Doris Day: Hollywood’s darling: Her Top Movies reviewed
PUBLISHED: 20:35 14 May 2019
Doris Day was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood with a string of hit singles and hugely popular romantic comedies to her name. Following her death this week at the age of 97 we take a look at the films which made her famous
Doris Day, who died this week, aged 97, was the face of 1950s America. Fresh-faced and pure in heart and mind, she represented both the optimism and the naivety of the age. Squeaky-clean Doris Day was the opposite of sexually-charged temptresses like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and the antithesis of the rebellious world of rock'n'roll.
Doris Day was sweetness and light. She was romance, a sweet song, all wrapped up with a happy ending. When Hollywood was turning out brooding black and white dramas like Rebel Without a Cause and On The Waterfront, Doris could be found surrounded with bubbles, in pastel-coloured romantic comedies like Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson and in Technicolor musicals like Calamity Jane.
But, as is always the way, when you look closer at these movies there is more to them than you would think. These pieces of Hollywood confection are brilliantly made. Tightly written and nicely performed by Day and top-ranked co-stars like Rock Hudson, Tony Randall, James Garner and on memorable occasion James Stewart.
For more than 15 years Doris Day was box office gold, scoring hit after hit on the big screen and in the music charts with songs Que Sera, Sera and Secret Love. But, in the mid-60s, the tide turned against her, as the Beatles generation wanted their Hollywood heroines to be edgier and more wordly-wise. The rot started in December 1965 when Doris suffered her first high profile flop when Do Not Disturb, co-starring Rod Taylor, failed to get the tills ringing. Critics dubbed Day "the world's oldest virgin" and when her next films - Caprice, The Ballad of Josie (both 1967), Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?, and her final film With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) - also died at the box office, she cleverly side-stepped out of the Hollywood spotlight and reinvented herself as middle-America's favourite sitcom star on TV.
The Doris Day Show ran from 1968 to 1973 and clocked up an impressive 128 episodes.
Doris Day's top movies:
Calamity Jane (1953): co-starring: Howard Keel and Allyn Ann McLerie
This was Doris Day's break-through movie after starring in a string of small-scale, nostalgic period musicals. This was step up into the big time as Warner Brothers sort to match the success of Annie Get Your Gun. The comedy western was quite daring for its time and suggested a 'lesbian' relationship between Calamity and her former maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie). The pair set up home together. The song Secret Love gave Doris Day a number one single and an Oscar for Best Song. Other hits included: "The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)" and Just Blew In From The Windy City.
Young At Heart (1954): co-starring: Frank Sinatra and Gig Young
The first high profile follow-up to Calamity Jane, this time in a contemporary comedy-musical with Frank Sinatra who, after being cast in On The Town with Gene Kelly, was trying to forge a mainstream Hollywood career. When Alex (Young) enters the lives of the musical Tuttle family, each of the three daughters falls for him. He is charming, good looking and personable. Laurie (Day) and Alex seem made for each other and become engaged. When Barney (Sinatra) comes into the picture to help Alex with some musical arrangements matters become complicated. He is seen as a challenge by Laurie, who can't believe anyone could be as cynical, and she is more than a match for his gloomy outlook on life.
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Love Me or Leave Me (1955): co-starring: James Cagney and Cameron Mitchell
The most unlikely casting produces a genuine classic. Directed by the legendary King Vidor, this musical bio-pic tells the story of jazz singer Ruth Etting and her tempestuous marriage to gangster Marty Snyder, who helped propel her to stardom. Day gives the first indication of what she could do as an actress playing the demanding role of dancer and singer Ruth Etting. Cagney is equally good as her mobster husband and the chemistry between the two is electric. The whole film is moving and very real.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): co-starring: James Stewart and Brenda de Banzie
Having developed a taste for drama, Doris Day was next cast in Alfred Hitchock's Hollywood re-make of one of his British chillers The Man Who Knew Too Much - it's the movie which ends in an assassination attempt at the Royal Albert Hall. James Stewart steals the film in his easy-going style and Day has little to do until the end when she realizes that she could place her kidnapped child in danger if she tries to foil the murder plot. The song Que Sera, Sera was the big hit from the movie but looks somewhat incongruous in the film itself.
The Pajama Game (1957): co-starring: John Raitt and Carol Haney
Doris returned to musical comedy with this big screen adaptation of the long-running Broadway hit. The employees of the Sleeptite Pajama Factory are looking for a well-deserved payrise and they won't take no for an answer. Babe Williams (Day) is their feisty spokesperson but she may have found her match in shop superintendent Sid Sorokin (Raitt). When the two get together they wind up discussing a whole lot more than wages. Of all Day's hit movies this is the one that now looks the most dated.
Pillow Talk (1959): co-starring: Rock Hudson and Tony Randall
This is the film that sent Doris Day's all ready successful career into orbit and made one of the most popular musical stars on the planet. This is another film where the setting seems dated but take it as a period piece and it still works. A man and a woman who share a party phoneline cannot stand each other, but he has fun romancing her with his voice disguised. The trio and Hudson, Day and Randall have great chemistry together and went onto make another three films together.
Move Over, Darling (1963): co-starring: James Garner and Polly Bergen
After their success in The Thrill of It All, James Garner and Doris Day were immediately cast in Move Over, Darling that same year. It was a re-make of the Cary Grant/Irene Dunne screwball classic, My Favorite Wife, and was almost remade again by Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin, entitled Something's Got to Give, before she was fired in 1962. It's a domestic comedy in which a missing wife, thought long dead, after five years lost at sea, returns home to find that her husband has remarried. It turns out that three is a crowd. The title song proved to be another huge hit for the film's star.
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