Hollywood, a good one will open up for you...
posted by Mchelly at 6:15 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

posted by kalessin at 6:16 AM on May 14

A class act through and through.

See you around, Miss Doris. Say hi to Cary for us.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:41 AM on May 14

posted by Iridic at 6:43 AM on May 14

posted by evilDoug at 6:57 AM on May 14

posted by Gelatin at 7:00 AM on May 14

These days, nothing chills my blood quite like coming across the words "is/was a lifelong Republican" when I'm reading someone's IMDB or Wikipedia page, especially when it's someone in whom I see much to admire, who was so talented and accomplished so much, who did a lot of good with her animal rights activism, who seems to have treated others well even if they might have had to contribute the occasional quarter to her swear jar, whose "Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps" is probably in my top 1000 of most-loved songs. Yeah, yeah, she was of a different generation and the Republican party used to be different... but she still supported Dubya's second election, and I find it hard to excuse that in anyone.
posted by orange swan at 7:07 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]

posted by Faintdreams at 7:35 AM on May 14

A very long time ago I said some disparaging young punk thing about Doris Day and my father corrected me, saying that she had been a fine jazz singer. He had been right about the Beatles and Stones covering old blues songs and who the original artists were, and he could listen to Charlie Parker and tell you what standard the chords were from, but damn. Doris Day? Really?

At the time there was no easy way to go check that out. Now there is, and this is probably my last reminder to do so.

This isn't jazz as played now, but it is the kind of big band dance song where jazz musicians would take solos. She isn't stretching the time much, but she is swinging. So, OK. She was at least one of the ones you would mark down as a hint, a trail marker, an indication that there was something to be found in this direction.

If anyone knows of any better examples of her singing with jazz musicians, I would appreciate hearing of them.
posted by ckridge at 8:07 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Last night, I played "Secret Love" over and over and cried it out.

I had been aware of her all my life, of course, but it was Calamity Jane that made me fall in love. I was tickled to find out that it was her favorite of her movies, as well.

From there it was her romantic comedies with James Garner, David Niven, and above all Rock Hudson, who was a revelation unto himself. It's hard to believe he was new to comedy and thought he wouldn't be any good. It was their offscreen friendship that made him comfortable enough to let go and have fun with it.

High-drama biopics (Love Me or Leave Me), high-stakes thrillers (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Midnight Lace), those lighthearted musicals with real-life boyfriend Jack Carson or boy-next-door Gordon MacRae... it seems like there was nothing she couldn't do, and do perfectly. She always practically oozed honesty; it was impossible to not believe every word she said (or sang).

I'm glad that in her later years it seemed like she finally got some of the peace and happiness that kept getting taken away from her for so long.

But for me, it always comes back to Calamity Jane. It's just plain good fun, with a core of that undiluted honest emotion she conveyed better than anybody.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:24 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]

posted by Melismata at 8:47 AM on May 14

Fun fact: Doris' son was Terry Melcher, the record producer who was introduced to Charles Manson by Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Charlie tried to get a record deal through Terry but it didn't work out, to Charlie's dismay. Terry lived at 10050 Cielo Drive, the ill-fated address later occupied by Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. (Also, "Lover Come Back" as the ideal romcom? Do you know how that movie ends?)
posted by Clustercuss at 8:47 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Ten Cents a Dance, definitely not the "wholesome virgin, girl next door".
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:55 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

posted by radwolf76 at 9:09 AM on May 14

Just Sunday night I brought up Doris Day to my mom. I thought she was only like 92, but wow what a great run.

posted by rhizome at 9:35 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

posted by lungtaworld at 10:10 AM on May 14

I was a junior usher at a local theater for a short while (I lied about my age), and my tenure coincided with a revival showing of "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" starring her and Davis Niven, so I saw this movie about 12,000 times (it seemed). I'm pretty sure just watching her on screen ushered (see what I did there?) me into puberty. Thank you, Ms. Day.
posted by Chitownfats at 10:21 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

If anyone knows of any better examples of her singing with jazz musicians, I would appreciate hearing of them.
You might like Doris Day - Essential Jazz Legends - not all the tracks are jazz numbers but many are. I think she grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald a lot.

