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The Tragic Life and Death of Doris Day

Doris Day was one of the most influential- not to mention beloved – female stars of the 1950s and 1960s. She was America’s sweetheart, but unfortunately, not everyone in her orbit paid her the respect that she deserved.

Doris passed away on May 13, 2019, at the ripe old age of 97 after a brief bout with pneumonia. The Hollywood actress and singer wasn’t only known for her film and television roles in the 50s and 60s. But also for her outspoken and relentless advocacy for animal activism.

But putting all of those achievements aside, the Pillow Talk star also lived quite the wild life while not on the set or stage. Her story is filled with highs and lows in a way that mirrors those of the lovesick protagonists she portrayed in her movies.

This video is going to attempt to piece together Doris Day’s life. And in a cohesive way so that you can see just how much pain and suffering she had to endure at the hands of others. She had a heart of gold but the people around her only seemed to want her financial wealth.

Doris Day’s Early Years 

She was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in 1924 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was a choirmaster and an accomplished music instructor. So it’s pretty clear where she picked up most of her talents. But when she was just 10 years old, Doris discovered that her dad was having an affair with the mother of her best friend. This discovery had a profound effect on her. And contributed heavily to the fact that she struggled so deeply to trust the men in her life later on. 

Doris didn’t always dream of becoming the celebrated singing star that she inevitably grew to be. In the mid-1930s, Doris formed a dance duo with Jerry Doherty. It was at first her desire to become a professional dancer. But in 1937 a freak accident happened that snuffed out that dream with a quickness. 

After getting into a severe car accident Doris was left with two badly injured legs. And shattered prospects of ever making a career out of her love for dance. If she wanted to succeed, she would have to reevaluate her life and set new goals, which is easier said than done.

This awful twist of fate proved to be a crushing blow for Doris at the time. Although it eventually became the motivating factor that led her to hire a vocal coach so that she could take her singing more seriously.

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And don’t you dare think about sneaking off so soon. Stick around to find out all about Doris’ string of abusive marriages as well as the enduring legacy that she has left behind.

Doris Finds Love And A New Name 

Two years after signing on with Carlin’s Carnival radio program as a vocalist, young Doris captured the attention of one Barney Rapp who helped to not only coin her stage name but also get her career off the ground. While singing with Barney’s band, Doris met her first husband, a trombonist by the name of Al Jordan. He was seven years older than she was but that didn’t matter to her in the least bit. She was in love.

At first, Doris actually thought that Jordan was a bit of creep. And her mother certainly didn’t approve of their relationship. But Doris had her mind set on settling down and starting a family, so she and Jordan elected to tie the knot in 1941.

Things started off decent enough. That is until Doris announced that she was pregnant. That was when everything started going downhill. Jordan wanted her to have an abortion, but when she refused Al started beating her hoping that she would instead have a miscarriage. 

But despite his campaign of violence and manipulation, Doris gave birth to a healthy, happy baby boy that she named Terry Paul Jorden in 1942. She subsequently kicked his father to the curb and filed for divorce. It was later determined that Al was a paranoid schizophrenic – not that that makes his actions any less heinous.

Doris Day’s Rise To The Top 

After Doris left Al, her life seemed to flourish. She returned to acting and singing and released a hit single ‘Sentimental Journey’ with Les Brown in 1945. The song shot to the top of the charts and helped solidify Doris’s presence in the music industry.

Not long after dropping that track, Doris scored her first major film role in ‘Romance On The High Seas’ which proved to be the first of many successful films that she would star in.

Doris married again in 1946 – albeit briefly – to saxophonist George Weldler. Their marriage would eventually crumble just like her first and she found herself newly divorced once again just three years later. She married once again to producer Marty Melcher, when she was 27. But what looked like marital bliss from the outside looking in proved to be just an elaborate rouse.

The newlywed couple moved into a home in LA with her son Terry, who was seven at the time. And for a while, things were pretty good but in time Doris’ dreams of domestic normality came crashing to the floor.

The Tides Change Once Again 

Marty eventually took on the role of being Doris’ agent and started pushing her into more and more big-budget films secretly while leeching cash from her bank accounts behind her back.

Doris’ mental state started to falter around this point. She was tired and overworked and was prone to having panic attacks quite regularly while on set. She once even convinced herself that she was having a heart attack while shooting Calamity Jane.

It seemed like she was stuck in an endless cycle of violence and heartache. When Marty started beating her son Terry though, Doris decided that enough was enough. Even though they continued to live under the same roof, Doris and Marty spent the next few years living separate lives. Marty passed away in 1968 from complications of having an enlarged heart.

Marty’s Abuse Continued After His Death 

After Marty’s death, things continued to be difficult for Doris. He had left behind a debt of $500,000 that she was now forced to have to contend with. Besides a few personal possessions, Marty left her with nothing but hardship.

She then had to force herself to keep working even though she had virtually no money to her name. But when she became the face of The Doris Day Show in 1968 her luck began to change despite the fact that she hated the idea of appearing on television.

Marty had actually signed her up to do the show before his death without even telling her. But she gave the show her best for five seasons so that she could earn back at least a fraction of the fortune that she once had.

Doris Finally Gets Paid 

It took Doris a solid decade to prove to the courts that Marty had been stealing money from her. She later found out that he had teamed up with his business partner Jerome Rosenthal to do essentially the same thing to other high-profile stars like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kirk Douglas.

Even though it was initially reported that Day would receive approximately $90 million in a settlement. She ended up receiving a much smaller figure after Rosenthal’s representation disputed the case.

Doris would marry once more in 1976 to wedding restaurant manager Barry Comden. Even though she once referred to Comden as the ‘most marvelous’ partner that she ever had. Their marriage too eventually fell apart and the couple filed for divorce in 1981.

Doris’ Incredible Legacy

Doris pretty much retreated from the spotlight in her later years. But she left behind a legacy that far surpasses any of that relationship drama.

Doris received the highest civilian honor in the US, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2004 which was presented to her by former president George W. Bush. Then in 2011, she was honored with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Career Achievement Award.

Day will also be forever remembered for her contributions to the Doris Day Pet Foundation – which was later renamed the Doris Day Animal League.

Doris Day’s Death And Aftermath 

After Day’s death, a rift opened between her friends and family members who accuse one another of mistreating the legendary star.

Ryan Melcher, her only grandson, posted on Facebook the claim that Doris’ longtime Manager, Bob Bashara, had essentially banned him from seeing his aging grandmother.

It was also shocking because up until then, Ryan, had previously never spoken publicly about his actress relative. Ryan, who works as a real estate agent in his grandmother’s home town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. California also made the claim that Bashara had pushed out board members of his grandmother’s animal-rescue foundation and replaced them with his own family members.

Doris was a very trusting person, and this led to her being manipulated all throughout her life. It seems as if this pattern only continued after her death.

You know, it seems like every time that we do another one of these celeb bio videos. I find myself increasingly more grateful to not have my entire life out in the open and under the critical microscope of the media. 

I can’t imagine going through the pain and hardship that people like Doris Day had to go through. And then have all of that dirty laundry put out on display for all the world to see. It’s a wonder that more stars don’t completely lose their minds and go off the deep end. Doris Day at least had the sense to enjoy the golden years of her life in privacy.

Anyway, now’s your turn to have your voice be heard. Which one of Doris Day’s films are you more of a fan of, Pillow Talk or Calamity Jane? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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