Doris Day, the legendary screen actress, has died at age 97. Her family included one son, although she left behind a trail of husbands. As for Doris Day’s birth family, her grandparents were German immigrants.
Although Doris Day was known for her innocence on screen and became an American sweetheart, her personal life was more complicated and, at times, was very troubled.
What was the cause of death? Day’s foundation told the Associated Press that Doris Day “had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia.”
Doris Day’s life was punctuated by tragedy, however. Her only child, Terry Melcher, died in 2004 of melanoma.
Here’s what you need to know about Doris Day’s family:
1. Doris Day Was Married Four Times
Doris Day had four husbands throughout the course of her life. She divorced three of them. One of her marriages, to her agent, was long-lasting until his death.
Day’s four husbands were Al Jorden (married in 1941 and divorced two years later); George Weidler (married in 1946 and divorced three years later); Martin Melcher (married in 1951 and he died in 1968); and Barry Comden (married in 1976 and divorced in 1981). One of those marriages – the first, to Al Jorden – produced Day’s son, Terry Melcher.
According to Fox 19, although it was the longest lived, Day’s marriage to Martin Melcher, who was a film producer, was a troubled one, at least at the end. Their marriage ended with his death in 1968.
“Day was shocked to learn that he and his business partner, Jerome Bernard Rosenthal, had squandered her earnings for 17 years,” Fox 19 reported.
She sued Rosenthal, won damages, and “soon learned her late husband had committed her to appear in a TV series,” the news site reports. That show was “The Doris Day Show.”
Melcher was Day’s agent and “pulled her out of her Warner Brothers contract and revamped her as a freelance actress for hire,” UK Telegraph reports.
2. Day’s Son Terry Was Described as the Love of Her Life
Doris Day bore one child: Her son, Terry Melcher. Although Melcher bore the name of Day’s third husband, he was her child with her first husband. She was a teenage mom.
His death of melanoma broke her heart. She told Closer Magazine, that her biggest heartbreak was “losing my dear son, Terry. He was such a huge part of my life, and I miss him all the time.”
A friend told Closer: “She talks about Terry all the time. Terry was the love of her life.”
Doris Day met Al Jorden, Terry’s dad and a trombonist, when she was only 16 and was known as Doris Kappelhoff, according to UK Standard. He asked her to the movies.
Jorden was older – 23 – and Day told her mother, Standard recalled, “He’s a creep and I wouldn’t go out with him if they were giving away gold nuggets at the movie!”
They had things in common, though. They were in the same band in Evanstown, Cincinnati, where Day grew up. “He cheated on Doris, knocked her around and humiliated her in public,” Standard reports, but he also fathered her child, Terry Melcher. She was only 18. They eventually divorced.
3. Doris Day Was Born to a Music Teacher & Housewife in Ohio
Doris Day’s acting prowess could have derived from her father, who was artistic – he was involved in music.
She wasn’t always known as Doris Day. According to Biography.com, she was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Her parents, Biography.com reports, were “Alma Sophia (Welz), a housewife, and William Joseph Kappelhoff, a music teacher and choir master.”
According to the site, her grandparents were German immigrants and she had two siblings, both brothers, who were named Richard and Paul. Richard died before she was born, and her parents divorced when she was young, although she lived with Alma, Biography.com reports.
She was dancing by the time she was a teen.
The site DorisDayMagic.com reports that Alma “was raised to be a hausfrau, someone who saw to the needs of others. As a sister, mother, and grandmother, she was kind, loving and nurturing.” She worked in a bakery after the divorce and became her daughter’s manager for a time, the site says.
According to the site, Day wrote this about her mother in her autobiography: “My mother is very barrelhouse, loves to yak it up and enjoy herself, loves parties, and the more people around, the better. [She] loves Country and Western hillbilly music. She could listen to Country and Western all day long. All through my career, she’s asked me, ‘When are you going to make a Country and Western movie?’ She’s in her seventies now, lives with me, and I swear she seems to have as much pep and go as she did when I was a girl.”
4. Doris Day’s Husband George Weidler Couldn’t Handle Her Hollywood Career, Reports Say
One problem in Doris Day’s marriages: Her popularity in Hollywood. Not all of her husbands could handle the fact that her star shone so brightly.
According to IMDB, Day’s marriage to George Weidler was similarly short-lived. “In 1946, Doris married George Weidler, but this union lasted less than a year,” IMDB reported. Daily Mail reports that Weidler was a saxophonist.
Her career was starting to take off: “Day’s agent talked her into taking a screen test at Warner Bros.,” the site reports.
The marriage failed, reports UK Telegraph, because Weidler “thought that his wife was now too big a star for the marriage to work.”
5. Husband Number Four, Barry Comden, Felt That Doris Day’s Dogs Came First
Doris Day was a well-known lover of animals. Some of her husbands felt they played second fiddle to them, in fact. Such was the case with husband number 4, a man whom Doris Day met in a restaurant.
Barry Comden’s obituary in SFGate describes him as a “maitre d’ at a Beverly Hills restaurant.” He “complained that he took second place to her many dogs,” the newspaper reported.
He was younger than Doris Day when they met at the restaurant – where she was a customer – according to SFGate. Day once said the couple, who divorced, was “just incompatible,” reported SFGate, which quoted her as saying, “She had 14 dogs, and the final straw was when I was kicked out of bed to make way for Tiger, a poodle.”