Hollywood legend Doris Day has died at the age of 97.
Her death was announced by her charity, the Doris Day Animal Foundation, on Monday.
The foundation said in a statement that she was surrounded by close friends and ‘had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia.’
She died at her estate home in Carmel Valley, California, where she has lived in solitude for the last several decades with her dozens of pets.
The charity also revealed that ‘her wishes were that she have no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker.’ Instead, she wanted fans to donate to the charity she founded to save animals.
Day charmed America in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, starring in an astonishing 39 films in just 20 years. On screen, she was a bright-eyed goody two-shoes and she often referred to herself as ‘America’s virgin’.
Her personal life, however, was marred by darker episodes.
All four of her marriages collapsed; her first husband beat her, the second left her, the third squandered her fortune and her fourth felt overlooked by her for her dogs.
She also suffered a bout of mental illness in 1950s at the height of her career.
But her greatest loss was the death of her only child, Terry, in 2004. He died aged 64 after battling melanoma.
In recent years, Day was seldom seen publicly.
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Doris Day, shown in the 60s, (left) and (right) on her 97th birthday on April 3, has died
In addition to starring in some of the most iconic Hollywood films of all time like Pillow Talk, Love On The High Seas and Love Me or Leave Me, Day was a Grammy-winning singer and started her career aged 15 in Les Brown’s band.
Her songs Sentimental Journey, Secret Love and Que Sera Sera have all been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Day, unlike her contemporary rival Marilyn Monroe, embodied a wholesome presence that America fell in love with.
In her biography, she wrote about in her biography, Doris Day: Her Own Story.
Her first husband beat her when she was pregnant, her second left her because he knew she would become a star and ‘didn’t want to become Mr. Doris Day’, and her third controlled her social life and career then died, leaving her in debt and forced to return to work.
Doris Day as Calamity Jane in 1953. Her extraordinary body of work includes 39 films shot between 19948 and 1969 and a handful of Grammy-winning songs
Day in Love Me or Leave Me in 1955 (left). She was a gifted singer, dancer and actress who got her start singing for live bands in the 1940s. She is seen, right, in Love On The High Seas in 1948
With Frank Sinatra in the 1954 film Young At Heart (left) and as Jennifer Nelson in the 1966 film The Glass Bottom Boat (right)
Day is shown with Rock Hudson in their 1964 film Send No Flowers. They appeared in several films together including Pillow Talk
Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk, one of her most iconic films, in 1959
Day is pictured in 1965 when she was 43
‘I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, America’s Virgin, and all that, so I’m afraid it’s going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together,’ she said.
Elsewhere, she wrote: ‘My public image is unshakably that of America’s wholesome virgin, the girl next door, carefree and brimming with happiness, an image, I can assure you, more make-believe than any film part I ever played.
‘But I am Miss Chastity Belt and that’s all there is to it.’
Born Doris Marianne von Kappelhoff, she grew up in Evanston, Ohio.
Her parents were a music teacher and a housewife and she dreamed of a dance career, but at age 12, suffered a crippling accident: a car she was in was hit by a train and her leg was badly broken.
Listening to the radio while recuperating, she began singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, ‘trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.’
DORIS DAY’S 39 FILMS
1948- Romance on the High Seas
1949- My Dream Is Yours; It’s a Great Feeling
1950- Young Man with a Horn; Tea for Two; The West Point Story
1951- Storm Warning; Lullaby of Broadway; On Moonlit Bay; Starlift
1952- I’ll See You in My Dreams; The Winning Team
1953- April in Paris; By the Light of the Silvery Moon; Calamity Jane
1954- Lucky Me
1955- Young at Heart; Love Me or Leave Me
1956- The Man Who Knew Too Much; Julie
1957- The Pajama Game
1958- Teacher’s Pet; Tunnel of Love
1959- It Happened to Jane; Pillow Talk
1960- Please Don’t Eat the Daisies; Midnight Lace
1962- Lover Come Back; That Touch of Mink; Billy Rose’s Jumbo
1963- The Thrill of It All; Move Over Darling
1964- Send Me No Flowers
1965- Do Not Disturb
1966- Glass Bottom Boat
1967- Caprice; Ballad of Josie
1968- Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
1969- With Six You Get Egg Roll
Day began singing in a Cincinnati radio station, then a local nightclub, then in New York.
