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.
And among her film love interests was legendary Hollywood heart-throb Rock Hudson. Billed a red-blooded American male, Hudson was gay but never publicly came out.
Hudson died of AIDS-related complications in 1985.
In a biography of Hudson, Day was quoted as saying he was among her closest friends and she was with him near the end of his life.
“…We kissed goodbye and he gave me a big hug and he held onto me. I was in tears. That was the last time I saw him — but he’s in heaven now.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Day, Who Made 39 Films, Starred with Rock Hudson in 3, All Romantic Comedies & All Hits
Beginning in 1959, Day would star with Hudson in a string of romantic comedies: Pillow Talk in 1959; Lover Come Back in 1961 and Send Me No Flowers in 1964.
Pillow Talk was the tale of character Jan Morrow, played by Day, an interior decorator and Brad Allen, played by Hudson, who was a womanizing composer. The two shared a telephone party line.
Lover Come Back had Hudson as a successful ad executive who made his mark by setting up prospective clients to attractive women. Day, at a rival agency, reports Hudson for his unethical work ethic. You can guess the rest.
Send Me No Flowers has the duo playing a suburban couple in another very successful romantic comedy romp.
2. Hudson Tried to Hide His Homosexuality in Hollywood. Wholesome Girl-Next-Door Day & Hudson Remained Lifelong Friends
Hudson’s personal life was almost the subject of tabloid scandal in the 1950s but exposes were quashed by Hudson’s agent who provided dirt on other Hollywood stars in an effort to keep his star out of the tabloid headlines. Hudson would marry to avoid allegations that he was gay.
After Village Voice and The Advocate stories, Hudson was outed, albeit years alter. Bios would list his alleged lovers and his exploits, sham marriages and an alleged same-sex marriage between he and actor and singer Jim Nabors married in the early 1970s.
3. Hudson Joined Day in 1985 to Launch Her New TV Show. His Appearance Shocked Her & Audiences. His Agent Later Revealed the Star Had AIDS. Day Visited Him Before he Died
A few years after the emergence of AIDS, Hudson was diagnosed with the virus in June of 1984. Largely kept secret, Hudson would travel and continue to work. In July, he appeared with Day for the launch of her new TV show, Doris Day’s Best Friends on the then-Christian Broadcast Network. His appearance in the video tape stunned audiences. And Day.
Day told Mark Griffin, author of “All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson,” that she and Hudson were devoted and close friends and spoke about seeing him ill and the last day she spent with him before his death, as reported by Fox.
“I hardly knew him,” said Day. “He was very sick. But I just brushed that off and I came out and put my arms around him and said ‘Am I glad to see you.’”
Day shared his last visit broke her heart.
“He’d get very tired,” said Day. “I’d bring him his lunch and fix him a big platter but he couldn’t eat it. I’d say, ‘What if I get a fork and feed you?’ But he said ‘Doris I can’t eat.’
“They had a small plane to get him to the airport. We kissed goodbye and he gave me a big hug and he held onto me. I was in tears. That was the last time I saw him — but he’s in heaven now.”
Two days after his appearance with Day, he flew to France for treatment but collapsed in Paris hotel room. Publicist Dale Olson said he had inoperable liver cancer. But a few days later, the star’s French publicist confirmed Hudson had AIDS.
Weak and very ill, Hudson was flown back to California. He would be treated at UCLA Medical Center. For the next few months, he would receive hospice care at his Beverly Hills home. On October 2, 1985, it was reported he died in his sleep from AIDS-related complications. He was 59.
4. Day, Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in 1922, Was a Golden Age of Hollywood Star, Popular American Singer & Animal Rights Activist
Day was a singer, actress, and animal advocacy activist. She began her decades-long career 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.
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.
And Day’s songs are part of the popular soundtrack of 20th century America.
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 earned 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.
5. Day Outlived Hudson by Nearly 4 Decades. She Died at 97 After Contracting Pneumonia. The Tributes Came Pouring in
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.