A life in pictures: Doris Day

Katie McCabe

These rarely-seen photographs capture a different side to the actress and singer Doris Day, who was far more complex than her relentlessly cheerful persona would have you believe.

Newlyweds Doris Day and Al Jorden

Doris Day wedding
Doris Day and Al Jorden in 1941. Image via Mary Evan

Doris Day met the trombonist Al Jorden when she was touring with Barney Rapp's band in the 1940s. The first time he asked Doris on a date, she was just 16 and unimpressed by his advances. In fact, she told a friend, “he's a creep and I wouldn't go out with him if they were giving away gold nuggets at the movie!”

Somehow, in 1941, he convinced her to marry him. At the time, she was enjoying huge success with Les Brown, but temporarily left the band to become a housewife. She wanted the kind of stable family life that had eluded her parents.

 

 

“Had we been together more, I wouldn't have married him."

 

 

Together they had Day's only son, Terry Paul Jorden, but the marriage lasted just two years. Al was unfaithful, pathologically jealous, physically abusive and intensely controlling of her behaviour.

When Doris appeared on the Mike Douglas show in 1976, guest Steve Allen suggested that marriages at 17 are risky. Day responded: "Marriages at 40 are risky!” she added, “had we been together more, I wouldn't have married him."

 

 

Christmas with Bob Hope

Christmas with Bob Hope
Bob Hope and Doris Day in the 1940s. Image via NBC

Early on in her career, Day was a regular guest on Bob Hope's weekly radio show. It's said Day's well-known fear of flying came from having a few 'near-misses' on flights when touring with Hope and his crew.

When movie offers started rolling in, Hope was forced to offer her $2,500 above the normal radio salary to keep her on the show. The duo is pictured here during a Christmas radio special with a slightly creepy Santa Clause, in 1948.

The intensity of her radio schedule with Bob Hope, and later Frank Sinatra, supposedly led to a separation from her second husband, big band jazz saxophonist George Weidler.

Read some of the weirdest stories about Frank Sinatra

 

 

Lonely days on set with Kirk and Bacall

doris day
Image via DorisDay.net

For Day, movies were about unbridled joy and escapism; she admitted to avoiding "depressing" roles where she could. But her experience filming the outrageously titled Young Man with A Horn left her with a sour taste.

 

 

Young Man with a Horn (1950) was one of the few utterly joyless experiences I had in films." 

 

 

"I was made to feel like an outsider, an intruder. Kirk [Douglas] and Betty [Lauren Bacall] had gone together once, and this picture brought them back together again, so I guess that had something to do with it."

Here, she's pictured on set with a friendlier co-star, Louise, the cockatoo.

A quote from Kirk Douglas suggests he found Doris just as mysterious. "That face she shows the world smiling, tuned into God. As far as I'm concerned, that's just a mask. I haven't got a clue what's underneath. She's just the remotest person I know." 

 

 

Mother and son

Doris Day and son
Day washing behind her son's ears. Image via IMDB

Terry was Doris Day's only child and was later adopted by her third husband, Martin Melcher. 

Terry grew up to be a successful record producer, and helped shape the revolutionary sound of American West Coast rock music.

He produced several singles for the Beach Boys. Charles Manson once auditioned for Melcher, but the producer refused the opportunity to sign him. Sadly, Melcher passed away from cancer in 2004.

 

 

Doris and her technicolor poodles

Doris Day poodles
Image via Collier's Magazine

This surreal photoshoot for the film April in Paris sums up everything about Day's early 50s musicals: polished, colourful and strange in an indefinable way.

The shot, which shows Day surrounded by five dyed French poodles, originally appeared on the cover of Collier's Magazine in 1952.

 

 

Becoming Calamity Jane

Calamity JAne
Image via Life Magazine

Day has expressed fondness for her "pistol packing prairie girl" character Calamity Jane countless times in her career.

Her public personality didn't correlate with the role of the on-screen seductress, so hammy parts like Calamity Jane or the loveable tomboy Marjorie Winfield from On Moonlight Bay soon became her niche.

In this picture, Day looks beautifully androgynous in the Calamity Jane costume that she wore while singing the film's classic 'Secret Love'.

According to Day, the scene was filmed in just one take. It won the Academy Award for best song in 1954.

 

 

Wardrobe assistance from Mr Sinatra

Frank Sinatra Doris Dat
Image via Warner Bros

By the time Day began filming the musical Young at Heart with Frank Sinatra, her marriage to Martin Melcher had come under serious strain.

He acted as Day's manager as well as her husband, and constantly meddled in her career. Sinatra strongly disliked him. 

