The post World War II period brought out some of the finest musical entertainers in this century, but one of those not only enhanced her careerthrough her singing, but also with her talent as an actress in the film industry. Doris Day was born Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff on April 3, 1924 in the middle class Cincinnati suburb of Evanston, Ohio to first generation American parents, Frederick Wilhelm (William) and Alma Sophia Welz, whose parents had immigrated from Germany. Her mother named her Doris after her favorite silent film star, Doris Kenyon, and her professional name “Day” was suggested by a local bandleader, Barney Rapp, because she frequently sang a requested song entitled “Day After Day” and also felt von Kappelhoff was inappropriate for a professional stage name. Doris expressed dissatisfaction with the name “Day,” likening it to the headliner at the Gaiety Burlesque House in Cincinnati.
Her father was a piano and violin music teacher, St. Mark’s Catholic Church organistand choral master who enjoyed classical music and listening to the opera. Conversely, her mother loved the sounds of Country and Western music as well as Hillbilly tunes and later worked in the Welzfamily bakery. As achild she attended ballet and tap dancing schools atthe Hessler Dancing School and by 1936, she and dancing partner Jerry Doherty had won a local amateur contest enabling them to travel to Hollywood and advance their careers with the prestigious and professional Fanchon and Marco stage show. Her parents divorced in 1934 and her mother played a dominant role in directing her career. The family returned to Cincinnati and moved their belongings to Hollywood to further advance their dauaghters’ careers by touring with the Fanchon and Marco vaudeville circuit.
On October 13, 1937, the car Day was riding in became involved in an accident with a train in Hamilton, Ohio. The accident shattered her right leg and inflicted a double compound fracture. Her condition was further exacerbated during a lengthy 14 month recuperation when she fell causing additional damage to her leg. The second injury served as a catalyst for her to begin studying singing and abandoning any hopes of furthering her dancing career. She was kept away from attending school and turned to the radio where the voice of Ella Fitzgerald helped inspire her to develop her singing voice. Her mother took her to Grace Raine, a local voice coach, where she took three lessons a week. Through contacts Raine had with local radio station WLW, Day appeared in a 1938 radio show without pay. A local band leader, Barney Rapp, heard her on the air and before long, she was appearing for $25 a weekat his newly opened Cincinnati nightclub “The Sign of the Drum,” choosing her over 200 artists who had auditioned for him.
In 1939, Raine also encouraged her to audition for Bob Crosby’s orchestra and his “Bobcats” in Chicago atthe Blackhawk Club where she remained for three months during that summer. During a later Crosby gig at the Strand Theater in New York City, she was noticed by bandleader Les Brown and his “Band of Renown.” She left Crosby and joined Brown where she remained from 1939 until 1941 when she married herfirst husband, Al Jorden, a trombonist from Rapp’s Ohio based band, who had gone to New York as a member of the Jimmy Dorsey Band. The marriage was marked by frequent physical abuse, crazed jealousy and stalking. Her only child, Terry, was born in 1942. They divorced in 1943.
Day returned to Cincinnati and again appeared on WLW radio and later rejoined Les Brown and his traveling band in 1943 in Columbus, Ohio. She remained with Brown until 1946 and during that period had two number one recordings, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time” and “Sentimental Journey”, which eventually became Brown’s theme song. She had 12 charted hits while working with Brown.
She married George Weidler, a saxophonist musician, in 1946. She also left Brown’s orchestra and went with Weidler to his home state of California in search of work in Los Angeles. Eight months later she was performing
Born Doris Mary Anne von Kapplehoff, April 3, 1924, in Cincinnati, Oh; daughter of Frederick Wilhelm (a piano and violin music teacher and a church choral master) and Alma Sophia (a homemaker and bakery worker); maiden name, Welz) von Kappelhoff; married Al Jorden (a musician) 1941 (divorced 1942); married George Weidler (a musician) 1946 (divorced 1949); married Marty Melcher (entertainment agent) April 3, 1951 died 1968; married Barry Comden (restaurant employee) 1976 (divorced 1981); children (first marriage) Terry, a son, later adopted by Melcher. Education: Attended Hessler School of Dancing in Cincinnati, Oh. Attended Fanchon and Marco School, Los Angeles, Ca. and studied dancing under the direction of Mr. Louis DaPron. Day received vocal lessons for Grace Raine, a local voice teacher from Cincinnati, Oh.
