Day, Doris (originally, Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff)

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Day, Doris (originally, Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff)

Day, Doris (originally,Doris Mary Annevon Kappelhoff) , refreshing American singer and actress; b. Cincinnati, Ohio, April 3, 1922. Day’s warm and intimate singing style proved well suited to the romantic ballads she recorded with Les Brown’s orch. and on her own, including “Sentimental Journey,” “Secret Love,” and “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera),” the most popular of the 59 chart records she scored between 1945 and 1962. Her appealing physical appearance and personality allowed her to become one of the few popular singers of her time to cross over to a career as a movie star, appearing in 39 feature films between 1948 and 1968. Initially she performed in movie musicals, but she achieved her greatest popularity in a series of romantic Comédies in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Day was the daughter of Frederick William von Kappelhoff, a church choral master and piano teacher, and Alma Sophia von Kappelhoff. She sang and danced as a child, and attended Pep’s Golden Dance School, among other institutions. By her early teens she was performing in a dance act with partner Jerry Dougherty, with whom she won a local dance contest. The two performed on a vaudeville circuit and made a trip to L.A., where they planned to settle. But on Oct. 13,1937, she was seriously injured in an automobile accident and forced to convalesce for more than a year. She switched her ambition to singing and took lessons from Grace Raine, who helped her gain exposure singing on local radio. This led to her first professional job singing with Barney Rapp and His New Englanders. Rapp suggested she adopt Day as her stage name, inspired by the 1938 song “Day After Day” (music by Richard Himber, lyrics by Bud Green).

Day quickly moved to the more prominent Bob Crosby Orch., then, in August 1940, to Les Brown and His Band of Renown, with whom she made her recording debut in November. But she quit the band in April 1941 to marry trombonist Al Jorden and retire from music. On Feb. 8,1942, she bore a son, Terrence, who, as Terry Melcher, grew up to be a record producer, recording artist, and songwriter. In 1943 she divorced Jorden and moved back to Cincinnati, then rejoined Brown. With the end of the musicians’ union recording ban in the fall of 1944, Brown was able to return to the recording studio and cut the ballad “Sentimental Journey” (music by Les Brown and Ben Homer, lyrics by Bud Green) with Day on vocals. The Columbia Records single hit #1 in May and sold a million copies. It was actually preceded to the top of the charts by its follow up, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time” (music by Vic Mizzy, lyrics by Mann Curtis), another Day vocal, in April. Before the end of 1945, two additional Brown-Day collaborations had reached the Top Ten, and Day sang on four more Brown recordings that reached the Top Ten between early 1946 and January 1947.

On March 30, 1946, Day married George Weidler, a saxophonist in Les Brown’s orch. When Weidler left the band later in the year, she went with him, and the couple settled in Santa Monica, Calif. They divorced on May 31, 1949. Day had appeared on radio in N.Y., and she found more radio work in L.A., initially on the comedy series Sweeney and March, then on Your Hit Parade in 1947 and The Bob Hope Show in 1948. She also made personal appearances, and it was while performing at the Little Club in N.Y. in March 1947 that she was spotted by a talent scout and brought back to Calif, for an audition with film director Michael Curtiz at Warner Bros. Curtiz cast her in the film musical Romance on the High Seas. Released in June 1948, the movie was sufficiently successful that she was signed to a seven-year contract at Warner Bros.

At the same time her solo recording career took off, as both sides of her duet single with Buddy Clark, “Love Somebody” (music and lyrics by Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer) and “Confess” (music and lyrics by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss), became million-sellers, with “Love Somebody” hitting #1 in August. Columbia Records, still her label, followed it with a version of “It’s Magic” (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn), which she had sung in Romance on the High Seas, and it peaked in the Top Ten in September.

For the next six years, Day worked steadily at Warner Bros., appearing in an average of two movie musicals a year, and at Columbia, where she scored an additional ten Top Ten singles through 1954, among them the chart-toppers “A Guy Is a Guy” (music and lyrics by Oscar Brand, adapted from the World War II soldiers’ parody “A Gob Is a Slob,” in turn based on the 1719 song “I Went to the Alehouse [A Knave Is a Knave]”) in May 1952; the million-selling “Secret Love” (music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster), from her film Calamity Jane, in February 1954; and “If I Give My Heart to You” (music and lyrics by Jimmie Crane, Al Jacobs, and Jimmy Brewster) in November 1954; and seven Top Ten albums, You re My Thrill (1949), Tea for Two (1950), Lullaby of Broadway (1951), Moonlight Bay (1951), the chart- topping I’ll See You in My Dreams (1952), By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953), and Calamity Jane (1954), most of them featuring songs she sang in similarly titled films. She also hosted her own weekly network radio series, The Doris Day Show, from 1952–53. On April 3, 1951, she married her manager, Martin Melcher, who adopted her son the following year.

