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Actress, singer Doris Day dies

by Faith Auslund
Posted 5/13/19, 11:41 am

Actress and singer Doris Day died Monday at her home in Carmel Valley, Calif., after a bout of pneumonia. She was 97. Day was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She dreamed of being a dancer, but an automobile accident shattered her right leg and destroyed her accelerating dancing career. While confined to a couch or bed during her yearlong recovery, she first heard Ella Fitzgerald’s voice rolling over the airwaves. Day discovered a talent and passion for singing that encouraged her to pursue music.

After a catchy name change and singing lessons, Day recorded her first hit, “Sentimental Journey,” in 1945. She launched her career in the big band era with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. She later signed a solo contract with Columbia Records in 1947, a partnership that lasted for 20 years and resulted in the recording of more than 650 songs.

Day made her film debut in the well-received musical Romance on the High Seas in 1948. She brought emotion and power to a diverse selection of roles, from thrillers like Storm Warning to lighthearted romantic comedies such as Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson, for which she received her only Academy Award nomination. Her third husband, Martin Melcher, directed Calamity Jane, one of Day’s favorite films of her career.

Day left her first marriage because of abuse, and her second was short-lived. Her 1951 marriage to Melcher, who adopted Day’s only son from her first marriage, Terry, lasted until Melcher’s death in 1969. After he died, Day discovered Melcher had left her deeply in debt, and she later won a settlement against their lawyer for mismanaging their finances. To help pay off her debts, Day starred in the CBS television series The Doris Day Show from 1968 to 1971. Day was married a fourth time in 1976 to Barry Comden. They were divorced in 1981.

Day had a lifelong passion for animal protection. In the late 1970s, she launched the public charity the Doris Day Foundation. The Doris Day Animal League, which lobbies for animal-related issues, began in 1987 and has since merged with the Humane Society of the United States.

Day’s son, Terry, died of melanoma in 2004. Her grandson, Ryan Melcher, survives her.

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Faith Auslund

Faith is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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