Performed on WLW radio, Cincinnati, Oh. 1938; Joined Bob Crosby’s Orchestra, Chicago, II. 1939; Performed with Les Brown & his Orchestra 1939-41; Returned to WLW radio in 1942; Rejoined Les Brown & his Orchestra 1943-46; Signed with Columbia Records 1947 and continued her affiliation until 1972; Made her film debut with Warner Brothers 1948; Made 38 additional films for Warner Brothers, MGM, Paramount, and Universal Studios from 1948-68. host of television programs The Doris Day Show, 1968 and Doris Day’s Best Friends 1985.
Addresses: Ms. Doris Day, P. O. Box 223163, Carmel, CA. 93921.
in New York and received a devastating letter from Weidler informing her that their marriage was over. She returned to Los Angeles but they could not reconcile their differences and they divorced in 1949. Weidler later played with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and formed his own band in the early 1950s.
In 1948 she auditioned for the part of Georgia Garrett, a singer in a sleazy nightclub for the Warner Brothers film “Romance On the High Seas.” She won the part after singing “Embraceable You” and it opened the doors and paved the way for her to becoming a celebrated singer and the top box office motion picture star in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two of her biggest hits, “It’s Magic” and “Put ‘em in a box, tie it with a ribbon, and throw it in the deep blue sea,” written by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne were major contributions to the recording industry. Her single of “It’s Magic” topped over a million in sales and remained on the Hit Parade for many weeks. “Romance On the High Seas” was also nominated for an Academy Award for its film score. Sammy Cahn recalls. “I’ll remember this to my grave…. We all walked into a room to see the screen tests. The first screen test was Marion Hutton’s. Then came Janis Paige. Then on the screen came Doris Day. I can only tell you, the screen just exploded. There was absolutely no question, a great star was born, and the rest is history.”
Over the next 20 years, Day appeared in 39 films including at least one film each year from 1948 through her last role in “With Six You Get Egg Roll” in 1968 with actor Brian Keith. She showed her versatility by playing roles in suspense films, musicals, and a variety of comedies opposite actors such as Clark Gable, Rex Harrison, Danny Thomas, Stephen Boyd, Rock Hudson, Rod Taylor, James Cagney, Louis Jordan, Robert Cummings, James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Jack Carson, Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Peter Graves, Stephen Boyd, Kirk Douglas, Ronald Reagan, David Niven, and singer actors, Frank Sinatra, John Raitt, Ray Bolger, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel and Gordon MacRae.
In the early 1950s, actor Ronald Reagan divorced actress wife Jane Wyman and began to date Day at about the time they were making the film “The Winning Team,” a biography of baseball great, Grover Cleveland Alexander of the St. Louis Cardinals. They dated but Day had already changed agents in 1950 and had become involved with her new agent, Marty Melcher, who had entered in divorce proceedings with his wife, Patty Andrews, of the famous Andrews Sisters. Melcher was a one time music song plugger from Leeds Music Company.
On April 3, 1951 they were married on her twenty-seventh birthday in a Burbank, California civil ceremony. Melcher later adopted Doris’s son Terry and his name was changed to Terry Melcher. The marriage appeared initially to be made in heaven but as the years passed, many thought the reason Melcher married Day in the first place was to gain control of her money. The very fine father-son relationship that began with Marty Melcher and Terry dissolved over the years and deep resentment set in between the two men.
Her work in films frequently produced top hits. In 1953 Day played the lead role in the lively western musical, “Calamity Jane”, and an Academy Award was given to Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster for their composition, “Secret Love.” Day’s recording made it a top hit with sales in the seven figures. In 1955 she appeared in “Love Me or Leave Me”, a biography of 1920s singer Ruth Etting opposite James Cagney. Day’s motion picture soundtrack recording became a number one best seller and Sammy Cahn and Nicholas Brodszky’s “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” also became a hitfor her. In 1956, she starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense drama, “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and sang “Que Sera, Sera” winning an Academy Award for songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. The song became a number one hit and sold over a million copies. In 1961, she appeared opposite actor Rock Hudson in “Pillow Talk” and received an Academy Award nomination. The awards were given for best screenplay and story for this imaginative sex comedy about two people sharing a party line without knowing each other’s identity. Day turned down the role of “Mrs. Robinson” in the film “The Graduate” because she felt it was not a favorable fit with her artistic talent. Anne Bancroft later went on to win an Academy Award for the role.
At the same time Day was making Hollywood films, she engaged in recording hundreds of singles and albums for Columbia Records that began in 1947 with her first 78 rpm singles through 1972 collaborating with arranger/conductors Paul Weston and Frank DeVol. During the 1950s she frequently teamed with male artists from the Columbia label including Johnny Ray, Don Cherry, Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Andre Previn and her first gold duet hit with Buddy Clark, “Confess.” Clark was killed in a private airplane when it crashed on a Los Angeles street the year after their big hit “Confess.” During the period 1949-55, eight of her albumscharted and only one did not reach the top five.
