Doris Day was a singer and actress who embodied healthy American femininity in the 1950s and 1960s – memorably as a chaste but sought-after love affair to sex farces with Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.

Despite Day's ever sunny image, her life was marked by periods of physical, emotional and financial abuse. Her first husband beat her, her second husband could not stand her success, and her third cheated on her hard-won fortune. Until her death, she had long withdrawn from show business and was known for her work in animal welfare. When she received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, the award cited her influence as a performer and activist.

Day, a handsome platinum blonde with a dramatic and slightly hoarse voice, had been catapulted to become the darling of the armed forces with her million-selling "Sentimental Journey" recording. The song, released in 1945 and supported by Les Brown's band, set the musical tone on the American home front during World War II.

"It was the dream of every bandleader, a singer with natural talent, a lot of love for the lyrics and an attractive performance," Brown once said. "As a singer, Doris belongs to the company of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. And I would say that Doris is the best in the industry besides Sinatra when it comes to selling a lyrics. "

Her good looks and unwaveringly warm personality helped her move into films, though she continues to be a high-profile pop singer with successful ballads like "It's Magic", "Secret Love" and "Que Sera, Sera" (Whatever will, will be) was) ", The last of which became her theme song.

Apart from her popular qualities, she had an unerring sense of tender swing. With the pianist Andre Previn on the album of 1962 she has made excellent and far more intimate recordings duet and flourished for a few more years without compromising their style, despite the changing taste in music.

Her film career, which spanned nearly 40 films over two decades, was far more plaid. While promising in dramatic roles – she memorably collaborated with director Alfred Hitchcock – she was far more attracted to bland comedies and mediocre musicals that were in her comfort zone.

She was initially a crowd pleaser as upbeat and beautiful star of musicals like Romance on the high seas (1948), Misfortune Jane (1953) and The pajama game (1957). For several years she remained one of the most important blockbusters in the country.

In films like teacher's pet (1958) Pillow Talk (1959) and That touch of mink (1962) she cemented her role on screen: The Modern Working Woman Protecting Her Chastity Against Smooth Wolves – Clark Gable, Rock Hudson, and Cary Grant.

Her film selection gave Day her lasting reputation as an eternal virgin – "the all-American girl of middle age," wrote the film critic Pauline Kael in 1963 sluggish. The film personality of the actor took on comic dimensions. The animators, including Groucho Marx and Oscar Levant, have been repeatedly attributed to the oft-repeated saying, "I've been traveling so long that I can remember Doris Day before she was a virgin."

Doris Day sings 1953 "The Windy City" in the movie Calamity Jane

A day later wrote in a paper: "I had in my acting or in my private life, the intention to create a picture, but I suppose that everything that I have on the screen through appears healthy and virgin. I do not think anyone would have believed me if I had been cast in the role of Mistress Whore Mildred Human bondage, "

She also said that she has rejected the part of alcoholic seductress Ms. Robinson in The graduate (1967) because "it has hurt my sense of values".

One of Day's best performances was Ruth Etting, a jazz-era singer Love me or leave me (1955). James Cagney played her gangster friend Martin "The Gimp" Snyder.

The film's producer sought Day for the role because he believed it would give dignity to Etting, an otherwise vulgar character.

New York Times Film critic Bosley Crowther wrote that the two leading actors "do their job very well and make an unusually interesting and dramatic couple for a music film. The evidence is that when Mr. Cagney finally slaps Miss Day, the audience reacts with a genuine and audible gasp to the shameful violence. "

With Frank Sinatra in "Young at Heart", 1954 (Getty)

Crowther noticed Day's skilful manner with the historic songs, including "Mean to Me" and "Ten Cents a Dance." The soundtrack was released as an album and sold well.

Day was also adept at playing the mother of a kidnapped child in Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956) with James Stewart as her husband. As an allusion to her career as a musician her character became a singer. A crucial moment in the film was the performance of "Que Sera, Sera".