A bandleader changed her name to Day, after the song Day after Day, to fit it on a marquee.
Her Hollywood career began after she sang at a Hollywood party in 1947. After early stardom as a band singer and a stint at Warner Bros., Day won the best notices of her career with Love Me or Leave Me, the story of songstress Ruth Etting and her gangster husband-manager. She initially balked at it, but the 1955 film became a box-office and critical success.
But she found her greatest success in slick, stylish sex comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in Pillow Talk.
She and Rock Hudson were two New Yorkers who shared a telephone party line and initially hated each other.
Romance on the High Seas, another of her notable films, had been designed for Judy Garland, then Betty Hutton.
Both bowed out, and Day, recommended by songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, won the role.
Warner Bros. cashed in on its new star with a series of musicals, including My Dream Is Yours, Tea for Two and Lullaby of Broadway.
Her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll, a 1968 comedy about a widow and a widower and the problems they have when blending their families.
With movies trending for more explicit sex, she turned to television to recoup her finances.
The Doris Day Show was a moderate success in its 1966-1973 run on CBS.
Her showbiz career began singing in bands, first in Cincinnati and then in New York where a bandleader changed her name to Day.
She had become enthralled with the notion of becoming a singer as a teenager while listening to the radio as she recovered from a broken leg.
She married for the first time at the age of 17, to trombonist Al Jorden who she said beat her while she was pregnant with her son Terry.
Terry was born in 1942.
A year later, she left his father and went back to singing in a band.
She was married to her second husband, George Weidler, for three years until 1949.
In 1951, after briefly dating Ronald Reagan, she married film producer Martin Melcher.
They were together for 17 years and he was her hard-pushing agent.
He encouraged her to work tirelessly but was suspected of pocketing many of her royalties for himself.
She blindly defended him.
In the early 50s, while filming Calamity Jane, Day’s mental health took a turn. She became prone to panic attacks but continued working.
Melcher was in charge of all her contracts and deals and, as a result, Day never truly knew how much she was getting paid.
Day’s first husband was a trombone player Al Jorden. They are shown around the time of their 1940 marriage (left). She left him in 1942 after he continued to beat her, including when she was pregnant with her first and only child. They married when she was 17 and divorced when she was 20. Her second husband was the saxophonist George Weidler. They parted in 1946 because, he said, he knew she would become a star and he did not want to become ‘Mr. Doris Day’
Day is pictured with her third husband, Martin Melcher, in 1955 (left). They were together for 17 years but a series of catastrophic investments made by him left her penniless. He died in 1968. She stood by him until his death. She is shown with her fourth and final husband, the restaurateur Barry Comden, right, in 1976. They divorced in 1982. He said he was tired of being looked over by her for her 14 dogs
HOW DORIS HAD TO CLAW BACK HER FORTUNE AFTER BEING LEFT PENNILESS BY HER THIRD HUSBAND
Despite working flat-out for 20 years to earn tens of millions of dollars, Day left her finances in the hands of her third husband, Marty Melcher.
It was a fatal decision which left her in debt by the time he died in 1978. She was unaware of how he he and his business partner Jerry Rosenthal had squandered her $23million fortune (the equivalent to more than $100million in today’s money).
She was able to save herself with her property portfolio and with the help of her son, the musician Terry Melcher, before his death in 2004.
She also took Rosenthal to court over her misappropriated funds.
After a lengthy battle, she was finally awarded a pitiful $3million in 1985.
