March’s Star of the Month: Doris Day
By Dr. Annette Bochenek
Hometowns to Hollywood is an ongoing series exploring the roots and legacies of Hollywood’s Golden Age stars.
Doris Day was a beloved actress and singer who entertained generations of audiences during her long career. In addition to her work in entertainment, she was also an animal welfare activist and passionate about animal rights throughout her life.
Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff was born on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Wilhelm and Alma Kappelhoff. Her father worked as a music teacher and choir director, while her mother was a homemaker. Kappelhoff was the youngest of three children: Richard and Paul. Richard passed away before her birth. Her parents would separate by 1930.
Kappelhoff became interested in dance and created a dance duo with Jerry Doherty, performing locally in Cincinnati. A 1937 car crash, however, injured Kappelhoff, preventing her from continuing to dance. During this period, she sang along with the radio and her mother signed her on for singing lessons. Her vocal instructor, Grace Raine, saw immense possibility in Kappelhoff and would be a strong creative influence in her life.
Kappelhoff began to secure professional vocal opportunities at local restaurant venues and on local radio. Orchestra leader Barney Rapp heard her perform and auditioned her as a vocalist for his orchestra. Kappelhoff was selected and, in 1939, would take on the stage name of Doris Day, as Kappelhoff was a lengthy surname for a theater marquee. Rapp was fond of her rendition of “Day After Day,” which inspired her stage surname.
Later, Day would work for Les Brown, among other bandleaders, recording her first hit, “Sentimental Journey.” After singing with the Brown band for roughly two years on the radio for Bob Hope’s program, she went on tour and caught the eye of songwriters Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Upon hearing her rendition of “Embraceable You,” she was recommended and cast for her film debut in Romance on the High Seas (1948).
Day would work in additional musical roles, including appearances in Tea for Two (1950), On Moonlight Bay (1951), I’ll See You in My Dreams, and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). In Calamity Jane (1953), Day performed “Secret Love,” which would earn the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In addition to a string of successful recordings, Day also appeared regularly on radio with her program, The Doris Day Show. Though established as a musical star, she sought to transition to dramatic roles such as Love Me or Leave Me (1955), and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Her performance of “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) in the latter also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Balancing her film appearances in dramas and comedies, Day would soon embark upon a highly successful period of appearing in romantic comedies alongside Rock Hudson, including Pillow Talk (1959), Lover, Come Back (1961), and Send Me No Flowers (1964).
While her film and music career continued, her third husband had spent her earnings and left her in severe debt. Moreover, he also committed her to The Doris Day Show for television. She would continue her work in television to help pay her debts.
Over time, as audience interests changed, she became more removed from the spotlight and valued her privacy. Day focused upon animal welfare work, founding the Doris Day Pet Foundation, which later became the Doris Day Animal Foundation. She would also lobby for legislation that would protect animal welfare, in addition to forming the Doris Day Animal League. Day also contributed financially to the founding of the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center.
She retired to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, after her work in films, where she owned the Cypress Inn. She passed away on May 13, 2019, at age 97.
Today, some points of interest relating to Day remain.
Her childhood home at 3475 Greenlawn Ave. in Cincinnati, Ohio, still stands.
In 1930, she resided with her mother and brother at 1811 Brewster Ave. in Cincinnati, which has since been razed. They later moved to 2552 Warsaw Ave. in Cincinnati, which does remain.
In 1941, Day lived at 325 W. 45th St. in New York City. The apartment building remains as the Whitby.
Day later moved to 713 Crescent Dr. in Beverly Hills. The home still stands today.
In Hollywood, Day is celebrated with two stars on the Walk of Fame. Her stars honor her work in motion pictures and recording. The stars are located at 6268 Hollywood Blvd. and 6735 Hollywood Blvd.
After living in Beverly Hills, Day relocated to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1981. Her home stands at 6730 Carmel Valley Rd.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the pet-friendly Cypress Inn continues to welcome guests. It is located at Lincoln and 7th St in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation and Doris Day Equine Center continue to operate today.
Day's legacy continues through her Animal Foundation, filmography, and many memorable recordings.
Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a professor, film historian, and scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.