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Doris Day, 60s film star, dies aged 97

Sky News logo Sky News 13/05/2019
Doris Day posing for a picture © Rex Features Doris Day

Doris Day has died aged 97, her foundation says.

The Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed that the Hollywood actress died at her home in Camel Valley in California.

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 (Video by Press Association)

The statement said that Ms Day was in "excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia."

Doris Day during The 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards © Getty Doris Day during The 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards

The star was known for her dozens of film appearances, including in the musical Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk.

She had celebrated her 97th birthday on 3 April, and gave a rare interview to the Hollywood Reporter, where she admitted Calamity was one of her favourite films to work on, mentioning the song Secret Love in particular.

Cliff Robertson And Doris Day during 1987 Monterey Film Festival © Getty Cliff Robertson And Doris Day during 1987 Monterey Film Festival

She said: "I get so many love letters from fans as young as eight-years-old, telling me they were introduced by my films and music by their great-grandmothers, and my movies make them happy. Different films resonate with viewers for different reasons, but the common thread seems to be that my films are uplifting."

Doris Day in Young Man With A Horn in 1950 © Sky News Doris Day in Young Man With A Horn in 1950

Day had been very private after retiring from acting, appearing to accept the Cecille B DeMille award at the Golden Globes in 1989 and doing her last TV interview five years later.

1966: Actress Doris Day shown in a close-up view, smiling brightly. © Getty 1966: Actress Doris Day shown in a close-up view, smiling brightly.

Day made her feature film debut in 1948 in Romance on the High Seas. As well as her wholesome films, she was known for songs including Que Sera Sera, which was in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Her films meant she became someone who stood for a time of innocence, a contrast to Marilyn Monroe and led to a running joke, attributed to Groucho Marx and Oscar Levant that they knew her "before she was a virgin".

Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much © Sky News Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much

Her 1976 book Doris Day: Her Own Story, chronicled her money troubles and three broken marriages, and presented a different Day than had been known through the media.

Doris Day with a telescope and a glass of wine at a press conference at the dog friendly hotel she owns in Carmel © Getty Doris Day with a telescope and a glass of wine at a press conference at the dog friendly hotel she owns in Carmel

She said: "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."

Day had first married aged 17, but she and Al Jorden split when she said he had beaten her when she was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to her son Terry in 1942.

Doris Day abroad The Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth at Southampton © Sky News Doris Day abroad The Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth at Southampton

Her second marriage, to George William Wiedler, was also short-lived and they divorced after three years.

She married Martin Melcher in 1951 and they were together until his death in 1968.

Doris Day with husband Marty Melcher © Sky News Doris Day with husband Marty Melcher

Her fourth husband was Barry Comden, who had met the singer at one of her favourite restaurants where he worked, and gave her dog a bag of scraps. But when they broke up in 1982 he accused her of caring more about her animals than him.

Her third marriage had resulted in some financial problems for her, as Melcher's failed investments left her in debt. She eventually won a multi-million dollar judgement against their lawyer for mishandling their assets.

1977- Close-up of actress Doris Day. © Getty 1977- Close-up of actress Doris Day.

Her only son died in 2004.

She never won an Oscar, but Day did get the presidential medal of freedom in 2004 and George W Bush called it "a good day for America when Doris Marianne von Kappelhoff, of Evanston, Ohio, decided to become an entertainer".

In recent years she had been dedicating her time to animal welfare. 

Doris Day was best known for Calamity Jane © Sky News Doris Day was best known for Calamity Jane

She set up the Doris Day Pet Foundation, later the Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1978 to "help animals and the people who love them".

She drew the nickname of "The Dog Catcher of Beverly Hills" and was known for trying to reunite lost pets with their owners.

Day also set up campaigns to encourage spaying and neutering of pets to stop the problem of homeless animals.

Doris Day and James Garner in a scene from Move Over, Darling © Sky News Doris Day and James Garner in a scene from Move Over, Darling

Although she had mostly retired by the 1980s, her 2011 collection of songs called My Heart made the UK top 10.

Her foundation said she had requested "no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker".

Gallery: Doris Day: Life in pictures (Photo Services)


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