When third husband Marty Melcher died in 1968 at age 52, she learned that he had committed her to a television show without her knowledge. But the news was even worse when son Terry acting as administrator for Melcher’s estate, learned that Melcher had squandered millions of dollars of her money on “hair brain” get rich schemes and she was nearly a half a million dollars in debt. Melcher had been fooled by entrusting her financial assets to a lawyer who provided false, misleading and inaccurate financial information directly leading to the losses. Broke and needing money, she agreed to host a television series the, “Doris Day Show,” on the Columbia Broadcasting System, (CBS) from 1968 to 1973 and later “Doris Day’s Best Friends” on CBS from 1985-86.
In 1976 she married for a fourth time to Barry Comden, who she had met at a Beverly Hills restaurant where he worked as a greeter. After a tempestuous marriage, they were divorced in 1981. Afterward, she became very interested in the welfare of animals and formed several organizations including the Doris Day Pet Foundation and Doris Day Animal League, which is located in Washington, D. C, and serves as a direct lobbying group for the welfare of animals. Day relocated to a scenic eleven acre estate at Carmel, California, which she shares with numerous dogs and cats and affectionately calls it “Casa Loco.” She has been known for her reclusiveness and rarely makes a public appearance. Her contributions to the music and film industry have made her an American icon forever.
Day by Day, Columbia, 1957.
Sentimental Journey, Columbia, 1965.
Love Him, Columbia, 1964.
Day by Night, Columbia, 1957.
Bright and Shiny, Columbia, 1960.
Love Me or Leave Me, Columbia, 1955.
Young At Heart, Columbia, 1955.
Cuttin’ Capers, Columbia, 1959.
Listen to Day, Columbia, 1960.
Que Sera Sera, Bear Family, 1994.
Secret Love, Bear Family, 1995.
Move Over Darling, Bear Family, 1996.
Romance on the High Seas, Warner Brothers, 1948.
Calamity Jane, Warner Brothers, 1953.
Love Me or Leave Me, MGM Studios, 1955.
The Man Who Knew Too Much, Paramount, 1956.
Pillow Talk, Universal Studios, 1959.
Clarke, Donald, Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Penguin Books Ltd. 1989.
Gammond, Peter, The Oxford Companion to Popular Music, Oxford Univ. Press 1993.
Guiness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 2, 1992-94
Hotchner, A. E., Doris Day, Her Own Story, William Morrow &Co., Inc. 1976.
Laredo, Joseph F., Doris Day-It’s Magic-1947-50- Bear Family Records-1992.
Laredo, Joseph F., Doris Day-Secret Love-1951-55 -Bear Family Records-1994.
Laredo, Joseph F., Doris Day-Que’Sera’-1956-59- Bear Family Records-1995.
Laredo, Joseph F., Doris Day-Move Over Darling-1960-67- Bear Family Records, 1996.
Lax, Roger & Frederick Smith, The Great Song Thesaurus, Oxford Univ. Press, 1989.
Maltin, Leonard, Movie & Video Guide, The Penguin Group, 1995.
Osborne, Jerry, Rockin Records, Antique Trader Books, 1996.
Whitbum, Joel, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits -Billboard Publications Inc. 1996.
—Francis D. McKinley
McKinley, Francis. "Day, Doris." Contemporary Musicians. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (September 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3494200021.html
McKinley, Francis. "Day, Doris." Contemporary Musicians. 1999. Retrieved September 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3494200021.html
Nationality: American. Born: Doris von Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, 3 April 1924. Education: Attended Withrow High School, Cincinnati; Fanchon and Marco Dance School, Los Angeles, 1937. Family: Married 1) Al Jorden, 1941 (divorced 1942), son Terry; 2) George Weidlen, 1947; 3) Martin Melcher, 1951 (died 1968); 4) Barry Comden, 1976. Career: 1940—singer with Bob Crosby's band in Chicago; 1940–46—singer in Les Brown's band; also became successful recording star; 1947–48—under personal contract to director Michael Curtiz, made film acting debut in Romance on the High Seas; contract with Warners; 1948—appeared with Bob Hope on weekly radio shows and concert tours; 1955—contract with Warner
Brothers expired; formed Arwin Productions; 1968—discovered life earnings had been mismanaged and embezzled after death of manager-husband Melcher, sued former lawyer for $22 million; won suit, 1974; 1968–73—star of TV series The Doris Day Show; late 1960s-1970s—involved in animal causes; 1985—host of TV show Doris Day and Friends.
