This morning many of us no doubt awoke to the news that a celebrity died whom we didn’t even know was still living. Actress and singer Doris Day, whose career overlapped almost precisely with the Ivy heyday, has died at the age of 97.
I began watching classic movies in my early twenties, and it didn’t take long for a Generation Xer to come upon the work of Doris Day, who starred opposite such menswear icons as Cary Grant and David Niven. I always had a rather allergic reaction to her, but I happened to rewatch one of her classics just a couple of weeks ago. There’s a TV station you can pick up with an antenna called Movies TV Network, which runs old films just like AMC and Turner Classic Movies did back in the ’90s when I first discovered Day and the other screen icons of the studio years. It was “That Touch Of Mink” with Grant, and in the end Day’s sweetness wins you over, like a dessert you can’t refuse.
Day’s screen persona came to exemplify the postwar era’s ambivalent attitude towards sexual liberation. Well into her thirties she was repeatedly cast as a “virgin” torn between catching a husband the old-fashioned way, or giving in to natural urges and experienced seducers. The recurring motif of these films led Oscar Levant to quip, “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.”
Day began her career as a singer at the end of the big band era, and so for a clip I’ll include one of her early songs (the charming “Amapola”) rather than one of her later film trailers. (This will also restore balance to the hip-square universe after our previous post, on the Modern Jazz Quartet.) The image at top, by the way, I chose for showing one of her charcoal-suited costars in a very ’60s office, in this case James Garner from “Move Over Darling.”
Good night, Ms. Day, and may you rest in peace. — CC