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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 April, 2004, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Doris Day's sweet success
Doris Day
Doris Day became known for her clean-cut screen persona

Veteran movie star Doris Day celebrated her 80th birthday on Saturday. BBC News Online looks back at her career.

Doris Day was one of the most prolific actresses of the 50s and 60s, carving out a niche as the sassy but sweet all-American girl in light-hearted comedies opposite male stars like Rock Hudson.

But the star had no initial plans to be an actress - born Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff to German parents in Ohio, 1924, she had her heart set on being a dancer.

A car accident put an end to that dream but her misfortune opened up another opportunity - singing.

Her mother paid for lessons and she was soon snapped up by band leader Barney Rapp, who suggested she change her name to Doris Day.

Doris Day's classic films
Do Not Disturb - 1965
Move Over, Darling - 1963
That Touch of Mink - 1962
Pillow Talk - 1959
The Pajama Game - 1957
Love Me or Leave Me - 1955
Calamity Jane - 1953
Tea for Two - 1950

By the age of 16, Day was in New York fronting Les Brown's band - Brown gave her the song Sentimental Journey in 1945, which went on to become one of the biggest-selling records of the decade.

Her singing agent soon encouraged her to take a screen test in Hollywood and she was offered a contract by Warner Bros.

Her first feature film was 1948's Romance on the High Seas, and she never looked back.

From 1948 until 1964, Day's films were listed in the US box office top 10 every year - the longest run of any female star in big screen history.

Her most famous roles included 1953 musical Calamity Jane, Love Me or Leave Me opposite James Cagney in 1955 and 1959's Pillow Talk co-starring Rock Hudson, which earned her an Oscar nomination.

Her other co-stars over the years ranged from Clark Gable, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon to Cary Grant and Jimmy Durante.

Private turmoil

Day's singing career continued to flourish alongside her film work. Her hit records included the Academy Award-winning songs Secret Love in 1954 and Que Sera, Sera in 1956.

But her personal life was not always as rosy. She married Al Jorden in 1941 but they split up after two years, not long after the birth of their son Terry.

Her next marriage to George Weidler lasted less than a year. She finally settled with Marty Melcher in 1951, who adopted her son.

A famous quote attributed to Groucho Marx was: "I've been around so long, I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin."

Career change

While the 1960s also brought her box office success in films such as Lover Come Back in 1961 and That Touch of Mink in 1962, she did not work as much as she did during the previous decade.

The death of her third husband Marty in 1968 spelled the end of her career on the silver screen. She had made 39 films in total.

Although she did go on to appear in the popular television series The Doris Day Show from 1969 to 1973, the star had tired of showbusiness and was ready to devote her time to a more worthy cause.

Day had been an animal lover since the car accident she had as a teenager - her dog Tiny never left her side while she spent a year on crutches.

She set up the Doris Day Animal League in 1987, which lobbies for animal welfare legislation.

The Doris Day Animal Foundation was set up 11 years later to promote animal protection through educational and community programmes.

She is still actively involved with her charities - she once persuaded former US President Bill Clinton to get his dog Buddy neutered as an example of how to be a responsible pet owner.

Given her passion for four-legged creatures, a big screen comeback looks unlikely but fans may console themselves with re-runs of her films and a Radio 2 special later this year.

Pajama Game pillowtalk
05 Oct 99  |  Entertainment


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