LET’S GIVE DORIS DAY HER DUE
Renowned film critic Molly Haskell said, “I think Doris Day is the most underrated, underappreciated actress that has ever come out of Hollywood.” And Will Friedwald, popular singing guru, says “At her very best, she’s worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, yet she’s never gotten a fraction of their respect.”
Let’s give Doris Day her due.
In focusing on her cinematic “image” of a woman protecting her virtue (in the 1959 movie “Pillow Talk” with Rock Hudson and “A Touch of Mink”with Cary Grant) instead of her career as a whole does her legacy a great disservice.
Doris Day was a popular big band singer with Les Brown when she recorded the iconic “Sentimental Journey in 1945; a top recording artist for Columbia Records with multiple gold records from 1947 to 1967; a movie actress who was a top ten box office draw in the 1960s (with four years in first place); and one of the first actresses to play a career woman on television (1968 to 1972).
In the first half of her film career (1948-1954), Day was under contract to Warner Brothers and was cast in sixteen musicals, in which she demonstrated not only her singing chops, but a dancing ability that impressed even the films’ choreographers.
In the twenty-two movies of the second half of her career (1955-1968), Day appeared in only two musicals, “Pajama Game” and “Jumbo,” both of which were outstanding.
She became the queen of the romantic comedy, and did some heavy drama as Ruth Etting in “Love Me or Leave Me” and her husband’s murder target in “Midnight Lace.”
She most often played a career woman (one of the first actresses to do so), or a widowed or married mother, as in such excellent films as “Teacher’s Pet,” “It Happened to Jane,” “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” and “The Thrill of It All.”
Some of her other movies were inferior, but whenever Doris objected to scripts, her husband and agent Marty Melcher told her she had to do them for the sake of their financial stability. (Little did Doris know then that he was squandering her earnings in bad investments.)
However, she did turn down “The Graduate”, but not because of her “image,” which she could care less about, but because she didn’t want to play a married woman seducing a man young enough to be her son (and as her own son, Terry).
In the words of author Tom Santopietro in his excellent book, “Considering Doris Day:”
“When Doris Day was given the right movie script to act and the right song to sing, she was nothing short of terrific. She was an astonishingly talented woman who could do it all and could do it brilliantly.”
It’s time this great artist is given the recognition she deserves.
– Joan Merrill, producer of the tribute show, “Que Sera! Celebrating Doris Day With Kristi King.”