What Did Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe Have In Common?

Sep 26, 2019

Here's a question you've probably never pondered: What could Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe have in common?

To me, they were both blonde and big movie stars – and that's about it. Cincinnati native Doris Day was that wholesome girl next door; Monroe was the sexy bombshell.

But author John Law offers many surprising similarities in his new book, Goddess & The Girl Next Door: Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day And The Movie They Shared ($18.95; Aplomb Publishing). 

He talked about his new book with me recently for Around Cincinnati airing 7 p.m. this Sunday.

1957 publicity photo of Doris Day.
Credit Courtesy Wikimedia

I didn't know that Monroe's unfinished film, Something's Got To Give, was rewritten after Monroe's death in 1962 as Move Over Darling for Doris Day and James Garner. Monroe actually had been fired from the movie a month before she died of a drug overdose at 36. Her role was not recast because co-star Dean Martin's contract stipulated that he was making the movie with Monroe.

Law points out the parallels in their careers: Both were born in the 1920s; they were about the same height; started their film careers in the late 1940s; had break-through movie roles in the early 1950s that made them top box-office draws. Each had made the same number of movies (33) when Monroe died.

Then he takes it a step further.

"In many ways, their roles could easily have been reversed. Monroe colored her hair, had plastic surgery to change her nose and jaw, and cultivated a sexy walk and voice to create her persona, while Day took her own steps to cultivate her wholesome image. Under different circumstances, one could argue that Day could have easily have cultivated the sexy image following Monroe's path, and Monroe could have remained as she was and aimed for a girl next door persona," Law says.

Day, who died in May at 97, was a more versatile entertainer than Monroe. Before films, Day was a Cincinnati singer and toured with the Les Brown Band. She enjoyed a long recording career, which was acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 Grammy Awards.

Law also talks about how Day's choices impacted her career. She was nominated for a 1958 Grammy Award for her single, The Sound of Music, but she turned down the movie title role. She also turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate to cling to her squeaky-clean image during the social upheaval of the late 1960s.  

As Law writes: "Men wanted to sleep with Marilyn, but wanted to wake up next to Doris."

Hear our conversation on Around Cincinnati at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.