Joan Merrill's message to The Editor of the New York Times:
In “The Lives They Lived”, Anthony Giardina ignores Doris Day’s three-decade career and concentrates on the “image” given her by the Sixties’ counterculture. In “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back”, Day’s characters resist the advances of playboy Rock Hudson and in “A Touch of Mink,” of Cary Grant. To the “make love, not war” generation, she became a symbol of the sexual hypocrisy of their parents.
Giardina makes little mention of Doris Day as a popular big band singer with Les Brown; a top recording artist for Columbia Records with multiple gold records (1947-1967); a 1960s top ten box office movie actress (with four years in first place); and one of the first actresses to play a career woman on television (1968-1972). And he wonders why she didn’t stay and correct her image instead of leaving Hollywood and devoting the rest of her days to her animal foundation!
Giardina admits to having rejected Day along with others of his generation and seems to have continued to do so. He focuses on the roles that earned her the “perpetual virgin” image and ignores her other 36 movies: the early Warners’ musicals when she played a singer and dancer and her later critically-acclaimed romantic comedies and dramas when she was usually a working woman – single, widowed or married with young children.
To base a career as illustrious as Doris Day’s on a few of her movie roles is not only silly but an unforgivable disservice to her legacy.
Joan Merrill, Producer of tribute "Que Sera! Celebrating Doris Day With Kristi King"
Link to article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/201 ... death.html
Remembering some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost in the past year.
Doris Day: She was an actress with subversive potential — who became a symbol of a generation’s sexual hypocrisy.
By Anthony Giardina
The first movie my mother ever took me to was “Young at Heart,” a 1954 melodrama starring Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. Toward the end, Sinatra, in despair over the ways he has disappointed his long-suffering wife, played by Day, turns off his windshield wipers during an ice storm and crashes. I was 4 when I saw that movie; the scene gave me nightmares. But I never held it against my mother. I’d like to think that I intuited then what I know now: a son’s nightmares were a fair trade-off for the essential information that Doris Day was delivering to women like my mother in the 1950s.
Day made 22 movies in that decade, most of them frothy musical entertainments designed to show off her lush band singer’s voice. But in her three most important dramatic movies — “Young at Heart,” “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955) and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) — she managed to transcend that image, sending out a very different message to the housewives who then composed her fan base.
Her characteristic expression in those films is a pinched, disappointed but stoic assessment of the man she’s saddled with, whether it’s the depressive Sinatra, the violent James Cagney in “Love Me or Leave Me” or the hopelessly naïve Jimmy Stewart in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” It’s a subversive look that cut against the sunny lessons Day had been peddling in her lighter fare. She seemed to be saying: These are the unheroic boys we have to partner and raise children with. It’s not an option to leave; we need to shoulder them, to look hard and unromantically at them and to summon the strength to carry on. James Cagney got it right when he appraised Day’s ability: “The touchstone is simplicity, the simple line of performance, directly to you, uncluttered.”
But Day’s potential as the kind of actress she might have become was blunted by the next turn in her career. Always curiously passive about her film choices (“I’ve never been fixed on a career,” she says in “Doris Day: Her Own Story”), she allowed her nogoodnik third husband and manager, Martin Melcher, to make most of them for her. It was the producer Ross Hunter, though, who decided, in the late 1950s, that the time had come for Doris Day to emerge as a sex symbol. (He cited her underappreciated “wild fanny” as his inspiration.) The result was “Pillow Talk” and then two other blockbuster comedies — “Lover Come Back” and “That Touch of Mink.” They traded in a winking sexual sophistication and a hypermodern populuxe look that has allowed for their growing critical reputation. Their primary effect in their own time was to cement a younger generation’s image of her. “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin” was Oscar Levant’s oft-quoted wisecrack. But for most of us who grew up in those years, it became the only way we knew her.
Always comfortable, in life, with sex in and out of marriage, and claiming never to have loved a man “with intensity,” she allowed herself to become, in her later movies, the embodiment of the battling virgin, staking out an “all for love and marriage” position that first captured a younger audience and then, once that audience came of age, caused them to treat her as a joke. If she was actually having fun in those movies, that fact was very quickly lost on us. The rumors that trailed her (that she was conducting affairs with the Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills and the singer Sly Stone) were yet another way for the wised-up children of the late 1960s to fault their parents’ world. Doris Day had gone, over the space of a decade, from being an actress to becoming a symbol of a generation’s sexual hypocrisy.
If there was a way out of the trap she’d fallen into, it may have come when she was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.” In her pre-“Pillow Talk” ’50s movies, she displayed a compelling eroticism. There was always something deeply knowing in her eyes; I suspect she could have played Mrs. Robinson blindfolded. But she turned the part down.
It seems never to have been a major concern for Day to prove, to those of us who rejected her, that a more serious actress lived inside. She didn’t care enough, and by the late ’60s, had other things on her mind. Melcher, at his death, left her bankrupt and saddled with a TV series, “The Doris Day Show,” she never wanted to do. She carried on, fighting her way out of debt just as she’d fought her way through three bad marriages (one of them physically abusive) and two work-related nervous breakdowns. By 1973, at age 51, she basically left show business to devote herself to what seems to have been a true and enduring passion: setting up foundations for the care and protection of animals.
As to the image she left behind, she has said disparagingly that it was “an image, I can assure you, more make-believe than any film part I ever played.” Had she cared to, there was still time to change it. But Doris Day seemed happy to walk away.
Anthony Giardina is a writer whose recent play is “Dan Cody’s Yacht.”