Hollywood’s queen of tears… who had so much to cry about: On screen she was the innocent golden girl who could weep on cue, but Doris Day – who’s died aged 97, survived abuse, four failed marriages and the theft of her millions
- ‘Miss Lacrimose’, as she was known, had many unhappy moments to draw from
- The iconic actress endured a wife-beater, financial woe and many divorces
- The singer had a difficult childhood stuck between her parents’ toxic marriage
- Ms Day died aged 97 after she contracted a serious case of pneumonia
Iconic US sweetheart Doris Day has died aged 97 after a battle with pneumonia
Doris Day famously could weep on cue and — for all her image as Hollywood’s ultimate sweet and innocent ‘good girl’ — she had plenty to cry about.
Many actors remember moments of unhappiness when they need to open the tear ducts and ‘Miss Lachrymose’, as she was known in the industry, had many to draw on.
The victim of a wife-beating first husband, she endured a second who couldn’t stomach her success, a third who ruined her financially and a fourth with whom she was deeply unhappy.
Little wonder that in later life she devoted herself to animals instead.
The iconic actress and singer — one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history, and ‘America’s Sweetheart’ in her Fifties and Sixties heyday — died yesterday aged 97.
She was surrounded by close friends at the mansion home in Carmel Valley, California, where at one stage she kept as many as 50 stray dogs.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation said she ‘had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia, resulting in her death’.
According to the foundation, Doris did not want a funeral or memorial service and wanted to be buried in an unmarked grave.
The actress became a huge box office draw after finding success in films such as Calamity Jane (pictured)
Most of her friends and co-stars passed away long ago but she was mourned by her myriad celebrity fans who adored her disarming on-screen charm, not to mention extraordinary singing voice.
‘She was the World’s Sweetheart and beloved by all,’ said actor William Shatner. ‘God bless Doris Day! What a voice. What a legend,’ said singer Boy George.
‘The one, the only, the woman who inspired so much of what I do, I love you, my calamity Jane,’ said fashion designer Stella McCartney, whose father Paul became Doris’s friend in her later years.
‘She was a true star in more ways than one,’ added Sir Paul. ‘I will miss her but will always remember her twinkling smile and infectious laugh as well as the many great songs and movies she gave us.’
With her blonde hair, dazzling smile and perky screen presence, Doris Day became a huge box office draw in films such as Pillow Talk, Move Over Darling and Calamity Jane, sharing chaste love scenes in romantic comedies with Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and James Garner.
But the star endured a difficult childhood that was overshadowed by her parents’ toxic marriage
Although she made 39 films and many TV shows, she is best remembered for a song — Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) — which she belted out to James Stewart in the Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Years later, Day liked to say ‘Que Sera, Sera’ to fend off intrusive questions about a personal life that was the opposite of the sparkling romances of her films.
Although her wholesome, sunny image was a construct of her Hollywood advisors — the pianist Oscar Levant once quipped: ‘I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin’ — she didn’t want to disappoint fans and she played along for years.
She was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in a German neighbourhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 3, 1922 — and suffered an unhappy childhood that was overshadowed by her parents’ toxic marriage.
Her father was a professional musician who hated popular songs — and to bait him, Day’s mother would get the little girl to perform a song he particularly loathed.
Her third husband Marty Melcher was a pushy, greedy movie producer who insisted on having a cut in the proceeds from all her future films
As a young child, she caught her father with another woman, creeping into a bedroom during a party at their home. She recalled crying herself to sleep listening to them. ‘I heard him and I heard her,’ she said.
From her childhood onwards, Doris said she dreamed of being the perfect wife with a perfect husband.
It’s possible she just tried too hard — at least two of her husbands would blame her for the break-up of their relationships while a third would say she was too exhausting to keep up with.
Doris was encouraged by her mother to become a dancer but such ambitions were shattered when, aged 13, she was involved in a terrible car accident.
The car, driven by a friend after a pahurty, became stuck on the rails at a level crossing and was crushed by an oncoming train. One of Doris’s legs was crushed and she spent over a year on crutches.
The only fellow star with whom she stayed closely in touch was Rock Hudson. She claimed she loved him, although his homosexuality would have put paid to any romance
She turned to singing instead. A local bandleader, Barney Rapp, gave her a job and her stage name after hearing her sing ‘Day By Day’.
Doris was just 17 when she fell in love with trombonist Al Jorden who helped her with her singing. They married when she was 19.
Jorden immediately showed a dark side to his character when he punched her on their wedding night, the first of many beatings.
When she became pregnant, he insisted that she have an abortion. When she refused, he hit her in the stomach in the hope that she would lose their baby.
She didn’t, although by the time their son, Terry, was born, she had managed to flee her brutal and paranoid husband.
For all her dreams of being the perfect wife, Doris was hardly the perfect mother. She soon went back on the road with her band and left her mother, Alma, to bring up her son.
Terry — her only child — would later say that ‘mother’ was a word for him that had no meaning. ‘My grandmother was my total parent,’ he explained.
Ol’ Blue Eyes: The iconic actress had on-screen magic in Young at Heart in 1965 with Frank Sinatra
Doris married second husband, George Weidler, a saxophonist, when she was 22. They lived in a trailer park and the marriage lasted just eight months.
