Five things you didn’t know about Doris Day
American icon dies at the age of 97 after contracting pneumonia
Doris Day has died at the age of 97, according to a statement by her charitable foundation.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation said that the beloved singer and movie star passed away at her home in California after contracting pneumonia.
Born to a German-American family in Ohio in 1922, Day rose to fame in the 1940s as a singer of sentimental ballads and jazz standards, before moving into films.
Her movie career included musicals like Calamity Jane and The Pajama Game, as well as a string of rom-coms, including several opposite Rock Hudson. But it was an against-type turn in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much that gave her what ultimately became her best-known hit, Que Sera Sera.
Here are five things you may not know about Day:
A car accident ended her dance career
At the age of 15, Day broke her legs in a car accident, the night before she and her dancing partner were due to head to Hollywood to pursue a career in dance.
It took her nearly three years to fully recover, during which time she listened to music for solace. “There was a quality to Ella [Fitzgerald]'s voice that fascinated me, and I'd sing along with her, trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words,” she later recalled.
Impressed by her daughter’s voice, Day’s mother arranged for her to take singing lessons - setting her on the path to stardom. Day would later look back at the accident as the “greatest thing that happened”, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Her stage name came from one of her showstoppers
When Day got her first permanent singing gig, as a vocalist for bandleader Barney Rapp, she was still going by her birth name, Doris Kappelhoff.
Legend has it that Rapp feared her name would take up too much space on theatre marquee, and suggested “Day” in tribute to her skillful rendition of then-popular big band hit Day After Day.
She lived her life thinking she was two years younger
Throughout her life, Day gave her birth year as 1924, when records show she was actually born in 1922. That would hardly make her the first Hollywood star to fudge her age, but in Day’s case the mistake seems to have been genuine.
It wasn’t until she turned 93 - or rather 95 - in 2017, that she learnt the truth, when Associated Press reporters produced her birth certificate. “I’ve always said that age is just a number and I have never paid much attention to birthdays, but it’s great to finally know how old I really am!” she said in a statement.
She had severe fear of flying
Throughout her life, Day was forced to pass up honours due to her extreme fear of flying, which she developed in the 1940s after several hair-raising flights while on tour as a singer, Today reports.
“We flew in snowstorms, whatever, to get to the next show,” she said in an interview. “When I hit the ground, I said, ‘Never again’.”
In 2004, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honour, but was unable to attend the ceremony due to her reluctance to board a plane.
“I am deeply grateful to the president and to my country,” she said at the time. “But I won’t fly.”
She had a turbulent personal life
Day’s wholesome, cheery on-screen persona was frequently at odds with her off-screen life, which included four marriages.
Her first husband beat her while she was pregnant with her only child, Terrence, and the marriage lasted less than two years, says the Los Angeles Times. Two more marriages would end in divorce, while her marriage to Marty Melcher ended with his death, in 1968.
After Melcher died, Day discovered that he and her lawyer had squandered most of her fortune and committed her to signing up for a television show without her knowledge.
Although The Doris Day Show was well-received and managed a five-year run, when the series wrapped in 1973, Day quit Hollywood for good, although she continued to make records. She retired to the small town of Carmel, California, and devoted much of her time to animal welfare.