One of Hollywood’s last Golden Age stars has passed away. Doris Day, who became one of the biggest female stars of all time, has died at age 97. The star’s Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed Doris had died on Monday (May 13) at her home in California. She had reportedly “been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia,” the foundation said in a statement.
Bob Bashara, Doris’s business manager and close friend, told People the star “developed a cough and it turned into bronchitis and she was briefly hospitalized.” But Doris’s condition continued to decline, he said, and when she died on Monday, she was “surrounded by a few loved ones” and “some very close friends.”
Doris was launched straight into stardom at age 17 when she began her career as a big band singer with Les Brown & His Band of Renown in 1939. She had her first hit recording, “Sentimental Journey,” with the group, in 1944. The track went on to become popular with American troops returning home from World War II. She went on to have six other top 10 hits on the Billboard chart from 1945 to 1946, including “My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time.” She left the band a few years later to go solo, and went on to cut more than 650 songs over a 20-year period from 1947 to 1967.
Her film career began in 1948 when she starred in Romance on the High Seas alongside Canadian-born Jack Carson. She went on to land the starring role in 1953’s Calamity Jane, and had other key career parts in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Pillow Talk (1959) and Move Over, Darling (1963). Those films saw her starring alongside Hollywood hunks such as James Stewart, Rock Hudson and James Garner. Younger readers will also know Doris for her role on The Doris Day Show, which ran from 1968 to 1973. Doris recorded its beloved theme song, “Que Sera, Sera.”
Doris was a decorated performer throughout her life, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2008. She was also nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1959 for her role in Pillow Talk, and was given a Lifetime Achievement Golden Globe Award in 1989.
The woman with the golden voice married four times and knew lots of love in her life. Her first marriage was to trombonist Al Jorden, who she knew from her big band days. They were together from 1941 to 1943, and had a son, Terrence Paul Jorden, who later was known as Terry Melcher and who went on to become a record producer. George William Weidler, a saxophonist and brother of actress Virginia Weidler, was her second marriage. The two were together from 1946 to 1949. In 1951, she married for a third time, getting hitched to Martin Melcher. The two remained married until Martin’s death in 1968. Doris’s final marriage was to hotel maitre d’ Barry Comden.
In addition to her extensive showbiz career, Doris was known for her animal welfare activism, which grew out of an awful incident in which her dog was killed by a passing car when she was a teenager. Doris, who was a vegetarian, went on to demonstrate against the wearing of fur with other celebrities like Mary Tyler Moore, and founded the Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1978. In 1995, she began the annual Spay Day USA, in which she encourages pet owners to spay and neuter their animals.