May 13, 2019

Doris Day: Official Obituary

Doris Day, Hollywood legend and the only woman to hit No. 1 at the box office and No. 1 on the music charts simultaneously, died May 13, 2019, at her Carmel Valley, Calif., home.  She was 97.

She was born Doris Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff, April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She pursued a passionate interest in dance, winning a number of competitions as a girl.  After a serious injury in a car-versus-train collision, a fractured leg that took many months to heal, Day turned her interests to singing. Her mother arranged private lessons to distract her convalescing daughter, and vocal coach Grace Raine saw such a spark of talent in young Doris that she offered lessons at two for the price of one. 

Day began her professional singing career at the tender age of 15, working with local band leader Barney Rapp, who suggested she change her surname to “Day.” Her star rose quickly, and she caught the eye of band leader Les Brown. Day played with Brown for two stints, marrying trombonist Al Jordan, giving birth to her son Terry in 1942, and divorcing in the interim. Day’s first hit with Brown’s band, “Sentimental Journey,” captured the national mood of the day, as World War II veterans returned home.  Time would show “Sentimental Journey” – along with her signature “Que Sera Sera” – to be Day’s biggest hits.

Never an adherent of the Hollywood scene, Day reluctantly accepted an invitation to a party attended by songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne.  Styne was so impressed, he immediately arranged a screen test for Day – and vaulted her into motion pictures. Day’s first film, “Romance on the High Seas” in 1948 with director Michael Curtiz, lead to a string of Curtiz films in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s.  Day took the box office by storm, appearing in romances, comedies, dramas and bio-pics – from the fun and frivolous “Pillow Talk” to the dark “Storm Warning” and the dramatic “Love Me or Leave Me.”  During her three decades of work in film, Day starred in nearly every genre, not just as a singer/dancer but as an actress with superb comic timing, a natural talent for interpreting a role and a gift for evoking emotion.  She worked with many of Hollywood’s greatest leading men – Rock Hudson, Clark Gable, Jack Lemon, James Garner, Frank Sinatra, and Cary Grant – many of whom became lifelong friends.  Her 39 films – many still incredibly popular and shown frequently today -- stand as a testament to her talent.  While Day was honored with many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2008, she never won an Oscar, and many film critics and fans have decried the Academy’s overlooking Day’s talents.

Day’s third marriage, to her agent, Marty Melcher, in 1951, was tumultuous.  His sudden death in 1968 ultimately revealed he and a business partner had squandered Day’s earnings, leaving her nearly bankrupt.  Reluctantly, Day entered the world of television, honoring a TV contract for “The Doris Day Show” (1968-1973) that Melcher had signed on to without Day’s knowledge. A consummate professional, Day set her personal troubles aside, and went on to win a Golden Globe for the series, and to produce two television specials before retiring from Hollywood entirely.

Day’s music continues to attract new fans worldwide. The 2011 release of “My Heart,” a compilation of songs Day had previously recorded but never before released, went to No. 1 in the United Kingdom. 

In the 30 years since she exited the limelight, Day has focused her energies on the Doris Day Animal Foundation and the Doris Day Animal League; the latter is now run by the Humane Society of the United States.  Day’s lifelong compassion for and kinship with animals compelled her to fight animal testing and to advocate for spay/neuter education and outreach programs in the U.S.  Her Spay Day program, which began on a local level, has gone international in recent years, with World Spay Day providing thousands of free or reduced-cost spay and neuter surgeries in 75 countries.  The Doris Day Animal Foundation continues to provide support to smaller rescue organizations nationwide, with a special focus on those assisting senior pets.

Doris’ wishes were that she have no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker.  Friends and fans wishing to remember Doris Day, are encouraged to visit