Day completed her commitment to Warner Bros, with Young at Heart, released in January 1955, after which she freelanced for different studios and focused more on nonsinging dramatic or comic roles. While technically a musical, her next film, Love Me or Leave Me, released in May 1955, was actually a dramatic film biography of Ruth Etting, in which Day performed songs associated with the singer. The soundtrack album topped the charts in July, becoming the most successful LP of the year. Her next film was the thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a box office hit released in May 1956. In it she sang “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” (music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans). Her recording of the song reached the Top Ten and sold a million copies.

Day continued to record independent material for Columbia, and her album Day by Day reached the Top Ten in February 1957. In August she starred in the film adaptation of the Richard Adler—Jerry Ross Broadway musical The Pajama Game, and the soundtrack album was a Top Ten hit. For the most part, however, she tended to appear in nonmusical films in which she frequently would be heard on the soundtrack singing a title song under the credits. She scored her final U.S. Top Ten hit in July 1958 with “Everybody Loves a Lover” (music by Robert Allen, lyrics by Richard Adler). It earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Performance, Female. Also in 1958, Columbia released Doris Day’s Greatest Hits, which eventually went gold.

Day’s movement away from film musicals and toward nonsinging roles was bolstered by the success of the romantic comedy Pillow Talk, released in October 1959, in which she costarred with Rock Hudson. It became one of the biggest box office hits of the year and earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. For the next five years, she was arguably the biggest film star in the world, repeating her portrayal of a virginal woman tempted into romance in a series of enormously successful Comédies including Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), Lover Come Back (1961), That Touch of Mink (1962), Move Over, Darling (1963), and Send Me No Flowers (1964). She made one more film musical, an adaptation of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Jumbo, in 1962, and she continued to record for Columbia with diminishing success, though her 1960 single “Sound of Music” (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) earned a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Performance, Record or Track, Female, and her 1964 recording of the title song from Move Over, Darling (music by Joe Lubin, lyrics by Hal Kanter and Terry Melcher) became a Top Ten hit in the U.K.

Day worked less frequently in films and on records after the mid-1960s, doing her final work in each medium in 1967. Her husband, Martin Melcher, died of a stroke on April 20, 1968, after which she discovered that he and her lawyer had squandered her money, leaving her with a tax debt, and that he had committed her to a network television series. She sued the lawyer, eventually winning a multi- million-dollar judgment, and went ahead with the television series, a situation comedy called The Doris Day Show, which premiered on Sept. 24, 1968. A ratings success, it ran for five seasons. She also did two television specials, The Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff Special on March 14, 1971, and Doris Day Today on Feb. 19,1975. On April 14, 1976, she married restaurant owner Barry Comden; they divorced in 1981. In 1977 she founded the Doris Day Pet Foundation, followed by the politically oriented Doris Day Animal League, and she spent most of her time caring for animals and working for antivivisection causes.

In the mid-1980s, Day returned to television for a season on the Christian Broadcasting Network cable channel with the show Doris Day’s Best Friends, which was oriented toward animals. In 1995, Terry Melcher located her last, unreleased recordings from the 1960s, and they were released as The Love Album, but she resisted offers to return to singing or acting.


With A. E. Hotchner, D. D.:Her Own Story (Boston, 1975).


“Sentimental Journey” (1944); “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time” (1944); “Love Somebody” (1948); “Confess” (1948); “It’s Magic” (1948); You’re My Thrill (1949); Tea for Two (1950); Lullaby of Broadway (1951); Moonlight Bay (1951); I’ll See You in My Dreams (1952); “A Guy Is a Guy” (1952); By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953); “Secret Love” (1954); Calamity Jane (1954); “If I Give My Heart to You” (1954); “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera)” (1956); Day by Day (1957); The Pajama Game (1957); “Everybody Loves a Lover” (1958); Doris Day’s Greatest Hits (1958); Jumbo (with Jimmy Durante, Steven Boyd, and Martha Raye; 1962); “Move Over, Darling” (1964); The Love Album (1995).


G. Morris, D. D. (N.Y., 1976); A. Gelb, The D. D. Scrapbook (N.Y., 1977); C. Young, Films of D. D. (Secaucus, N.J., 1977); E. Braun, D. D. (1991).

—William Ruhlmann

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Day, Doris (originally, Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff)

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