Freckled faced with an upturned nose, blue eyes, blond hair and an angel’s singing voice, Doris Day was a rare talent. She was one of Hollywood’s legendary leading ladies, a top box-office star who was also a talented dancer and one of the greatest singers of the 20th century.
For a decade, starting in 1948, Day had 30 top-20 singles. In all, she recorded nearly 30 albums. Even so, it was her movie career that spanned 20 years and nearly 40 films – with Day often portraying the wholesome, cute and eternally perky girl next door – for which she’s most remembered.
Virtuous yet undeniably sexy, Day was the uncommon talent adored by men and women alike. Day’s body of work illustrated “how much of an icon she was, how much she became in her own way the female equivalent of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood,” Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote.
Day, who died in 2019, would have turned 100 April 3. To honor one of entertainment’s favorites, we offer 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Doris Day.
1. A household name today, Doris Day was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, to Alma Sophia (Welz), a housewife, and William Joseph Kappelhoff, a music teacher and choir master. Her parents divorced when she was a child. Day lived with her mother.
2. While performing for a local radio station, she was approached by band leader Barney Rapp who felt her last name, Kappelhoff, was clumsy and unappealing. Rapp convinced Doris to change her last name after one of the songs in her playlist, “Day by Day.”
3. Day cited Calamity Jane (1953), where she plays the hard-riding, boastful, and handy with a gun Wild West heroine, as her personal favorite of the 39 movies she appeared in. Day sang "Secret Love" in the movie, a song that became a No. 1 hit for her and won an Academy Award.
4. Married four times, Day briefly dated Ronald Reagan – who she co-starred with in Storm Warning (1951) and The Winning Team (1952) – shortly after his divorce from Jane Wyman.
5. She hated to fly. Her fear took root after several close calls in winter weather while touring with Bob Hope in the 1940s.
6. Day co-starred with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall in three films: Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). In all three movies, Day and Hudson played love interests while Randall played Hudson’s close friend. Hudson feared the “daring” Pillow Talk would ruin their careers because the movie’s plot, he said, “involved nothing more than me trying to seduce Doris for eight reels.” Instead, Day received her only Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her role in the film.
7. Lifelong friends, Hudson called Day “Eunice” because he said that whenever he thought of her as Eunice, it made him laugh. Of Hudson, Day once said, “If there is a heaven, I’m sure Rock Hudson is there because he was such a kind person.”
8. She turned down the role of Maria in The Sound of Music (1965) saying: “I’m too American to play a nun from Austria.” Julie Andrews did just fine with the role. Day also famously turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), a role that went to Anne Bancroft, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
9. Helping animals was a lifelong passion of hers. “They give us unconditional love and ask very little in return,” Day said. “I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same thing about people.”
10. As per her last wishes, there was no funeral or graveside service when Doris Day died May 13, 2019. She was cremated and her ashes scattered in her beloved Carmel, California.
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