It looks like it’s going to be a busy week in our fair city. Monday is opening day for the 2014 Reds’ season, with the annual parade and all that goes with it. Tuesday is April Fool’s Day, which can be one of the most important days of the year for the seriously zany. And Thursday, April 3rd is an important milestone in Cincinnati history, for it was on that day ninety years ago that Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff was born. Of course, we all know her better as Doris Day. She started as a band singer, became a huge movie star, had a very successful run on series television, and retired from it all in 1973 at the top of her game. The interim years have been devoted to her various animal charities. She doesn’t give interviews, hasn’t made a movie since 1968, and makes the most of whatever interests her in life. On Thursday, her adopted town of Carmel, California will be having several birthday events all designed around raising money for Doris Day’s animal charities.
The most cinematic event will be beamed into our homes via cable or satellite as Turner Classic Movies devotes an entire 24-hour day to showing twelve of her films. As with any selection of films honoring a single artist, it’s a mixed bag, probably dictated by rights and availability. TCM is running some of the good ones: Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers, two of her three films with Rock Hudson; Love Me or Leave Me, a stunning dramatic turn for our birthday girl which should have garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Her co-star, James Cagney, got his third, and final, nomination for the film. Doris hit one out of the ball park with the musical western Calamity Jane, inspired no doubt by the success of Annie Get Your Gun. Not only was the film a big audience favorite, but the Oscar-winning song “Secret Love” put Doris on the Billboard charts. And for comedy, there’s also The Thrill Of It All, with James Garner and Please Don't Eat the Daisies with David Niven. Many of the others being shown on TCM are not necessarily her best, which include I'll See You in my Dreams, Billy Rose's Jumbo, April in Paris, The Tunnel of Love, Move Over Darling, and With Six you get Eggroll, her cinematic swan song. Rumor has it that Mike Nichols was interested in having Doris star in The Graduate, but she would not hear of besmirching her image by playing the randy Mrs. Robinson.
Still, there are a lot more Doris Day movies you can search out on DVD or streaming sources, including some of her best. Noticeable absent from the TCM lineup are four films with pair Doris with a big-name male star: Young at Heart with Frank Sinatra; Teacher's Pet with Clark Gable; That Touch of Mink with Cary Grant; and her first, and best, outing with Rock Hudson, Pillow Talk. Not to mention Doris playing opposite Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, featuring much suspense and that zillion-seller song “Que Sera, Sera,” which became her signature tune.
Also worthy of consideration are The Pajama Game, It Happened to Jane co-starring Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs, and a big favorite of many fans, The Glass Bottom Boat. There are also three other dramatic tales of interest: Storm Warning, which casts Doris, Ginger Rogers, and Ronald Reagan vs. the KKK; Julie, a low-budget suspenser made the year after The Man Who Knew Too Much; and Midnight Lace with Rex Harrison.
But it’s too bad that one particular film is missing from the TCM line-up, and it’s one of her earlier films: 1950’s Young Man with a Horn. Supposedly based on the life of jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, it has plenty of drama, glamour and music. It also, to the best of my knowledge, is the only film made 64 years ago in which the three principals are still alive: Doris, of course, Kirk Douglas, and Lauren Bacall. Wouldn’t you love to have those three sitting with Robert Osborne on the TCM set discussing that film?
So happy birthday and thanks for the memories, Doris. Over the years, you have certainly “made our day.”