With impeccable diction and powerful delivery, a very young Doris Day was able to front the prestigious big band, Les Brown & His Band of Renown to become a singing sensation. She worked diligently throughout her career to perfect her voice, and was as demanding of her talents as an actress when Hollywood came calling.
Day didn’t take long to showcase her talents in musicals, dramas, and then comedies. In that last category, she spearheaded a subgenre all her own, playing smartly dressed career women whose less-than-romantic love life escalates through a series of miscommunications, misunderstandings, and plenty of double-entendres to titillate audiences while allowing her to be equally wholesome and sexy to 1950’s audiences.
In 1959’s Pillow Talk, that formula worked so perfectly that the movie won a Best Screenplay Oscar, and Day earned her only Academy Award nomination. Teaming with equally attractive and appealing Rock Hudson, the pair became top box office draws through several hit movies, with Day being named #1 world favorite actress several years in a row. Her loyal fan base has not diminished. While out promoting my first movie reference book, Film Stars & Their Awards, I often asked readers who their all-time favorite star was. The answer I received most often was “Doris Day.”
When movie audience tastes shifted from Day’s innocent, teasing sexuality to the more overt allure of characters like Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, Day had the integrity to bow out of the movie limelight gracefully. But her success continued in a third medium, television.
Throughout her career, Day always knew before anyone when she could no longer give her best. Without ever looking back, she always ended each phase of her career at the top of her game, leaving fans and critics with only the most impeccable talents to savor.
And savor they still do. Among Hollywood superstars of her generation, Day is one of the few without a competitive or honorary Academy Award. Yet so loyal are her supporters, that ever hard-to-please movie critics Rex Reed and Liz Smith have pursued an ongoing quest to convince the Academy to give Day a lifetime achievement Oscar.
Heady fame, worldwide attention, and huge paychecks have sometimes left actors struggling to rekindle past glory that has been long gone. But if I’ve learned anything from Doris Day, it’s to remember always who I am, what I have to offer, and only continue giving it when I am at my best.