Golden Age of Hollywood star Doris Day has died at age 97. In the popular culture of post-war America, Day represented a “wholesome optimism;” the bright and sunny girl-next-door.
She made nearly 40 films and was among the most popular singers of her generation.
Day died in her home in Carmel Valley, California just weeks after her 97th birthday. Otherwise healthy, she had recently contracted a serious case of pneumonia, according to her foundation.
Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in 1922, Day was a singer, actress, and animal advocacy activist. She began her decades-long career as singing with a 1939 big band. Her first hit was “Sentimental Journey” in 1945 with Les Brown & His Band of Renown.
Her singing career lasted decades and her film career, which began in 1948 started during the Classical Hollywood Film era.
Here’s what you need to know:
Day Made 39 Films, Many With Hollywood Legends
Day starred in scores of successful and award-winning films including Calamity Jane in 1953 and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956 with James Stewart.
But it was her romantic comedy films with leading men like Rock Hudson, James Garner, Tony Randall, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and Rod Taylor that made her wildly popular in the 1950s and early 1960s. Pillow Talk and Send Me No Flowers among them.
Day’s Songs Are Woven Into the Fabric of America & Some Recently Discovered Worldwide
The 2011 release of “My Heart,” a compilation of songs never before released, went to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.
Day’s “You, My Love” duet with Frank Sinatra in the 1954 film Young at Heart was a popular music hit, not unlike many of the songs she sang in films including “Tea For Two” the title song for the movie, and “I’m Not at All in Love,” from the Pajama Game.
Among her most popular and enduring songs was “Que Sera, Sera,” which she sang in Hitchcock’s thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Day Hosted ‘The Doris Day Show’ in the Late 1960s Into the Early 1970s
Day won myriad awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Legend Award from the Society of Singers, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.
In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Day Was a Lifelong Animal Lover & Advocate for Animal Rights
A life-long animal lover and advocate, Day founded the The Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1978 to “help animals and the people who love them.”
Read the full statement on Day’s passing from the DDAF:
Doris Day passed away early this morning at her Carmel Valley home, having celebrated her 97th birthday on April 3 of this year. Nearly 300 fans gathered in Carmel last month to celebrate Day’s birthday. Day had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia , resulting in her death. She was surrounded by a few close friends as she passed.
Day was born Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff, on April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Day’s life’s work — music, films, and animal advocacy — comprise an enduring legacy. She began her professional singing career at age 15, and she had her first hit, “Sentimental Journey,” with Les Brown’s band. That tune, and her signature “Que Sera Sera,” were her biggest hits.
During her three decades of work in film, Day starred in nearly every genre, not just as a singer/dancer but as an actress with superb comic timing, a natural talent for interpreting a role and a gift for evoking emotion. Her 39 films – many still incredibly popular and shown frequently today — stand as a testament to her talent. While Day was honored with many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2008, she never won an Oscar, and many film critics and fans have decried the Academy’s overlooking Day’s talents.
Day’s music continues to attract new fans worldwide. The 2011 release of “My Heart,” a compilation of songs never before released, went to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.
Since the ‘70s, Day had focused her energies on the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Her lifelong compassion for animals compelled her to fight animal testing and to advocate for spay/neuter education and outreach programs in the U.S. Today, her early Spay Day program had become an international event, with World Spay Day providing thousands of free or reduced-cost spay and neuter surgeries in 75 countries. The Doris Day Animal Foundation continues to provide support to smaller rescue organizations nationwide, with a special focus on those assisting senior pets.
Doris’ passionate work on behalf of dogs, cats, horses, sea lions, raptors and other animals in need of rescue, veterinary care and adoption will not end. The Doris Day Animal Foundation is committed to continuing its work as a grant-giving organization, funding smaller animal welfare non-profits across the country. Doris’ wishes were that she have no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker. Friends and fans wishing to remember Doris Day, are encouraged to visit http://www.dorisdayanimalfoundation.org.