Films as Actress:
Romance on the High Seas (Curtiz) (as Georgia Garrett)
My Dream Is Yours (Curtiz) (as Martha Gibson); It's a Great Feeling (Butler) (as Judy Adams)
Young Man with a Horn (Young Man of Music) (Curtiz) (as Jo Jordan); Tea for Two (Butler) (as Nanette Carter); The West Point Story (Del Ruth) (as Jan Wilson); Storm Warning (Heisler) (as Lucy Rice)
The Lullaby of Broadway (Butler) (as Melinda Howard); On Moonlight Bay (Del Ruth) (as Marjorie Winfield); I'll See You in My Dreams (Curtiz) (as Grace LeBoy Kahn); Starlift (Del Ruth) (as Herself)
The Winning Team (Seiler) (as Aimee); April in Paris (Butler) (as Ethel "Dynamite" Jackson)
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (Butler) (as Marjorie Winfield); Calamity Jane (Butler) (title role)
Lucky Me (Donohue) (as Candy)
Young at Heart (Douglas) (as Laurie Tuttle); Love Me or Leave Me (Charles Vidor) (as Ruth Etting)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock) (as Jo McKenna); Julie (Stone) (as Julie Benton)
The Pajama Game (Abbott and Donen) (as Katie "Babe" Williams)
Teacher's Pet (Seaton) (as Erica Stone); The Tunnel of Love (Kelly) (as Isolde Poole)
It Happened to Jane (Quine) (as Jane Osgood); Pillow Talk (Gordon) (as Jan Morrow)
Please Don't Eat the Daisies (Walters) (as Kate Mackay); Midnight Lace (Miller) (as Kit Preston)
Lover Come Back (Delbert Mann) (as Carol Templeton); That Touch of Mink (Delbert Mann) (as Cathy Timberlake); Billy Rose's Jumbo (Walters) (as Kitty Wonder)
The Thrill of It All (Jewison) (as Beverly Boyer); Move Over, Darling (Gordon) (as Ellen Wagstaff Arden)
Send Me No Flowers (Jewison) (as Judy)
Do Not Disturb (Levy) (as Janet Harper)
The Glass Bottom Boat (Tashlin) (as Jennifer Nelson)
Caprice (Tashlin) (as Patricia Fowler); The Ballad of Josie (McLaglen) (as Josie Minick)
Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? (Averback) (as Margaret Garrison); With Six You Get Egg Roll (Morris) (as Abby McClure)
By DAY: book—
Doris Day: Her Own Story, with A. E. Hotchner, New York, 1976; rev. ed., 1985.
On DAY: books—
Rosen, Marjorie, Popcorn Venus, New York, 1973.
Haskell, Molly, From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, New York, 1974.
Morris, George, Doris Day, 1976.
Young, Christopher, The Films of Doris Day, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1977.
Gelb, Alan, The Doris Day Scrapbook, New York, 1977.
Clarke, Jane, and Diana Simmons, Move over Misconceptions: Doris Day Reappraised, London, 1980.
Braun, Eric, Doris Day, London, 1991.
On DAY: articles—
Current Biography 1954, New York, 1954.
Shipman, D., "Doris Day," in Films and Filming (London), August 1962.
Capp, Al, "The Day Dream," in Show (Hollywood), December 1962.
Morris, George, "Doris Day: No Pollyanna," in Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book, edited by Danny Peary, New York, 1978.
Haskell, Molly, "Doris Day," in The Movie Star, edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Williamson, Judith, in Consuming Passions (London), 1986.
Casablanca, T., "The Awful Truth," in Premiere, February 1993.
* * *
Having at various times been ridiculed as the vacuous heroine of not very distinguished Warner Brothers musical comedies in the 1950s or as the perpetual virgin of Universal's sex comedies in the 1960s, Doris Day now finds herself the victim of a critical change of heart; it now appears that she may have been a gifted and unappreciated actress as well as remaining, for most of her career, one of the top two or three attractions at the American box office.