A shout out to "A Guy is a Guy" - which is a fucking terrifying song hiding in dressed up with cheery 1952 production.
posted by rongorongo at 10:35 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

I only just saw this one this year - just another nuclear fallout love song... "Tic Tic Tic"
posted by Mchelly at 10:37 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

posted by Splunge at 11:21 AM on May 14

posted by me3dia at 11:45 AM on May 14

Greendale Community College alums: If any of you are in contact with Abed Nadir '15, please for the love of God do not let him near reruns of "The Doris Day Show". Since the only in-show explanation for the frequent appearance, disappearance and alterations of characters and situations in the series is random switching between alternate timelines, the alt-timeline-obsessed Nadir is likely to have another nervous breakdown and possibly even dig up the actress' body looking for dice or trackers.

And he must never know of Maclean Stevenson, before or after MASH. That is all.

(Seriously, she turned down Mrs. Robinson? That's almost Brando-level self+career-loathing.)

posted by zaixfeep at 11:52 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

posted by mordax at 12:19 PM on May 14

posted by Lynsey at 12:25 PM on May 14

I love the randomness of The Doris Day Show! Plus it's actually a well-made contrivance, not an obvious vehicle like The Lucy Show (III). That said, he should also be kept away from Make Room for Daddy, which switched out a wife and daughter along the way.

(Seriously, she turned down Mrs. Robinson? That's almost Brando-level self+career-loathing.)

Wait, does this mean she fucked Joan Rivers?
posted by rhizome at 12:32 PM on May 14

I thought she was only like 92

IIRC, she grew up thinking she was two years younger than she was. I don't know how it got started, but she was truly surprised when someone hunted up her birth certificate and she found out she was born in '22 rather than '24.

Seriously, she turned down Mrs. Robinson?

Patrick McGoohan turned down James Bond for the same reason - he objected to all the casual sex on screen.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:32 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

You might like Doris Day - Essential Jazz Legends yt - not all the tracks are jazz numbers but many are.

This is not available in the US, but I got pissed off, got serious, and eventually recalled that I am an academic librarian, and that academic libraries carry music. (Logocentricity.) I am listening online to some of those holdings now. She seems to have taken what songs she was given and done her best with them. Every so often they give her one she likes. You are right, she had listened to a lot of Ella.

These band photos are hilarious. Forty-two white guys, one black guy in back for the solo, and Doris.
posted by ckridge at 1:39 PM on May 14

posted by nightrecordings at 4:16 PM on May 14

Metafilter often likes Meta things, so I'll note that the goofy caper film 'Caprice' (1967) has a scene in a movie theatre where the movie being screened is the self-refential title.
posted by ovvl at 6:42 PM on May 14

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker: “The Matchless Presence of Doris Day”
posted by Going To Maine at 11:50 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

O, and more A. O. Scott, though this isn’t the official NYT obit: “Doris Day: A Hip Sex Goddess Disguised as the Girl Next Door”
posted by Going To Maine at 12:48 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

RIP Ms. Day.

She, more than anyone else, really epitomized early 60's fashion for me. The color coordination, the frequent outfit changes, the fit of all her clothes; so dreamy
posted by nikitabot at 7:15 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Something probably little-known about her (outside Canada anyway) is that twenty years ago she played a peripheral, passive, and almost certainly unknowing albeit crucial role in stomping out the rise of a populist politician here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:39 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]

"The Doris Day Who Should Be More Appreciated," from Ty Burr in the Boston Globe.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:47 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]

I spent some time thinking about Day after her death and how her legacy is so tarred by sexism, not just in the most obvious ways, but more thoroughly than that. It's something that diminishes the stature of so many actresses for having worked in movies in an era where sexual mores are were so different than that we might better hope to aspire to today, though still not always reach those aspirations.

