A Day to remember as Doris Day passes away aged 97

by Shane Dillon

When someone of the rare calibre of Doris Day dies – as the late Hollywood stalwart did on Monday, aged 97 – that trumps any standard cinema news or reviews.

(Sorry about that, Detective Pikachu – pika, pika – but your new film’s review will probably make it onto these pages next week.)

Recent decades saw Day living a quiet life, resolutely avoiding any media press or exposure, with the star determined to live very firmly out of the spotlight – a sharp contrast to her many years as one of America, and Cinema’s, most famous stars, known to countless millions around the world.

Born as Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, a descendant of German immigrants, the talented young singer had already reached a spectacular level of success by 1946 when she was the world’s highest paid female singer.

That stellar accolade wasn’t enough, however, with Day stepping into cinema in 1948 – marking the start of one of the Twentieth Century’s most successful cinema careers, which was cemented with ease in the 1950s.

That was a period which saw Day at the height of her reach and success, as she stamped out a singular career as the star of one musical or comedy after another, generally paired with some of cinema’s leading men, but resolutely on an equal footing.

Putting Day on any film’s marketing was a sure-fire way to ensure it was a hit, with Day keeping a firm grip on her role as one of America’s favourite sweethearts, blessed with a singular voice and a light touch that lended itself with ease to comic roles.

Her carefully cultivated ‘sweetheart’ image would prove to be a millstone, however, once the Swinging Sixties began to influence cinema and culture.

The public’s appetite for the kind of wholesome roles so indelibly linked to Day began to fade away, with her films increasingly out of step with a more jaded, cynical audience.

By the 1970s, her star was waning – by no means was Day a dim has-been from Hollywood’s golden era, but her power and box office draw had substantially waned, largely prompting her to retire from any significant films or roles.

Later years saw Day largely devote herself quietly to animal welfare activism, finding a new passion and focus upon which to leverage her fame and influence.

Still, although Day faded from the public consciousness quite some time ago, her sheer star power never truly faded away.

Even a cursory examination of her cinema resume – let alone her many musical tracks – reveals a uniquely talented star; someone with the skill to become a true star, and the quiet humanity to step away from it all when the time came. Rest in peace, Doris Day…

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