July 20, 2019

The Legacy of Doris Day

“Doris Day, who has died at 97 in her home in California, was a movie star unique even among other movie stars of her era. Her brand of effortless charm and wholesome femininity made her the embodiment of the ideal woman during the late ’50s and early ’60s. She was simultaneously virginal yet sexy, career-focused yet domestic, elegant yet approachable; she didn’t just “enjoy being a girl” — she presented an uncomplicated, nigh-mythical image of womanhood.

Yet Day’s peppy all-American girl persona belied a career full of hard work that made her far more realistic than she seemed — and even as she represented a vanishing vision of the perfect woman, her own life was an example of just how far removed that image was from reality.

Born in Cincinnati in 1922 as Doris Kappelhoff, Day trained as a dancer as a child but got her start as a recording artist, singing first in local nightclubs and on radio before working with swing orchestras in her mid-20s. By her late teens, she’d chosen her stage name and was working with major band leaders like Les Brown. In 1945, at 23, she released her first smash hit, “Sentimental Journey,” which became an anthem of wartime America. By the mid-’40s, she’d appeared as a singer in several films. In 1948, director Michael Curtiz cast her in his film Romance on the High Seas, because he said “her freckles made her look like the all-American girl,” and her lengthy film career began.”

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