When Doris Day passed away at the age of 97, she took a little bit of the world’s wholesomeness with her.
She sang and acted her way through the 1940s and into the 2000s. Her last album released in the U.K. in 2011. My Heart was a compilation of unreleased covers and jazz standards that raised funds for a favorite cause – the Doris Day Animal League.
Day was also known for her animal activism. Called “the dog catcher of Beverly Hills,” she rescued and fostered hundreds of animals over her lifetime.
Internationally admired for her talent, beauty and love for animals, her passing is an opportunity to review her well-lived life. Here are some facts about Day that may surprise you.
1. She loved animals.
In 1975, she announced her retirement from showbiz to dedicate herself to animal advocacy. Her tireless support of her non-profit the Doris Day Animal League means that animals, from the smallest pups bred in mills to wild horses in danger of capture and slaughter, are given a voice.
2. She was kind of a sex symbol.
She may have looked virginal, but her on-screen chemistry with Rock Hudson was palpable. Double-entendres riddled Pillow Talk, and the bathtub scene is an absolute riot. Morning phone sex, anyone?
3. Her son, Terry Melcher, was almost a Manson victim.
The infamous serial killer struck at Melcher’s Cielo Drive home because Melcher, a record producer, wouldn’t get him a record deal. Melcher and his girlfriend Candace Bergen weren’t there, having moved out of the house a few months prior. Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate and others were at the residence instead.
4. She was a teenager when she began singing with Big Bands.
Known for her crystal clear vocalization, she sang with the bands of Bob Crosby and Les Brown, before going solo in 1947.
5. She starred in a string of musicals in the 1950s.
Her characters in such films as Calamity Jane, The Pajama Game and Love Me Or Leave Me were strong, optimistic, wholesome and intelligent – the ideal 1950s woman.
6. Her films in the 1960s, like Lover Come Back and Teacher’s Pet were basically sex romps.
The status of the virginity of her characters was left up to the audience. She sure did flirt a lot and in the end the boy proposes, but it’s a hot ride to the point of matrimony…and presumably the bed.
7. She turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate because she found the part offensive.
Anne Bancroft played the part of the seductress next door instead.
8. Day and frequent leading man Rock Hudson were lifelong friends.
Months before he died of AIDs, he fulfilled a promise to her to appear on her variety show. He was desperately sick, and the world was largely interested in speculating on his personal life, but Day showed him nothing but love and compassion.
Doris Day’s life was long and full. Her sweet, wholesome image doesn’t quite accurately reflect the complexity of the woman behind it, but people escaped into her cheerful movies, television shows and songs back in a politically and socially difficult time – not so different from now.
Day didn’t always throw out a “que sera sera” when life got hard. She persevered, always helping, always moving forward. According to her website, she requested that she have no funeral or memorial of any kind. Friends and fans wishing to remember Doris Day, are encouraged to visit www.dorisdayanimalfoundation.org.
Rest in peace!