Doris Day, one of the brightest stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood, died two years ago today, May 13. She was 97.
Day starred in 39 films during her long career, many of which are still popular today. And she collected countless awards during her lifetime, including the President Medal of Honor in 2004.
Day was destined to be a star from birth. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1922 as Doris Kappelhoff, her parents named her after famous actress Doris Kenyon, her website said. Almost as if they knew the path ahead of her. But she didn’t want to act, she wanted to be a dancer. She performed at local venues as part of a dance duo, but a serious leg injury as a teenager ended those ambitions. She had to give up her dream, but during her recovery, she realized she had a talent for singing.
“During this long, boring period, I used to while away a lot of time listening to the radio, sometimes singing along with the likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller,” she recalled.
She began performing with a band at 15 and changed her name from Kappelhoff, which she felt wasn’t catchy enough, to Day. It didn’t take long for her talent to be noticed by record labels. She managed to record two number one hits; A Sentimental Journey and My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time. Her most famous song, however, being Que Sera, Sera from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much.
She continued to sporadically release music for the rest of her life. Her 2011 album “My Heart,” a compilation of never-before-released songs, reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom, her website said.
Hollywood Comes Calling for Doris Day
It didn’t take long for Hollywood to notice Doris Day’s talents and looks.
Sammy Cahn, musical director for many Hollywood films, remembers the first time he saw her on-screen during a screen test for the 1948 musical Romance on the High Seas.
“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 [who ended up with a part in the film]. 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.”
She remained a mainstay of Hollywood until the 1960s when her conservative values clashed with the free-love movement. She turned down the iconic role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate because she felt the material was vulgar.
She stayed relevant with The Doris Day Show, which ran from 1968 until 1973.
Day retired from acting in the 1970s to focus her life on animal welfare. She founded the Doris Day Animal Foundation, where she rescued and cared for animals and lobbied for better treatment of them and against abuse.
She spent the remainder of her life using her powerful voice to become one of the most staunch animal rights activists in the U.S.