Doris Day, actress and animal rights activist, dead at 97

Doris Day, in a 1957 publicity photo. Public domain via Wikipedia.

Doris Day, an actress and singer whose career and activism endured from the 1930s, has died, according to multiple sources.

Fox News and NBC report that the Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed Day’s passing Monday morning at her home in Carmel Valley, California. In a statement, Day was reported to have been in excellent health until recently, when she began a bout with pneumonia. She was 97.

Day was one of the hottest entertainers in Hollywood, with her heyday spanning the 1940s to the 1960s. She recorded over 650 songs, while starring in a series of hit film musicals and comedies. According to a 2013 survey from Quigley Publishing, Day was still at the time on their list of the all-time box office performers.

Born in Cincinnati in 1922 as Doris Mary Ann Kappeloff, Day had dreams to become a professional dancer, until an injury in a car crash hurt her chances of breaking into that business. While recovering, Day accidentally discovered a hidden talent while singing along to the radio. She took singing lessons and began appearing on local radio. Her first hit, “Sentimental Journey”, in 1945, was recorded while serving as the vocalist in Les Brown’s band.

On film, Day appeared in many popular musicals and “bedroom comedies”, including Romance on the High Seas, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Calamity Jane, Love Me or Leave Me, and Pillow Talk for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Financial problems in the late 1960s prompted Day to shift her focus to television, and she appeared on “The Doris Day Show”, which ran on CBS from 1968 to 1973.

In addition to her recordings and her radio, TV and film work, Day was known later in life for her activism with animals. In 1971, she co-founded Actors and Others For Animals and appeared in print denouncing the production of fur coats. This eventually evolved into the Doris Day Animal Foundation and the Doris Day Animal League, a pair of non-profits, with the latter focusing on lobbying lawmakers. A facility to rehabilitate abused and neglected horses opened in 2011 in Texas and bears her name.

Day was married four times, first to trombonist Al Jorden, then saxophonist George William Wiedler, film producer Martin Melcher, and restauranteur Barry Comden.