Doris Day was mockingly referred to as “America’s favourite virgin”, but where’s the shame in that? It’s surely far better than being “America’s haughtiest hussy” or “America’s fattest fishwife”, titles which would be difficult to award because of the fierce competition for them. In any case, there was a lot more to Miss Day’s career than playing the homespun maiden waiting for Mr Right. Let’s not forget all those wonderful songs, delivered in that soothing maternal voice, most of which were recorded before she was a virgin.
Miss Day will rightly be remembered for co-starring with Rock Hudson in those brilliant Hollywood farces. They were called “sex comedies” in their time, although there was precious little sex in them – indeed, the plots were full of ingenious complications to frustrate fulfilment of the carnal urge. Their enduring appeal lies in amusing dialogue rather than bedroom antics, with Doris playing the “straight man” in those sparkling comic exchanges. This was not something that Rock Hudson could do, of course. It was said that he got through the love scenes with Doris by fantasizing about Johnny Weissmuller.
Although married and a mother at the age of 17, Doris did not have a happy personal life. She divorced her first husband when still a teenager and later married a manipulative weasel who mismanaged her career, abused her son and squandered her fortune. On finding herself penniless on her husband’s death, she courageously embarked upon a TV career at the age of 44, starring in her own situation comedy. The show was a great success, no doubt helped by the fact that Doris was still a fine-looking woman in her forties, although perhaps a little sturdy around the neck and shoulders.
She later hosted her own chat show in which one of her first guests was an emaciated and terminally-ill Rock Hudson, whose sexual escapades were now public knowledge. Fearing an AIDS-related illness, Hudson’s doctor had asked him who his last sexual partner was. “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head,” replied Rock. It tells you a lot about Doris that she refused to believe he was sick with AIDS – or indeed was even gay – until after Hudson’s catamite had sued for a share of his estate. A lady never gossips about a man she has kissed on the lips – even if that man was holding his breath at the time.
As with a number of ageing actresses, Doris developed an affection for animals in her later years, setting up a foundation for their welfare. When her final marriage was dissolved in 1981, her ex-husband complained that she seemed to care more for her animal friends than him. I don’t see what point he was trying to make. Some of my best friends are animals, and I should imagine that all of them are a good deal more lovable than the sort of chap who marries a wealthy woman in her 50s. People should think before they make stupid and self-incriminatory remarks like that.
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