Legendary film and TV actress, singer and animal welfare activist Doris Day died on Monday after contracting pneumonia. She was 97.
Famed for her wholesome onscreen persona, Day starred in popular 1950s and ’60s movies such as “Pillow Talk,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and “Move Over, Darling.”
The Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed that its founder had died Monday at her Carmel Valley, California, home. The foundation said she was surrounded by close friends.
According to the foundation press statement, nearly 300 fans gathered in Carmel last month to celebrate Day’s birthday on April 3. The actress had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia.
Born Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, she began her singing career at age 15 and soon had a hit song with”Sentimental Journey,” with Les Brown’s band. One of her most memorable recordings was “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” the Oscar-winning song from the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
She recorded hundreds of songs and was one of the top-charting singers of the 1950s and early ’60s, with hits like “Love Somebody,” “It’s Magic,” “A Guy Is a Guy” and “Secret Love.”
She went on to star in 39 films and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2008, but never won an Oscar. She was nominated only once, for her starring role opposite Rock Hudson in the 1959 rom-com “Pillow Talk.”
She followed that hit film with two more teamed with Hudson and co-star Tony Randall, 1961’s “Lover Come Back” and 1964’s “Send Me No Flowers.”
Other hits included 1960’s “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” with David Niven, 1964’s “That Touch of Mink” with Cary Grant, and 1965’s “Midnight Lace.”
Day maintained a wholesome, clean-cut public image despite going through three divorces that would have damaged the reputation of other stars of her era.
“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 wrote in her 1976 tell-all book, “Doris Day: Her Own Story,” according to the AP.
Failed investments by her third husband, Martin Melcher, left her deeply in debt. The experience prompted her reluctant move into TV, where she starred in “The Doris Day Show” from 1968-73.
Their son, Terry Melcher, became a songwriter and record producer, working with the Beach Boys and famously rejecting aspiring musician Charles Manson.
Terry had previously lived in the Cielo Drive house where Manson followers butchered Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969.
Since the 1970s, Day spent much of her time dedicated to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, fighting against animal testing, advocating for spay/neuter education and outreach programs in the U.S.
Her Spay Day program had become an international event, with World Spay Day providing thousands of free or reduced-cost spay and neuter surgeries in 75 countries, the foundation says.
Day married for a fourth time to businessman Barry Comden in 1976, but they divorced in 1981. She is survived by her grandson, Ryan Melcher. Her son, Terry, died in 2004.