Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Happy Birthday to an Underappreciated Screen Queen
I love her because she never seems to be acting. She had her share of leading man who were adept at chewing the scenery (Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel) but she never succumbed and always stayed utterly natural. Which is not to say she wasn't charismatic. In two of my favorite movies (Young at Heart and Love Me or Leave Me), she holds her own with Frank Sinatra and James Cagney. She also enjoyed success with Cary Grant and Clark Gable (though, to be honest, I wasn't as enamored of her in those roles).
The quintessential Doris heroine was high-spirited and good-hearted. She was always independent and sure of herself. A pre-feminism feminist. Marilyn Monroe may have always needed rescuing, but not Doris. In fact, she was just as likely to do the rescuing. (In Young at Heart, she saves both an unwanted puppy and Frank Sinatra.)
She is best remembered for her wildly successful but virtually sexless sex comedies with Rock Hudson. The plots are all so dated, as Rock tries to maneuver Doris into bed and then she gets so mad! It's easy to make fun of them. After all, by the time she made Pillow Talk and Lover, Come Back she was already in her mid-30s, a little old to be a virgin. But I never thought it was her purity that Doris was fighting to protect. It was her integrity. It wasn't Rock's single minded horniness that upset her as much as his duplicity. Plus she had some really fantastic clothes in these movies. In Pillow Talk she's an interior designer and in Lover, Come Back she's an ad exec, so she has high-powered jobs to pay for those designer threads, too. And, while there isn't really much heat between her and Rock in these silly comedies, there is a lot of genuine affection.
When her movies and music fell out of favor, she ended up doing a TV show that, while popular for a time, truly sucks and is better off forgotten. Then she indulged her passion for animals and became a tireless crusader for animal rights. Her Doris Day Animal League focuses on influencing legislators to introduce new laws and enforce existing statutes that protect animals. They work hard to bring animal welfare organizations from different regions together to compare notes and develop innovative ways to educate the public and reduce animal suffering. Naturally, I think the old girl is a peach.
Her personal life has been chaotic. A terrible car accident as a girl, an abusive first husband, a manager-husband who robbed her, a landmark lawsuit that awarded her $22 million, and a son who offended Charles Manson. She wrote it all in her 1975 autobiography, which raised quite a few eyebrows at the time. Being Doris Day was most certainly not as easy as it looked!
Which is why I hope yesterday was a very happy celebration for her. No one sees her very much these days, which isn't an unusual for a lady of her years. I hope at 88 she's healthy and surrounded by loved ones (with and without fur). It's the least she deserves for all the joy she brought us for decades.