While filming with Day, he told Jack Warner he'd leave the set “if that creep Melcher is anywhere on the Warner’s lot. I've heard too many rotten things about him, and I don't want him around."

Being party shy, Doris Day was never truly part of Frank's nighthawk world, but the two worked on numerous radio and film projects together during their careers.

In this shot, the singer is helping Day adjust her outfit in preparation for the Young at Heart shoot.

Frank Sinatra's life in pictures

 

 

Doing the Charleston with Cameron Mitchell

Charleston Doris Day
Image via Silver Screen Oasis

Oscar Levant's famous comment that he knew Doris Day "before she was a virgin," was one that followed her throughout her career.

Studios refused to accept that she was capable of alluring roles, always defaulting back to the rosy-cheeked, bubblegum persona.

Doris worried audiences wouldn't buy her sexy and ambitious character Ruth Etting in Love me or Leave Me, but she soon got into the swing of things, as seen in the 1955 on-set photograph with co-star Cameron Mitchell.

 

 

Two stars on a stairwell

Judy Garland Doris Day 
Image via Floyd McCarth, MPTV

Doris Day struck up a warm friendship Judy Garland while the actress was filming A Star is Born on the same lot as her musical comedy Lucky Me.

This photo captures one of their first conversations, with Garland in full costume.

Upon Garland's death from an overdose in 1969, Day remembered her as "one of the funniest, wittiest ladies I have ever known."

 

 

Celebrating Jimmy Stewart's birthday with Hitchcock

Doris Day celebrates Jimmy's birthday
Image via Tumblr

Alfred Hitchcock's producer tried to dissuade him from hiring Day for The Man Who Knew Too Much, favouring the tone of a more 'serious' actress like Ava Gardener or Grace Kelly.

But she rose to the occasion, giving one of the best performances of her career in a film that contains her most memorable song, ‘Que Sera Sera’.

Unlike other 'Hitchcock Blondes', Day was used only once. During filming, she grew paranoid about his lack of direction, though when she confronted him about it, he told her:  "You have been doing what I felt was right for the film, and that's why I haven't told you anything."

In this set photo from 1956, the cast and crew are celebrating Jimmy Stewart's birthday; why Hitchcock decided to take a firm grasp of Day's calf for the photo is anyone's guess.

 

 

Rock and Day get the giggles

Rock Hudson and Doris Day
Rock Hudson and Doris Day filming Lover Come Back in 1960. Image via Leo Fuchs

As the 60s dawned, the careers of Rock Hudson and Doris Day became two sides of the same screen.

With the phenomenal success of Pillow Talk, they became America's Barbie and Ken.

The release of Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers completed their film trilogy, and later they reunited for TV appearances. The two truly liked each other, and became an instant movie team.

"You know that sweet agony of laughing when you're not supposed to? That's what we had," Hudson said, "I think they added two weeks to the shooting schedule [of Lover Come Back] because of our laughter.

Decades later, Hudson kept a promise he'd made to appear on Day's variety show. It was this appearance in 1985 that alerted the press to his ill-health, shortly before his AIDS diagnosis became public knowledge. He passed away a few months later.

 

 

Me, Mrs Robinson?

Mrs Robinson
In a photoshoot for Good Housekeeping magazine, circa 1960

Doris Day was offered the part of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate but turned it down, she explained in her 1975 memoir, "I could not see myself rolling around in the sheets with a young man half my age whom I'd seduced… It offended my sense of values."

 

 

Doris swaps showbiz for animal rights

Doris Day veggie
Image via Ellen Graham, 1972

In the 1970s, Day quit Hollywood to devote herself to animal activism. As you can see from the t-shirt, she didn't take her campaigning lightly.

In 1978, she set up the hugely successful Doris Day Animal Foundation.

Once, after watching a TV special on the poor condition of LA animal shelters, Day called her ex-boyfriend Ronald Regan, who was then the Governor of California.

To get through the ticker-tape of his 'people' she said, "You tell him it's his co-star from The Winning Team, and he'd better call me back if he knows what's good for him." 

 

 

Happily retired

Doris Day 90

Doris Day marked her first public appearance in more than two decades with a special event for the Doris Day Animal Foundation held in honour of her 90th birthday in 2014.

The immensely private actress let her guard down for the day and agreed to an exclusive birthday shoot with People magazine.

There were even rumours in 2015 that Clint Eastwood had talked her out of retirement for his latest film, but sadly they turned out to be false.

Every year, fans and animal rights activists make the pilgrimage to her hometown of Carmel, California for a Doris Day Animal Foundation fundraising weekend that coincides with her birthday on 3 April.

 

Browse Doris Day titles in our entertainment shop

 

Feature image via DorisDay.net