Legendary actress and singer Doris Day - star of films including Pillow Talk and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much - has died at the age of 97. An icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Day was born in 1922 and first found fame as a singer when she rose to popularity amongst World War II and Korean War servicemen after the release of her hit 1945 song "Sentimental Journey." She made her big screen debut in 1948 as a nightclub singer in the Michael Curtiz-directed romantic comedy musical Romance on the High Seas.
By the 1950s, Day’s star was well and truly rising. In 1953 she starred in the classic musical Calamity Jane, for which she recorded the song "Secret Love," which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. That was followed by a role alongside James Stewart in the 1956 Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much - which featured another Oscar-winning Day song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" - and parts in romantic comedies including Teacher’s Pet and The Tunnel of Love. Some of Day’s most successful films were Pillow Talk - which she starred in with fellow screen icon Rock Hudson and earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress - and Move Over, Darling with James Garner. She made her final feature film With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968 before appearing in her own sitcom The Doris Day Show until 1973, after which she largely retired from acting. In her later life, Day was a passionate advocate for animal rights, setting up the Doris Day Animal Foundation, and lived a private life at her home in Carmel, California, rarely making press appearances.
Variety reports that the Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed Day’s death early in the morning of May 13 at her California home just a month after the actress celebrated her 97th birthday. According to the foundation, Day had been in excellent physical health until she recently contracted a serious case of pneumonia, which resulted in her sad passing.
Throughout Day’s acting career she was often marketed as a wholesome and virginal "girl next door" type, though this was an image that the actress rejected. In fact, a good number of the roles she took on were quite risqué for the time and her personal life was often quite rocky if her four marriages are anything to go by. Nevertheless, Day famously rejected the role of Mrs Robinson, ultimately played by Anne Bancroft, in The Graduate because she found the script “vulgar and offensive.”
Though Day had largely retreated from the spotlight she made a new album, My Heart, in 2011 which featured several previously unreleased songs. Her music has also recently been featured in films including the Peter Dinklage-fronted TV movie biopic My Dinner with Hervé and the critically acclaimed biographical dark comedy I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. Day’s songs also feature in TV shows like American Crime Story, Mad Men and Norman Bates prequel series Bates Motel.
Day is survived by her grandson Ryan. According to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, her wishes were to have no funeral or memorial service. Fans wishing to remember Day are advised to visit the Doris Day Animal Foundation website.
Rest in Peace Doris Day: April 3, 1922 - May 13, 2019