The real Doris was like night and Day


The very name "Doris Day," cheerful as a sunrise on a studio lot, was an invention.

The beloved singer and actress, who died Monday at 97, was a contemporary of Marilyn Monroe but seemed to exist in a lost and parallel world of sexless sex comedies and the carefree ways of Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). She helped embody the manufactured innocence of the 1950s, a product even she didn't believe in.

"I'm tired of being thought of as Miss Goody Twoshoes I'm not the All-American Virgin Queen, and I'd like to deal with the true, honest story of who I really am," she said in 1976, when her tell-all memoir Doris Day: Her Own Story chronicled her money troubles and failed marriages.

There was more to her, and to her career. She gave acclaimed performances in Love Me or Leave Me, the story of songstress Ruth Etting, and in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much.

But millions loved her for her wholesome, blond beauty, and for her string of slick, stylish comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in Pillow Talk in 1959.

Her on-screen chastity was a gag for comedians, but not audiences. The nation's theater owners voted her the top moneymaking star in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964.

It was an easy punchline which would unjustly overwhelm her name and legacy for younger generations who would come to know her only through jokes at the inherent un-coolness of having such a pure image.

In reality, Day was one of the most natural born movie stars ever to grace the screen, beloved by co-stars and directors for her raw gift, honesty and charisma.

Her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll, a 1968 comedy about a widow and a widower and the problems they have when blending their families.

She turned her attentions wholly to the welfare of animals, which would occupy her for the rest of her life.

There were a few would-be comebacks in the early 80s that never came to be, including a Pillow Talk sequel.

She was also offered Murder, She Wrote, and fielded many other requests too only to ultimately withdraw.

Day briefly returned to television in 1985 for the short-lived, animal-focused show Doris Day's Best Friends, which aired on the Christian Broadcast Network.

It is remembered mostly for her first guest, her old friend and oft-co-star Rock Hudson. It was the first time that the world had seen his much-altered appearance, and days later he became the one of the first celebrities to publicly acknowledge that he had AIDS. He died that year.

"I still miss him," she told People Magazine in 2015.

"I think the reason people liked our movies is because they could tell how much we liked each other. It came across that way on screen. He was a good friend."

Although Day was absent from the screen for decades, she was not forgotten. In 2004 she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she said she was grateful for but didn't accept in person because she "didn't fly."

That unwillingness to travel also prevented her from getting a Kennedy Center Honor and others.

She still had enough of a following that a 2011 collection of previously unreleased songs, My Heart hit the top 10 in the United Kingdom.

The same year, she received a lifetime achievement honor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

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