A judge had decided she was owed much more – $85million – but Rosenthal appealed and she was given a fraction of the amount.
As her son Terry grew older, he begged her to leave him but she stayed in fear that she would become bankrupt if she left him, as he threatened.
She stayed with him until he died of a stroke in 1968. Afterwards, she learned how much of her fortune he had squandered.
First, she was hit with a tax bill for $500,000.
It led her to discover that she had no money in the bank but only personal possessions.
She learned that together, her late husband and a manager had thrown away $20million of her money which is the equivalent of $140million.
Her only assets were the homes she owned and she harnessed them, with the help of her son, to rebuild her wealth.
In 1976, she married restaurateur Barry Comden but the pair parted ways in 1982.
Day said they were ‘incompatible’ but Comden said he was tired of being kicked out of bed to make room for their dogs.
‘She had 14 dogs, and the final straw was when I was kicked out of bed to make way for Tiger, a poodle,’ he said before his 2009 death.
Day continued working until the 1980s but devoted the last portion of her life to animal rights.
In 1985, she won a multi-million dollar settlement from her late husband’s business partner Jerry Rosenthal but it was the last time she appeared publicly.
Her true love: Day is shown with her son, Terry, in 1950. He was her only child and was born in 1942, to her and her first husband
Terry took his stepfather Marty Melcher’s name after he married his mother but they never got on. They are shown, the three of them, on the set of Calamity Jane in 1953. Terry begged his mother to divorce Melcher as he got older but she refused
Melcher became a musician but died in 2004 after battling melanoma. He looked after his mother as an adult and helped her rebuild her fortune after his stepfather squandered it. They are shown, left, in 1984. Right is his son, Ryan, who is Day’s only heir
Afterwards, with the help of her son, she used the settlement and her vast property portfolio to rebuild her fortune.
Day devoted the last part of her life to animal rights
At the time of her death, her estimated net worth was $200million but it is unclear how much of it she has left to her charity.
Although mostly retired from show business since the 1980s, she still had enough of a following that a 2011 collection of previously unreleased songs, My Heart, hit the top 10 in the United Kingdom.
The same year, she received a lifetime achievement honor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Friends and supporters lobbied for years to get her an honorary Oscar.
In 2004, while being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President George H.W. Bush said it was ‘a good day for America when Doris Marianne von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio decided to become an entertainer.’
She did not make the ceremony in person because she had a fear of flying.
Day spent the final years of her life committed to animal rights’ work.
Among her most famous quotes is ‘I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same thing about people.’
In 1978, she founded The Doris Day Foundation.
On the charity’s website, she is affectionately described as ‘The Dog Catcher of The Beverly Hills.’
‘We all had at least one of ‘those Doris Day animals.’ If you would see Doris on the street or at the studio, chances are you would end up with some homeless cat or dog Doris was sponsoring.
‘She carried around photos of the animals who needed homes, and then she’d actually come over to inspect your house to make sure you were up to it,’ one star once said.
THE MANY LOVES OF DORIS DAY, AMERICA’S VIRGIN WHO WAS ETERNALLY UNLUCKY IN LOVE DESPITE WINNING THE WORLD’S HEARTS
Day’s first husband was a trombone player Al Jorden. They are shown around the time of their 1940 marriage
Al Jorden, 1941–1943
Day’s first marriage was when she was just 17.
She married the trombone player, Al Jorden, and quickly fell pregnant with her first and only child, Terry.
She described him, years after their divorce, as a ‘psychopathic sadist’ who tried to give her pills to miscarry their baby.
She also claimed that he beat her senseless when she was eight months pregnant with Terry.
They met when she was a singer in a band.
She returned to music after their divorce and looked after Terry alone.
Her second husband was the saxophonist George Weidler
George Weidler, 1946-1949
Day described her second husband, the saxophonist George Weidler, as a gentle man.
They married in 1946, just as the wave of her stardom was about to crash.
