Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1922, Doris Day aspired to be a professional dancer but a car accident forced her to reassess her career as she spent part of her teenage years in a wheel chair recovering. Taking to singing on radio instead it wasn’t until 1948 that Doris made her first movie as Miss Georgia Garrett in “It’s Magic” (originally known as “Romance on the High Seas”). And so her movie career began which would span 20 years and 39 movies before she left the big screen and went to the small screen with her TV show “The Doris Day Show” which ran from 1968 – 1973.
Often regarded as the “eternal virgin” thanks mainly to a series of movies where the subject of sex was taboo, Day was in fact a very accomplished actress capable of delivering comedy, romance as well as heavy drama and of course was able to sing and dance as well. A seriously well rounded star who was top box-office star for 1963 and is often regarded as the ‘all-time’ top female box office star.
During her career she starred opposite some of Hollywood’s major stars such as Gordon MacRae, David Niven, Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas, James Stewart, Gig Young, Howard Keel, James Garner, Jack Lemmon and of course Rock Husdon whose trio of movies that they made together are some of her most popular.
Whilst it’s fair to say that some of Doris Day’s movies were remarkably similar with a recurring theme of being either a career minded young woman or duped by a man they worked well and made for some marvelous movies made memorable usually by at least one musical scene showcasing Day’s wonderful singing voice.
From out of her 39 movies it is actually quite difficult to narrow it down to just 10 but here is my personal choice for the “Top 10 Doris Day Movies”.
#10 Teacher’s Pet (1958)
The first movie to see what would become a very familiar storyline as Doris Day plays a career minded woman duped by a man pretending to be someone else. Here we watch Doris Day play Erica Stone a lecturer in journalism who ends up being duped by James Gannon (Clark Gable) a bit city newspaper editor who initially wants to give Stone a piece of his mind but ends up falling for her. The trouble is he pretends to be someone else when they meet and you know it will cause problem when his true identity is revealed.
Although “Teacher’s Pet” would be the first of these romantic-comedies which featured very similar storylines it was noticeable for the fact that Doris Day played things straight, whilst still delivering that charming and lovable performance which would fill many of these romantic comedies. Instead we had Clark Gable delivering the comedy as James Gannon with a wonderful array of face pulling with makes “Teacher’s Pet” a hugely enjoyable movie.
#9 Young Man With a Horn (1950)
In all fairness “Young Man With a Horn” or “Young Man of Music” as it is also known is not really a Doris Day movie rather than a Kirk Douglas movie with Doris Day in a supporting role. But the story of Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) who learns to play the trumpet from legendary musician Art Hazzard and goes on to become a troubled star musician is a brilliant movie full of drama, emotion and music as well as a little comedy.
It is a brilliant performance from Kirk Douglas in the lead role but Doris Day is equally as good even in the lesser role of songstress Jo Jordan who ends up becoming a close friend to Rick. Although she only gets to sing 4 songs in the movie each one is beautiful done and in between each of these songs Day shows what a talented actress she is, so natural in every scene.
#8 It Happened to Jane (1959)
In the same year that Doris Day would make her first movie with Rock Hudson she also made another romantic comedy, this time with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs. In “It Happened to Jane” Doris plays Jane Osgood a career minded mother who breeds and sells lobsters who finds herself taking on the might of Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs) the owner of a train line which cost her a lot of money in dead lobsters. With the help of her best friend, lawyer George Denham (Jack Lemmon) she battles Malone in anyway she can but despite her troubles things may turn out alright in more sense than one.
With the exception of “Teacher’s Pet” prior to “It Happened to Jane” the majority of Doris Day’s romantic movies had largely been largely musicals. But here we had Day showing her ability in a more straight forward romantic comedy with barely a musical scene in sight, except for one heavily manufactured one featuring “Be Prepared”. What makes this movie feature in my “Top 10 Doris Day Movies” is the combination of Doris Day and Jack Lemmon who between them light up the screen with a perfect amount of comedy.
#7 The Thrill of It All (1963)
“The Thrill of It All” would be the first of Doris Day and James Garner’s 2 movies together and see once more Doris Day taking on a familiar role of a house wife and mother. During a dinner party Beverly Boyer (Doris Day), wife of obstetrician Gerald (James Garner), regales the hosts with a tale about how she used ‘Happy Soap’ to wash her children’s hair, as it happens her hosts are the owners of ‘Happy Soap’. Before she knows it Beverly is the new face of ‘Happy Soap’ making adverts, appearing on bill boards and being wined and dined at big socials. All of which ends up annoying Gerald who barely sees his wife causing a rift in their happy marriage.
Although their second movie together, “Move Over, Darling” would end up a bigger box-office success I prefer “The Thrill of It All” out of Doris Day and James Garner’s 2 movies together. It’s for the most rather routine with Doris Day playing that beautiful and slightly kooky house wife to James Garner’s tall dark and handsome husband but it’s full of memorable, funny scenes. The fake posing for the billboard and the swimming pool full of suds are two of just many innocently amusing moments in a movie full of them.