Day continued to sporadically take dramatic risks in films, including Julie (1956) with Louis Jourdan and midnight lace (1960) with Rex Harrison. But she said she kept such roles to a minimum because the fans disapproved, and because she was threatened on screen, she remembered her abusive first husband.

Rock Hudson and Day around 1960 (Getty)

Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff was born on April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati. Her mother named her after the silent film actress Doris Kenyon and promoted her daughter's interest in music and dance. Her parents' marriage was dissolved, she later said, because her father, a respected piano and choir teacher, had an affair with her best friend's mother.

In the meantime, Doris showed promising performances as an entertainer. At age 13, she and a male partner won a $ 500 prize at a Cincinnati dance competition. Her plan to go to Hollywood ended when she injured her right leg in a car accident.

During her 14-month recovery, she took singing lessons and modeled her voice on what she called "casual yet clean," Ella Fitzgerald's style. A Cincinnati nightclub owner hired her and renamed her after singing the pop song "Day After Day."

"I'm glad you did not catch me singing the Götterdämmerung," she told the owner, referring to the Wagner opera.

Day was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress for her 1959 performance in "Pillow Talk" (Getty).

Day was a short time singer for Bob Crosby's Big Band, before she went into a long career with Les Browns band in 1940. She liked Brown's paternal style and his low tolerance for drinkers and musicians.

With Brown Day took such early favorites as "My dreams are getting better" and "You will not be satisfied (until you break my heart)". She twice took absences from the band to marry.

Her first marriage in 1941 was with Al Jorden, a talented trombonist who often beat her and "psychopathic sadists," as she later reported. He once tried to impose on her pills that would cause her to miscarry. She gave birth to her son Terry and they soon divorced.

In 1946 she married saxophonist George Weidler, who converted her to Christian Science. She tried to live as a housewife in Los Angeles, before she said goodbye. Weidler was reluctant to become "Mr. Doris Day," and he was sure of her future fame.

While continuing his active career with Columbia Records, Day flourished in film musicals and appeared in supporting roles. She was the girlfriend of an alcoholic trumpeter in which Kirk played Douglas Young man with a horn (1950) and was the conflicted wife of a thuggish clanman (Steve Cochran) in storm warning (1951), a movie that caught the attention of Hitchcock.

Producer Ross Hunter gave viewers a taste of Day's potential as a sex symbol when he turned them into a chic, figure-hugging Jean Louis for the show Pillow Talk, The film, which earned her an Oscar nomination, reached its peak in Hollywood. Her career was getting emptier Pillow Talk Rip off and other funny comedies.

She ended her film career in the late 1960s with a spy thriller in the cosmetics industry (mood) and a comedy about a blackout (Where were you when the lights went out?) – films of such low quality that a critic with Saturday review The magazine wrote in its assessment: "Doris Days fans, if there are any left …"

When she ended her career in 1968, her third husband, producer Martin Melcher, unexpectedly died at the age of 52. She discovered that Melcher and her attorney Jerome Rosenthal wasted all her money and left her $ 500,000 in debt.

Day won a $ 26 million civil lawsuit against Rosenthal, but both sides negotiated for 17 years to reach an agreement of $ 6 million. Rosenthal was excluded.

After Melcher's death, Day spent five years in a CBS series. The Doris Day Show, to which Melcher had obliged her without her knowledge; she and the critics hated it. She married and divorced for the last time from a restaurant clerk, Barry Comden.

Her son Terry, a record producer who sang on the Beach Boys album Pet sounds, Died in 2004. Day died on May 13, 2019 at her home in Carmel Valley, California. She was 97 years old.

In her later years, she cared for many pets and founded animal welfare organizations, including the Doris Day Animal League and the Doris Day Animal Foundation. She successfully campaigned for a Californian law to provide compulsory counsel to people convicted of animal abuse.

"The more I study people," she once said, "the more I love animals."

Doris Day, singer and actress, born April 3, 1922, died on May 13, 2019

© The Washington Post