Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


DORIS DAY: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door. David Kaufman. Virgin; 2008.

Doris Day was a celebrated actress, singer and movie star, becoming a top box office attraction in the sixties, but she was also thought of by non-fans as a precious, virginal, saccharine-coated antique, a mere aberration, whose films were sickening. She was funny, but not as funny as Lucille Ball. She could sing well, but she was no Judy Garland. Her very real dramatic talent, however, as evidenced by performances in such films as Love Me or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much, was ignored or forgotten by her critics and even the general public. Some of this was Day's fault, as she turned down roles in The Graduate and The Children's Hour to make more of her formula sit-com movies such as The Glass Bottom Boat. Her husband, Marty Melcher, was responsible for running her career, and he nearly ran it into the ground. Turning over fiscal responsibilities to a crooked lawyer who was later disbarred due to Melcher's bad advice, Day lost millions. Day was more complicated than her image would suggest, apparently having an affair with an African-American baseball player, as well as at least two affairs with married men (Patrick O'Neal was one), possibly leading one jilted wife to commit suicide. Day did smoke and drink when she wanted to, and didn't believe in organized religion. Day was an absentee mother to her son, Terry, and when she got annoyed with someone for some alleged minor malfeasance, she would cut them off forever without a word. Day claimed that all she ever wanted out of life was a husband and family and a secure home life, and got no real pleasure out of her fame, success and riches. (Poor Doris!) When I first began David Kaufman's very thorough (perhaps too thorough) biography of Day, I was afraid it would be a mere fan boys ruminations, but this is a well-researched, incisive -- and unsparing -- look at Day's life, career, personality, and character, good or bad. As Day got older, disappointed with her married life, career, and her unstated realization that fans who didn't really know her intimately were no substitute for real friends, she turned to numerous pets for comfort. Her three other marriages all failed, and she came to rely more on animals than people. (She gave a homeless man some money only because he had a dog with him!) After reading this excellent bio you can decide for yourself if Day is nice or a nut or somewhere in between. David Kaufman also wrote a notable biography of Mary Martin, Some Enchanted Evenings.

Verdict: More about Doris Day than you may want to know. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Have not read this yet, and I am that super-fan who wants to know EVERYTHING, Bill! LOL. As we've discussed, I loved Day's memoir, but it does paint Doris as a long-suffering saint, and I have heard rumblings over the years about Doris being a little diva-esque and neurotic and difficult to work with (did Norman Jewison once throw her under the bus on TCM? Maybe...); and she always refused to confirm all the rumors of her apparently very very very active sex life in the late 60s and early 1970s. I think she jokingly called herself "Lady Bountiful of the Sheets" in her autobiography. But this one is definitely a must-read for me!

William said...

You will devour every page! It's a damned good read! Day was much more complex than that "freckle-faced virgin" she was always seen as. Enjoy it!