It was significant chiefly for Weidler introducing her to Christian Science — a faith notorious for hostility to modern medicine and its insistence that believers should heal themselves through prayer.
Day would say of Weidler: ‘We had a strong physical attraction for each other, but I didn’t realise that it takes much more than that to make a marriage work.’
Even after they split up, they would occasionally reunite for bouts of passionate sex — behaviour that could not be more different from her screen persona and which fulfilled a need she never denied she had for physical relationships.
She was also rumoured to have had an affair with Bob Hope — who she met frequently because Hope’s musical director Les Brown was Doris’s bandleader. Hope nicknamed her ‘Jut Butt’, explaining: ‘You could play bridge on her ass.’
Co-stars such as Kirk Douglas were amazed by her innocent frankness, wondering as they chatted over lunch if she was really being herself or ‘in character’
Without any acting experience, Doris got her big Hollywood break when director Michael Curtiz — looking for an ‘All-American Girl’ —- cast her in the 1948 romantic comedy musical It’s Magic.
He spent most of the time during her screen test wiping away her tears. It was Curtiz who dubbed Day ‘Miss Lachrymose’ for her uncanny ability to cry on demand.
Equally useful was her ability to memorise a script after reading it just once. The film instantly established Doris as a star at 26 and also set in stone — as far as Hollywood publicists were concerned — her image as squeaky clean.
Co-stars were amazed by her innocent frankness, wondering as they chatted over lunch if she was really being herself or ‘in character’.
Doris often played singers and hated lip-syncing so she usually sang live on the set.
In 1951, aged 29, she married third husband Marty Melcher, a pushy, greedy movie producer who insisted on having a cut in the proceeds from all her future films.
He was loathed in Hollywood, where he was known as ‘Mr Day’ for continually interfering in her career, making impossible demands that were usually for himself rather than her.
He pressured her into making various films she had no interest in making, and turning down parts —such as the ‘older woman’ in The Graduate, that she wanted.
Doris, pictured with co-star Ronald Reagan, never felt comfortable being a Hollywood superstar or a sex symbol
They fought at work and in their private life. After he followed her into Christian Science, she complained bitterly that the faith became more important to him than their marriage.
Christian Science almost proved the death of Doris while she was shooting the 1956 film Julie.
Because of their shared religious faith, Melcher refused to let her see a doctor for weeks after she started haemorrhaging for what turned out to be an intestinal tumour.
Eventually, she did see a doctor and had to have a hysterectomy. Decades later, Day — who returned to Christian Science in later life — would alarm friends concerned by her increasing frailty by baulking at taking even an aspirin.
She left Melcher at least once but confided to friends that she needed —more than he did — the sexual side of their marriage.
The star only learned Melcher had swindled her out of her £15 million fortune — leaving with her with debts of around £350,000 — after he died in 1968.
He had also signed her up to a five-year contract for a TV series, The Doris Day Show, that she’d known nothing about — although she accepted the part and it became a huge hit.
Doris was charged with fraudulently trying to evade income tax and the allegation was only thrown out of court when she proved she’d known nothing about what her husband had been up to.
In the end she had a nervous breakdown — one symptom of which was when she dived fully clothed into a friend’s swimming pool — but she eventually won $22 million (£17 million) in damages from Melcher’s attorney and other associates who had mismanaged her money.
In 1976, she married for the fourth time, to restaurateur Barry Comden. This time, Day studiously kept their marriage out of the limelight, not even mentioning him in her Who’s Who entries, let alone allowing him to be photographed with her. However, they, too, ended up divorcing six years later.
All she could say was ‘it is better that we live apart’ while Comden claimed: ‘She kicked me out of bed to make room for her animals.’
Doris had by then retired from showbusiness and public life, devoting her time to her pets and stray animals.
She became known locally as deeply eccentric (although when a newspaper dubbed her a mad ‘bag lady’, she successfully sued).
She would drive her own animal ambulance to a spot where she heard a dog or cat had been run over to care for it, and would appear in supermarkets counting out her discount coupons as she loaded up on pet supplies.
She opened an animal hospital and turned her huge home over to her pets, serving them gourmet food and tucking dozens of cats and dogs into specially-made beds at night. Many dogs would pile on to her own kingsize bed.
Doris never felt comfortable being a Hollywood superstar or a sex symbol. James Garner, who co-starred with her in two films, once described her as ‘a very sexy lady who doesn’t know how sexy she is’.
She largely cut herself off from her old life, not even attending her son’s funeral when he died of cancer in 2004.
Staff who looked after her complained she could be miserly and demanding, not even giving a former PA who broke a front tooth opening a pack of food the money to go to the dentist.
In her later years, all but a handful of her smaller pets had to go as her carers grew terrified one might knock her over and kill her.
The only fellow star with whom she stayed closely in touch was Rock Hudson. She claimed she loved him, although his homosexuality would have put paid to any romance.
When she launched her last TV show — about dogs — in 1985, Hudson was at the press conference.
She was stunned by his shattered physical appearance but, having no idea he had Aids, Doris reassured everyone he just had flu. Hudson died soon afterwards.
The star once nicknamed The Virgin Queen for the purity of her roles went into hiding for weeks, spending most of the time doing what she always did so well: crying.
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