While a few of Day's movies can still be enjoyed without too much difficulty, most suffer from being romantic or "sex comedies" with attitudes towards relationships that match their eras, even while maybe slightly mocking them. What makes this difficult is that these were so often "women's movies" and yet they are more noticeably stuck to their eras than the genres more pitched towards men. People watch those "action oriented" genres without being as disconcerted as watching social genres. It isn't that sexism and racism don't exist in the male driven genres of course, just that the driving force of the stories render those things more easily set aside as "problematic" not defining the experience as whole. They are more easily seen as contextual, while social genres are less able to be so for those very things being right at the heart of the film. A "sex comedy" where the gender roles are outdated is hard to watch because that's what the story is about, outdated and often offensive social roles.

Day worked with Hitchcock once, but beyond that she didn't have many major "artists" to work with either. Tashlin and Curtiz, being the only two that really get much notice on their own anymore, and with Curtiz that notice is variable at best. The genre of movies Day made didn't generally get the same level of attention for their art or craft for both being of genres that aren't as noted for requiring it, somewhat falsely, and for being felt less important to have the best directors involved with as they were just social genre films. All these things hit Day's legacy, and that of other actresses, particularly hard. The movies they were given to star in as primary box office draws are now less acceptable for how they handle their material, deemed less important for not having high level behind the camera talent involved, and are just generally felt as being of less important genres than the more male driven films of the eras. All of those things are heavily infected by sexist thinking, both at the time and now. It makes actresses seem even less important than they were and allows them to fade even from memory even quicker than men who weren't as important to the studios or the public in their day.

The Day films best remember seem to be those where she worked with a big male star. The Hudson films of course, as they constitute the strongest link for remembering both Day and Hudson, to the point of thinking of them as something of a pair like Martin and Lewis or Laurel and Hardy, even though they only worked together three times. The Grant movie, in my opinion, isn't very good and ages even worse, the Gable movie isn't that popular and is somewhat ridiculous for Gable playing young. The movies she made with James Garner come off like imitations of the Hudson films, to their detriment. All of the above make of the bulk of the most famous time period of her career save for The Pajama Game, The Glass Bottom Boat, both quite enjoyable, and maybe Please Don't Eat the Daisies which isn't bad.

Her early career is the more varied but more ignored except for Calamity Jane. She didn't have the same amount of starring roles, but she had a wider range of characters to play and worked with Curtiz repeatedly, who gives those films some added flair. Love Me or Leave Me is maybe the one that provides best evidence of her talent, but others are also quite good. Young Man with Horn, On Moonlight Bay, Young at Heart, and her early movies with Jack Carson are all fun, though not just built around Day, but as part of a larger story/group of characters where the sex roles aren't as central to the pleasures necessarily. (Though Young Man with Horn features Lauren Bacall as a lesbian in all but explicit name. as a important element.) It's these early movies that made Day a star, but they don't define her legacy as much as those she made at the top of her popularity. It makes memory of her career seem artificially limited to a more narrow type of role.

That role, interestingly, isn't too far removed from that of Marilyn Monroe in its basic construct when you look at it, though in how each worked from that construct differed considerably. They both tended to play women unaware of their influence on men (Monroe later sometimes only feigning such ignorance.) Both come across as largely disinterested in sex, but Monroe does it from a point of naivety, the masculine ideal of a girl caught in a woman's body unaware of her own sexual allure, while Day comes across as someone entirely competent who just hasn't gotten around to thinking about sex yet, or if she has then only within her own set boundaries of what's acceptable.

Monroe movies often are about men trying to maneuver Monroe to their own ends, where Day movies are about men having to maneuver themselves to fit Day's own wants. They both involve the desire to convince the women, but the method of convincing and the actions required to gain trust run down different paths. Day's movies tend to leave her in control, she is the one who defines the relationships and the larger action of the stories, while Monroe, when she isn't feigning naivety, is about giving herself to the man more directly. (those are generalities of course, they both made movies that don't quite fit that paradigm, but that seems to be much of how they linger in public consciousness.) Day's movies are, within the context of the times, more open to women having control and using it, while also often lingering on the edge of suggesting some alternative possibility if the "right man" didn't come around, frequently showing Day as something of a "tomboy", where desire needn't be limited to conventional partnership for a woman if the men she meets don't live up to her expectations.

Anyway, those are some rambling thoughts about Day and her movies I figured I'd share now that the post is long off the front page so the excess hopefully won't be too annoying.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:09 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]

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