Doris Day dead – Hollywood legend turned animal saviour dies aged 97 but will not have a funeral or a headstone

IT’S belted out by rowdy footie fans across the country, but the singer who made Que Sera Sera a hit slipped quietly away yesterday.

Hollywood legend Doris Day died at her home in Carmel, California, aged 97.

Her death was confirmed in a statement by the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which said she “had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia”.

The charity she set up in her name added that, as per Doris’s wishes, there will be no funeral and no headstone to mark her grave.

Nor will there be a memorial service to remember her remarkable career in film, TV and records.

A friend said: “She didn’t want any fuss. She just wanted to disappear.”

During her heyday in the Fifties and Sixties the idea of Doris simply vanishing from view was unthinkable.

The world could not get enough of the blonde beauty with the wholesome image.

Doris had shot to fame as an all-American sweetheart when her 1945 song Sentimental Journey became an anthem for US soldiers returning from World War Two.

She went on to make 39 films, including Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk, and had many chart hits.

Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, in Cincinatti, Ohio, her grandparents were German immigrants.

Until 2017, Doris had believed she was actually two years younger — until she discovered a mix-up over the year of her birth.

She quipped: “Age is just a number but it is nice to know my real age at last!”

Her early dreams of being a dancer were dashed at the age of 12 when she broke her leg in a car accident.

But as she sat in a wheelchair recovering, she sang along to records on the radio and discovered a talent she never knew she had.

Mum Alma sent her for singing lessons, and within eight weeks Doris had sung on local radio and was signed up as a singer.

She always said the best days of her life were travelling around America with Les Brown & His Band.

An agent changed her surname because Kappelhoff was too long to fit on a marquee.

In culture…

Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee from Grease: Watch it, hey, I’m Doris Day, I was not brought up that way

We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel: Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham!: You take the grey skies out of my way, You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day

Dig It by The Beatles: Like the FBI and the CIA, And the BBC, BB King, And Doris Day, Matt Busby. Dig it, dig it, dig it

At first she hated being Doris Day but the public loved it — and her.

She sang at a Hollywood party in 1947 and a year later made her debut in Romance On The High Seas, taking a part originally written for Judy Garland.

She co-starred with many leading actors, including James Stewart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable and James Cagney.

Audiences particularly loved her sparkling on-screen chemistry with actor Rock Hudson in the 1959 film Pillow Talk.

They made two more romcoms together and were great friends until his death in 1985.

He nicknamed her “Eunice” because whenever he thought of her as Eunice, it made him laugh.

She said: “I call him Ernie, because he’s certainly no Rock.”

Just weeks before he died of Aids, Rock was the first guest when Doris launched a TV station in Carmel.

His gaunt appearance shocked her.

Doris said: “I tried to give him lunch but he wouldn’t.

"I said I’d feed him with a fork but he said he didn’t eat. He wanted to see me.”

The loss of her friend spurred her on to be an Aids campaigner which cemented her status as a Seventies gay icon, namechecked by Wham!

On screen Doris was the bubbly blonde next door but her private life was a mess.

She was divorced three times and widowed once.

In 1941 she married trombonist Al Jorden, who was violent.

They had a son, Terry, but divorced after two years.

Her second marriage, to saxophonist George Weidler, lasted less than a year.

In 1947, after briefly dating Ronald Reagan, she got married for the third time, to producer Martin Melcher.

He adopted Terry and handled Doris’s affairs.

As her agent he worked her tirelessly and her health suffered.

Top songs…

Sentimental Journey (1945): Topped charts for two months. A hit with soldiers back from WW2.

It’s Magic (1947): From film debut Romance On The High Seas. Later the theme to her radio show.

The Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack-Away!) (1954): From hit film Calamity Jane.

Que Sera Sera (1956): From Man Who Knew Too Much, won Oscar for Best Song.

Move Over, Darling (1963): From film of the same name.

On the set of 1953 musical Calamity Jane she began having panic attacks, and while making the 1956 film Julie, doctors found a tumour the size of a grapefruit in her intestines.

She won critical acclaim for 1955’s Love Me Or Leave Me, the story of singer Ruth Etting and her gangster husband/manager.

The screenplay could have been the story of her own life, because Melcher was keeping her royalties for himself.

When he died of a stroke in 1968, Doris learned how he had squandered her fortune.

She was hit with a tax bill for half a million dollars and discovered she had no money in the bank.

She was eventually awarded more than £20million by the courts in a case against a man Melcher had unwisely allowed to invest her money.

By this time her film career was also on the wane, as Hollywood turned its back on virginal fodder for racier films.

Doris turned down the role of Mrs Robinson in 1967’s The Graduate because it was too raunchy.

She said: “I couldn’t see myself rolling around in the sheets with a young man half my age whom I’d seduced.”

Neither could her fans. Pianist Oscar Levant, a longtime friend, joked: “I’ve been around so long, I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.”

After Melcher died she never made another film.

But the man who left her in debt had also signed her up to The Doris Day Show, launching her TV career.

In 1976 she married fourth husband Barry Comden, 12 years her junior and maitre d’ at the Beverly Hills Old World Restaurant.

He wooed animal lover Doris by giving her doggy bags to take home for her pets.

Four years later they divorced after a pet-food business he set up using her name collapsed in a pyramid selling scandal.

Comden said: “She had 14 dogs. The final straw was when I was kicked out of bed to make way for a poodle.”

Doris started rescuing animals after making Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much when she saw how badly the animals in scenes were treated.

And as TV work dried up she devoted the last 25 years fighting for animal rights.

Doris said: “Helping animals has been a lifelong passion. They give us unconditional love and ask very little in return.”

Tragedy struck in 2004 when her music producer son Terry died of cancer aged 62.

He had survived being targeted by serial killer Charles Manson when he wouldn’t give him a record deal.

Doris once said of life: “I’ve always believed things work out exactly as they’re supposed to.”

Or in the immortal words of her famous song, que sera sera.

Tributes to an icon

By James Beal, US Editor

SHOWBIZ stars yesterday paid tribute to the singer and actress.

Beatle Sir Paul McCartney said: “She was a true star in more ways than one. Visiting her in her Californian home was like going to an animal sanctuary where her many dogs were taken care of in splendid style.

“She had a heart of gold and was a very funny lady who I shared many laughs with. I will miss her but will always remember her twinkling smile and infectious laugh.’”

His daughter, fashion designer Stella McCartney, shared an image of herself with Doris and wrote: “The one, the only, the woman who inspired so much of what I do . . . Doris Day I love you, my calamity Jane.

“An iconic woman who I was hugely honoured to meet and share precious moments with. Rest in peace. X.”

Sex And The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker said: “A Cincinnati girl just like me. How many letters I drafted to you and didn’t send. I could never get it right but they all said the same thing: I love you. Millions did and do.”

Actress Goldie Hawn added: “Doris Day left us and took a piece of the sun with her. She brightened our lives and lived out her life with dignity. May she rest peacefully.”

American crooner Tony Bennett, who performed with her on her show in the Seventies, said: “She was a wonderful friend and a lovely and very talented lady. We will miss her beautiful smile and it was such a thrill to appear on The Doris Day Show back in 1970.”

Film star Antonio Banderas tweeted: “Thank you for your talent. R.I.P. #DorisDay.”

And Star Trek actor William Shatner tweeted: “She was the World’s Sweetheart and beloved by all. Que Será, Será.”


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