For most of my life I’ve disliked Doris Day. Doris was one of my mother’s favorite actresses and when I was a kid I had to sit through all the romantic comedies she made with Rock Hudson and James Garner numerous times but they never really appealed to me when I was growing up. Doris was always too blond, perky and cheerful for my liking and I found her carefree attitude just plain off-putting. I was a rather sullen, angry and rebellious kid so I suppose that was one reason Doris and her colorful films didn’t do a thing for me when I was younger. In some ways I think I was a bit jealous of the way Doris managed to effortlessly smile through movie after movie, no matter how lackluster the material was.
About six or seven years ago something strange happened. It all started when I caught Doris Day playing an American heiress named Kit Preston in the entertaining thriller Midnight Lace (David Miller; 1960) opposite Rex Harrison when it was on television one afternoon. Midnight Lace might not be a brilliant film but with its faux-London setting, fabulous Irene Lentz costume designs, creative photography by cinematographer Russell Metty and a suspenseful score by composer Frank Skinner, it’s an effective movie and easily one of Doris Day’s best efforts in my opinion. She doesn’t sing one song in Midnight Lace but Doris really gets to show off her acting chops as she descends into paranoia & madness while being pursued by a potential murderer.
Midnight Lace is not in the same league as the great films it borrows from such as Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954) and George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944), but if you happen to like stylish sixties thrillers as much as I do you might enjoy the movie too. Besides Doris Day and Rex Harrison, the cast of Midnight Lace also includes the wonderful Myrna Loy, a menacing Roddy McDowall, the handsome John Gavin and the always dependable John Williams as Inspector Byrnes who tries to find the mystery man (or woman?) terrorizing Doris Day throughout the course of the film. Midnight Lace managed to make me reevaluate my opinion about Doris Day and I started to really appreciate her style, carefree smile and independent spirit. In retrospect she was a more modern woman than many of her contemporaries.
Doris Day modeling the Irene Lentz fashions designed for Midnight Lace (1960)
In recent years I began watching many of her films in a new light and now I have no problem enjoying silly romantic Doris Day comedies like Move Over, Darling (1963) and Do Not Disturb (1965) or the fun spy capers she made like The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) and Caprice (1967), which I hope to write about some day. The older I get the more I’m able to completely loose myself in the charm of these light-hearted movies and I now find Doris Day’s wide smile infectious. I’ve also started listening to lots of Doris Day records recently thanks to the Swinging and Singing blog which has been sharing some rare and apparently out-of-print Doris Day recordings such as the terrific jazz soundtrack she recorded with Harry James & His Orchestra for A Young Man and His Horn (Michael Curtiz; 1950).
So why am I telling you all this? I just learned that Doris Day will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award this weekend during the 50th Annual Grammy Awards‘ celebration. The Lifetime Achievement Awards will be handed out on Saturday in a non-televised ceremony and will probably only garner a brief mention during the actual award show that’s airing on Sunday night. This will be her first Grammy but Doris isn’t expected to attend since the 83 year old singer and actress may be suffering from some health problems and she’s become a bit of recluse over the years, while devoting herself to numerous animal rights’ causes. I wish her well and I’m glad The Recording Academy is finally acknowledging Doris Day’s contribution to popular music.