Classic Hollywood From A to Z: D is for Doris Day

classic hollywood from a to z

My love of classic film is nothing new. It was instilled in me from an early age thanks to my family. And not just my mom and dad. My extended family were also fans and some of my favorite memories are of visiting my Grandma’s house and watching Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls with my aunt and cousins.

One of the figures that remains universally beloved is Doris Day. From her musicals to her comedies to her recordings the gals (and let’s face it, guys) of our family are huge fans. And for good reason as Ms. Day is a supreme talent and so much more than just the “girl next door.”

Doris Day began her career as a big band singer gaining acclaim for her work with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Can anyone forget her beautiful rendition of Sentimental Journey? Although she is largely known for her singing it wasn’t her first love. When she was young she had ambitions to be a professional dancer but a car accident in which her leg was crushed curtailed this dream.

In 1948 she made her film debut starring in the frothy musical comedy, Romance on the High Seas. While not exactly Oscar-fare it’s a fun comedy co-starring Jack Carson and Oscar Levant. I’ve seen this movie more times than I can count and I’m continually amazed that this is her debut film. She’s truly a natural handling both comedy and pathos with ease.

Following her film debut Doris went on to star in two more pictures with Jack Carson – My Dream Is Yours and It’s a Great Feeling. Neither of these do anything for her or her career but I just had to mention them. Why? Because in My Dream Is Yours she sings one of my favorite songs ever. The hauntingly beautiful, I’ll String Along With You.

After these three films her career started to really take off and she was soon starring in several musicals for Warner Brothers and sharing the screen with such matinee idols as Ronald Reagan, Gordon MacRae, and Kirk Douglas. She also underwent a makeover of sorts and said goodbye to her long, golden locks.

Occasionally she would leave the musicals behind and play a dramatic role with mixed results. On the laughable spectrum is Storm Warning where all the victims of the Klu Klux Klan are white. But there is one dramatic role that makes up for this – The Man Who Knew Too Much where she joined the ranks of the Hitchcock Blonds and performed this impressive scene.

As the 1950’s progressed Doris Day “grew up” on screen. Gone were the light, musical comedies of her youth. Her forte was still musicals but the subject matter had a more serious edge and the girl next door was becoming quite a vamp!

One of her favorite roles came in the film Love Me Or Leave Me the true life tale of Ruth Etting a famous songstress of the early 20th Century. She shared the screen with the great James Cagney and showcased her amazing talent. Love Me or Leave Me is not one of my favorite…mostly because of the dour subject matter. BUT it does have some her best musical moments. Seriously, every song is hit out of the park. Like this number:

Then the 60’s came and Doris Day became the queen of the romantic comedy.

For me, this is the weakest period. Don’t get me wrong…her pairings with Rock Hudson can’t be beat but the remainder of them are interchangeable and by 1968 her film career ended with With Six You Get Eggroll.

It may have been over 40 years since her last film but Doris Day is still going strong. In fact, the other day I was listening to one of my favorite shows Nancy for Frank on Siriusly Sinatra and she happened to be the special guest! She sounds the same just a bit older and it was thrilling to hear her reminisce about some of her favorite roles.

Speaking of favorite roles…here are mine:

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