Happily ever after looked good on her

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When I hear the name Doris Day, it stirs up memories of innocence and romance. Yesterday, I read this actress is 91-years-old (or 93 depending on which birth date is correct).

I saw a picture of her wearing a wide-brimmed hat and the same smile that beamed down on me so many Saturday afternoons at the Royal Theater. At 91, she was as lovely as ever.

For a lot of us growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, this woman was our ideal. She was the perfect combination of innocence and sexiness. We wanted to be Doris with her grace and with all those handsome leading men.

It was interesting to discover Doris Day didn’t start out to be an actress. When she was growing up, she was a dancer who studied ballet and tap. She had dreams of dancing professionally until a car accident in 1937 put an end to the dream.

Interesting how life moves people to different places. Would any of us know the name of the dancer Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff?

With her dancing dream gone, Doris started singing and became a big-band singer at the age of 15. In fact, bandleader Barney Rapp encouraged Doris to change her last name when she sang with his band. So, she changed it to Day after the song “Day After Day.”

In the 1940s, she teamed up with Les Brown and recorded her first No. 1 hits, “Sentimental Journey” and “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.” Then in 1948, she made her film debut. The rest is history.

Some of stories said Doris Day became synonymous with the “good girl/girl-next-door” image. I guess I’d agree with that description.

I think she represented that to those of us who watched her movies. Most of them were about romance, sweet romance with a hint of sex. They were what I call the “happily-ever-after” films.

The girl, after twists and turns, always ended up with the man of her dreams. It was a lovely movie ending, but not a realistic portrayal of how relationships work. Still, for a young girl in love with the idea of love, Doris Day movies were magic.

Now I’m going to sound like a senior citizen to lots of folks when I say there is something nice about those sweet, old movies. Yes, I realize in life happily-ever-after is more complex, but it was nice to imagine when the movie ended two lovely people stayed together in love.

Today, movies often depict what happens beyond the first blush of love when couples face the stuff of life. Folks, it ain’t love songs and roses forever for everyone, but I don‘t always want to watch it come undone on the big screen in graphic detail.

Even in her own “real life,’ Doris Day experienced the reality of relationships going wrong. She was divorced four times. Her third husband left her bankrupt, and signed a television contract unbeknownst to her. Eventually, she got most of her earnings back, but the news of what happened became public knowledge.

Yep, life and love don’t always work out like I imagined it did for the couples in those Saturday afternoon movies. Of course, part of me still holds on to that dream when one of her movies airs on television and I travel back to a more innocent time.

Doris Day retired from films in 1968 and became an outspoken animal activist in her retirement. She rarely appears in public these days except maybe for a birthday picture.

Reading about her birthday, I discovered something else interesting about this woman. What I didn’t realize was as Doris Day romanced Rock Hudson on screen, she was becoming one of the first female stars that could front a box office hit in a time when male actors dominated the movie business.

Maybe when I hear her name, that deserves appreciation as much as I once appreciated her getting the handsome guy at the end of the movie.