Most of the snide criticism of her work in fact came at the end of it, when from the perspective of the late 1960s and early 1970s Day's girl next door seemed an affront to the less romance-centric lifestyles of the sexual revolution. No such taint affected her career during the years when she was actually acting, when a Doris Day film was consistent with, and a kind of vindication of, 1950s and early 1960s versions of the ideal woman. By any standard, she was one of the great popular singers of her generation, and that talent at times threatened to overwhelm her work as an actress. Her breath control was exact, her diction was flawless, and her tone was beautiful, but her unique talent was that she could evoke great emotion (and in the process spellbind her audience) without obvious histrionics. No one who has seen her first film, Romance on the High Seas, can ever forget the moment when Doris Day first sings "It's Magic." Improving with age, several Day musicals have emerged as the most enjoyable of that genre: a bouncy Broadway transplant (Pajama Game), an energized photocopy of Annie Get Your Gun (Calamity Jane), a surprisingly hard-edged if falsified biopic about Ruth Etting (Love Me or Leave Me), and the splashy MGM musical swansong (Jumbo).
She began her career as a big band singer in the early 1940s; though she now modestly denies it, she was also a fine dancer; most importantly, however, she created a "character"—the American girl, bright, carefree, resilient, honest, caring, tough when she had to be, nobody's fool, unfailingly optimistic. Day's personal life throughout the 1940s and 1950s was far from pleasant; the character she portrayed on screen was indeed just that—a persona, the work of an actress, achieved with great cunning. It was an accomplishment of and for its time, perhaps, but it proved more durable than the exotic showgirls of her predecessor, Betty Grable, or the eccentrics of her successor, Julie Andrews.
That persona was so effectively developed and so convincing that her directors were able to "use" Day in opposition to herself (The Pajama Game) or to inject the "character" into other, mildly inappropriate contexts (Hitchcock in The Man Who Knew Too Much) to achieve a subtle resonance. The great transition in Day's career—from musical star to light comedy performer—is "odd," in retrospect, only if one forgets that persona. At the time of her first great comedy success—Pillow Talk in 1959—Doris Day was already 35 years old, too old for continued success in musical comedies, a form that was dying anyway; her career ought to have ended. Yet the Day persona was so much established in the moviegoer's consciousness, so much what the American woman was then, rightly or wrongly, imagined to be, that Day's transition to another genre was, in fact, both painless and successful; the American girl next door of 20 became the American career girl of 30. The new Day was more popular with the audiences than she had ever been.
Stretching her versatility to extremes may have prolonged her stardom, but whereas Day is irreplaceable in musicals and endearing in comedies, she is often uncomfortable in melodrama. One senses her flinging her emotions haphazardly at the camera. Yet, even caught up in the hysteria of Midnight Lace (whimpering while fleeing in her high heels on skyscraper girders from a gaslighting husband) or choking back tears in Julie (while crash-coursing in flying a plane after her deranged spouse shoots the pilot), Day arouses our protective instincts.
Today, armed with deconstructive works such as Rock Hudson's Home Movies, buffs approach the Day-Hudson comedies with smirking knowingness, as if awareness of Rock's homosexuality somehow invalidated these romantic trifles. While it is doubtful that Pillow Talk or Lover Come Back would ever have had the enduring appeal of Lubitsch's or Sturges's escapist wish-fulfilment, it is time to accept these films not as mislabeled sophisticated farces but as double-standard sex romps illuminated by Day's perky savoir faire. With her bubble-domed coiffure and enviably sleek wardrobe, Day's career gal was as key an identification figure in the sixties as TV's Mary Richards was in the seventies. Playing an independent working woman, Day single-handedly removed the stigma from the word "unmarried."
Contractually bound to repeat herself in films handpicked by her husband (who also obligated her to a TV series without her knowledge, a fact she discovered after his death), Day did not end her film career on a high note. As her beloved image faded due to repetition, in Caprice, and other late sixties films, the soft-focus, time-erasing filters seemed to blur her unsinkable spirit; she became a Doris Day impersonator.
Transcending her late spouse's shady business deals, Day recovered her fortune from an unscrupulous lawyer and now devotes herself to animal rights. Still smashing-looking, she declines comeback offers from Hollywood power brokers and an offer to sleuth in a TV detective series with the same finality with which she once nixed the Mrs. Robinson role in The Graduate. Having conquered every field but Broadway, Day inspires a new generation of devotees who respond to this strong-willed star who outgrew being the girl next door, the career girl next door, and the mature-but-ageless-looking married girl next door.
Doris Day was one of cinema's most popular stars because she synthesized for millions of people a particular kind of dream, but in those moments when she sang, she was something more. In those moments, she was an artist who could take us beyond ourselves.
—George Walsh, updated by Robert Pardi
"Day, Doris." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (September 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406801664.html
"Day, Doris." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. 2001. Retrieved September 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406801664.html
"Day, Doris." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (September 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-DayDoris.html
"Day, Doris." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved September 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-DayDoris.html