Actress, singer and eternal nice girl Doris Day has died of pneumonia at age 97. (She fudged her age for years, but biographer David Kaufman finally pegged her birth year as 1922 in his biography Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door.)
How big was she in her day? Very big.
Besides James Stewart, Day’s leading men included James Cagney, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan, David Niven, James Garner, Louis Jourdan, and Jack Lemmon… James Garner, who acted with Day in The Thrill of It All and another light comedy, Move Over, Darling (1963), considered her the perfect co-star. “I’d rather have Doris than Liz Taylor,” he remarked. “Everything Doris does turns to box-office gold.… I think Doris is a very sexy lady who doesn’t know how sexy she is.
Day was Hollywood’s #1 box office star for three years running, from 1962-64, topping stars like John Wayne, Jerry Lewis and Elizabeth Taylor. But if you haven’t heard of her, not to worry: she’s been out of the spotlight for decades now. By choice! Most of her energy for the last four decades was devoted to dogs, cats and horses via her Doris Day Animal Foundation.
So what’s Doris Day’s connection to Carol Channing? First, both were blondes and both had a certain unconventional and not-exactly-sexual charm — nobody was mistaking either of them for Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield. And both were big in their day.
But most notably, both died this year at age 97. Channing died first but lived longer: 97 years and 349 days to Doris Day’s 97 years and 40 days.
Congratulations to them both on long lives and high-wattage careers.