What does one do when the death of an icon brings to the surface mixed feelings?
Doris Day passed away from pneumonia today, and few people of her generation didn’t love her as a singer and film star. She had a 50-year run on stage and screen which showcased her talents, and she just might have invented sweetness and innocence as a “girl-next-door sexiness.”
We make no apologies for loving her movies. They required no heavy lifting, no plot analysis, and merely required the viewer to sit back, suspend a bit of reality, and enjoy the ride. She had over 39 films to her credit, and was repeatedly one of the few women ranked among the biggest box-office draws across the early ’60.
Doris Day’s advocacy for animals proved to be more complicated. That she loved animals was clear. It was Doris Day who refused to continue working until the animals she saw during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much in Morocco were helped with feeding stations. Few of us wouldn’t do the same, but Day did it 63 years ago.
In 1978, she founded the Doris Day Pet Foundation which lobbied for, among other things, tax penalties for failing to spay and neuter animals. Today, news of her passing are filled with glowing reports of her love for animals, but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Doris Day foundation was a key supporter of PETA and HSUS, and there are many who believe she was the tip of the arrow that ushered in the animal rights movement.
Shoulder shrug. We chose to remember Doris Day for the good times. It would probably rankle her that we leave this post with a hit song that she never wanted to sing in the first place, Que Sera, Sera. Song writers wrote “Que Sera Sera” after watching Ava Gardner’s film The Barefoot Contessa where they noticed the inscription “Che Sera Sera,” or “Whatever Will Be, Will Be” on the fictional family’s Italian villa. Inspired, they wrote the song for the movie and Doris Day. Mind you, she’s singing the song in the movie as a distraught mother:
Doris Day told Terry Gross at NPR’s Fresh Air in 2012 that she didn’t understand why an upbeat song would be in a movie about a kidnapped boy. Shoulder shrug. It worked. She sang it as a lullaby after her child is kidnapped and thought to be held in the building where Doris Day’s character performs the song in hopes that her son will hear it and know that his parents are near by. it was a dandy movie, but then, Hitchcock movies always are.
Her performance won the film the 1956 Academy Award for Best Original Song and would reach the No. 2 slot on the Billboard charts. She became so associated with the song that it became the theme song for “The Doris Day Show,” a sitcom that aired between 1968 and 1973.
Rest in Peace, Doris, even if we don’t agree with the direction your best intentions took.