Doris Day, the beautiful blonde whose sunny screen presence and silken singing voice guaranteed box-office and record-chart hits in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, has died, her rep confirms to PEOPLE. She was 97.
Day died at 1:00 A.M. on Monday at her home in California, the rep says.
The Associated Press was first to report the news, which comes nearly two months after the actress celebrated her birthday and shared a recent photo with PEOPLE.
Although in 2012 she released a CD of songs she recorded years ago, since the early ’80s, the world’s favorite “girl next door” kept a low profile and lived on 11 acres in Carmel, California, where she devoted most of her time to her charitable organization.
Despite her immense popularity — by the early ’60s, she was the No. 1 box-office star on the planet — Day was often greatly underrated, and, blaming her fear of flying, turned down several awards and accolades, including (it was discussed) an honorary Oscar and the Kennedy Center Honor. One prize she never lost: the unbridled love of an adoring public.
Music and movies
Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, the daughter of a Cincinnati music teacher and a homemaker, the crystal-voiced pop soprano changed her name to Day when, as a teen, she began singing on the radio. After appearances with the Big Bands of Barney Rapp and Bob Crosby, she joined Les Brown’s Band and had her first hit with “Sentimental Journey.”
By the mid-’50s came better roles at other studios. This included what even she considered her best film, 1954’s Love Me or Leave Me, a dramatic, though highly fictionalized, biopic of ’20s singer Ruth Etting, who lived under the thumb of her short-tempered, controlling husband. (Day played down parallels between the movie’s plot and her own life.) In 1956, for Alfred Hitchcock, she co-starred with James Stewart in The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which she introduced the Oscar-winning song that became her signature, “Que Sera Sera.”
Two more vehicles with Hudson (and sidekick Tony Randall) followed, as did similar comedies in which Day — sometimes as a career woman, but always squeaky clean — costarred with Cary Grant, James Garner, and Rod Taylor.
Loved to laugh
For Day, as she told PEOPLE in 2011, her greatest loss in life was the 2004 death (from melanoma) of her son, music producer Terry Melcher.
“I had him when I was , so we were like sister and brother,” said Day, who found his passing “really hard. But I keep him with me.”
The profile also pointed out that humor had always been Day’s secret weapon. “I love to laugh,” said the star who made so many others laugh and sing. “It’s the only way to live. Enjoy each day — it’s not coming back again!”
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