She was so much more than the girl-next-door reputation than she had.
News that Doris Day had passed away last week left me pondering the life of a woman I’d grown up seeing on our old telly set.
Calamity Jane, Young At Heart, Send Me No Flowers, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Move Over Darling – she was in some of the all-time classics of the silver screen.
When I think of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Doris is one of the first faces which pops into my head.
I’ve got a bit of a strange link to Doris.
When I first moved to LA I bought my first house from Howard Morris, who directed her last movie.
We spent one wonderful evening as he told me all about the wonderful Miss Day.
Her profile has remained huge – she must have been famous if her death received the sort of reaction reserved for Hollywood royalty.
All the more remarkable when you think she essentially retired more than 50 years ago.
She may have been known as a chaste girl next door but in reality, Doris was pretty tough.
Before signing her first movie contract, she had two failed marriages, to two musicians.
Her fantastic voice got her a break in the film world, but it turned out she had a proper flair for comedy.
And it was comedy with a bit of an edge to it.
I love Pillow Talk – and there’s a moment in that where someone compared Rock Hudson’s character to a bad cold.
“There are two ways to handle a cold,” her character replied. “You can fight it or you can give in and go to bed with it.”
Not bad for 1959!
It was opposite Hudson that she did a lot of her best work – as well Pillow Talk, they did Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers together. It was a dynamic that worked.
They struck up a friendship on set, and he called her by a pet name – Eunice!
In her later career, Doris’ husband died, and left her with a mountain of debts.
She picked herself up and got back to work –with a variety show on American television, which Rock agreed to appear on.
He was very ill at the time and their press conference alerted the world to just how ill he was.
It wasn’t long after that his Aids diagnosis was made public.
“I hardly knew him,” Day later revealed when she first saw his gaunt face. “He was very sick. But I just brushed that off and put my arms around him and said, ‘Am I glad to see you!’
“He’d get very tired, I’d bring him his lunch and fix him a big platter but he couldn’t eat. I’d ask, ‘What if I get a fork and feed you?’ but he said, ‘Doris, I can’t eat.’”
And when it came to saying goodbye to him, she was left with a broken heart.
“We kissed goodbye and he gave me a big hug. I was in tears.
“That was the last time I saw him – but he’s in heaven now.
“He was a good friend.”
RIP, Doris, one of my screen heroines!