For their brief marriage, she tried to live contently as a Los Angeles housewife. He converted her to Christian Science.
The pair parted ways amicably when Doris’ star was on the rise.
He is said to have told her that he did not want to go through life as ‘Mr. Doris Day.’
Marty Melcher, 1951-1968
Melcher was the love of Day’s life and her partner for the longest time.
He was also her pushy, money-grabbing agent who squandered her fortune and died, leaving her millions of dollars in debt.
Melcher was the love of Day’s life and her partner for the longest time.
They married in 1951 and he adopted Terry as his own son.
Publicly, they were the picture of happiness and often posed together happily on the set of her films.
Friends worried, however, how controlling Melcher was over his wife’s stardom.
He negotiated her contracts and set her fees, taking a large cut for himself. It was said that Day never truly knew how much she was being paid.
She was scarcely at home to look after Terry because Melcher pushed her to work relentlessly.
As Terry grew older and Day worked herself to the bone, she developed mental health struggles and became prone to panic attacks that only Melcher could relieve by comforting her on the set of her films.
Towards the end of their marriage, he became ill, quickly. She resisted her son’s pleas to leave him and nursed him until his death in 1968 despite telling him that she was unhappy and even, once encouraging him to keep a mistress.
After his death, she learned that he had spent all of her $23million fortune. It was the equivalent to more than $140million in today’s money.
Melcher had worked with his business partner, Jerry Rosenthal, to waste it. With Terry’s help, Day sued Rosenthal and recovered only a fraction of it.
Barry Comden, Day’s fourth and final husband, was a Los Angeles restaurateur
Barry Comden, 1976-1981
Comden, Day’s fourth and final husband, was a Los Angeles restaurateur.
They married in 1976 after he befriended her by giving her a bag of meat scraps for her dogs as she left one of his restaurants.
Their wedding was at a friend’s home.
An elated Day thought she had finally found her match.
‘At last I’m romantically fulfilled,’ she said ‘Barry’s a beautiful person, and we have a marvellous relationship, the most marvellous I’ve ever had!’ she said.
It was during their marriage that she bought the gargantuan Carmel estate where she lived until her death.
Their happiness was sadly shortlived and by 1981, they were divorced.
He told The Sunday Mail in 1996 that it was because she loved her dogs more than him.
‘She had 14 dogs, and the final straw was when I was kicked out of bed to make way for Tiger, a poodle,’ he said.
Day said they were ‘just’ incompatible.
HOW DORIS DAY WENT FROM SILVER SCREEN SIREN TO THE ‘DOG CATCHER OF BEVERLY HILLS’ WHO ROUNDED UP ANIMALS IN THE NIGHT AFTER A LIFETIME OF HEARTACHE
Doris Day is shown in 2000 in one of her few public outings in the last 20 years
Day has long been synonymous with Hollywood’s golden era.
But in her final years, she lived in tattering homes, caring for animals in a heartbreaking separation from the glamorous pin-up the world remembers her as.
After the death of her third husband, she stopped making movies and, save for The Doris Day Show, retreated from the camera all together.
Instead, she lived quietly in Carmel, Califonia, caring for animals.
Her life, however, was a lonely one and before his death, her beloved son Terry searched for someone to keep her company.
He once offered Sydney Wood a job which merely entailed ‘taking Mom to lunch.’
For all her failed marriages, Day’s true heartache came in 2004 with the unexpected death of her son.
She never spoke about it publicly and could not muster the strength to attend his private funeral service.
Her only heir is her grandson, Terry’s son Ryan.
Over the last decade, there were rumors of a ‘a figure, looking like a little old bag lady, stealing through the streets of Carmel in the middle of the night, rounding up stray dogs and emaciated cats and putting them into her car.’
On her charity’s website, she is described as ‘the dog catcher of Beverly Hills’.
She celebrated her recent birthday in April at home but 300 fans gathered in Carmel in tribute to her.