While Doris Day is probably more known for her musical start or most known for her big screen success, it is her titular sitcom that kept her in business and out of debt. Day lived nearly a century, dying at the age of 97. Although she only recently learned of her actual birth date via The Associated Press and The Ohio Office of Vital Statistics, she has always touted the axiom “age is just a number”. In her later years she officially established the Doris Day Animal Foundation in addition to keeping more dogs in her home than the true legal limit.
Day was always artistically inclined. As a child she dreamed of being a dancer, but when a bad car accident left Day in a hospital and she found herself singing along to the radio, a new dream was born. She found success as a “big band girl singer” in Les Brown’s ensemble before being tapped for her first big film role by Warner Brothers at a Hollywood party. Through the late 1940s to the mid-1960s she starred in a series of films spanning Hitchcock features to musical comedies. The Doris Day Show first came on the air in 1968 and it saved her in several ways.
Despite multiple marriages, divorces, and affairs, Day managed to cultivate a public image of “the girl next door” that lasted well into her middle age. While none of her marriages were successful, per se, her third foray into monogamy, with Martin Melcher, was particularly disastrous financially. Unbeknownst to Day, Melcher had swindled all of her estimated $20 million earnings and left her about a half million dollars in debt. He had also signed her on to a television show, ultimately a smart move.
Another reason the switch to the silver screen was good for Day was for the maintenance of her virginal persona. As the times changed, so did ratings, and they increased with more graphic sex, something with which Day was not comfortable. According to the New York Times, at one point Day was offered the notorious role of Mrs. Robinson from 1967’s The Graduate. Clearly she turned down the role, which earned Anne Bancroft an Academy Award nomination, because it “offended [her] sense of values”. The Doris Day Show earned two Golden Globe nominations over five seasons, one of which was for her, so it would seem she and it also fared well.
She had one son, Terry Melcher, who passed away in 2004. She is survived by at least one grandson.
Amazon Prime subscribers can watch all five seasons of The Doris Day Show.