Life and Career of the Amazing Doris Day

The amazing Doris Day will celebrate her 92nd birthday on April 3, 2016. Born Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio to Frederick von Kappelhoff and Alma Welz, both of German extraction, she came by her music talent naturally as her father was a music teacher, church organist, and choir master. Her mother named her after silent movie star Doris Kenyon, so it seemed inevitable that she would end up being a star herself. 

In her early days, she had dreams of being a dancer, but a severe car accident which injured her right leg ended any hope she harbored of being a professional dancer. While convalescing she listened to the radio and became enamored with Ella Fitzgerald. Her mother always nurtured her daughter’s dreams and arranged for her to visit the local vocal coach, Grace Raine who recognized talent when she saw it. Years later, Doris would say that Grace was the biggest influence in her singing career.

By the time she was 15, she was performing on the local radio station and with local band leader Barney Rapp. It was at this time, at Rapp’s suggestion that she changed her last name to Day. She worked with several other bands before settling in with Les Brown. In 1945, she had a hit with the song “Sentimental Journey” which she co-wrote with Brown and recorded with his band. Of her, Les Brown said, “She was every bandleader’s dream, a vocalist who had natural talent, a keen regard for the lyrics and an attractive appearance.” She had a second hit with Brown “My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time,” before moving on to a solo career in 1947. amazon

This was not a good time in her personal life. Her parents divorced when she was about 10. She met and married a fellow band member trombonist Al Jorden in 1941. She was only 17. Within the first year, she was pregnant and subjected to the physical abuse of her husband. The one good thing that came out of the relationship was her son Terry who was born in 1942. She divorced Jorden when Terry was still a baby and married George Weidler in 1946, but after less than a year he was unable to deal with her growing success and asked her for a divorce.

Of this period in her life, Doris says”You don’t really know a person until you live with him, not just sleep with him. Sex is not enough to sustain marriage. I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-shoes, America’s Virgin, and all that, so I’m afraid it’ s going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together. The young people have it right. What a tragedy it is for a couple to get married, have a child, and in the process discover they are not suited for one another! If I had lived with Al Jorden for a few weeks, God knows I would never have married him. Nor would I have married George Weidler. But I was too young and too inexperienced to understand any of this. Now my heart was busted and I had lost my way.”

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Doris’s third husband Marty Melcher (1951-1968) so mismanaged her earnings and investments that she was just about destitute after he died. It took months for son Terry to sort things out. He did, however, do a good job of managing her career.

On a professional level, Doris’ acting career had taken off and America was in love with her and the romantic comedies that she made with Rock Hudson, David Niven, and Cary Grant among others. For 10 years beginning in the early 1960s, she was one of the top 10 female box-office stars in the world.

In the Alfred Hitchcock film, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Doris’s theme song “Que Sera Sera” was introduced. Even though she later admitted not liking it very much at first, it became the theme song for her TV show that ran from 1968-1973.

Today, after an amazing career, she is happy with her life away from the limelight. She is very active in animal rescue causes and enjoys her house, lovely grounds, and visits from her many friends. Happy Birthday, Doris, you have had an amazing life and are obviously a survivor.

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  1. Mary

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