Doris Day Dies: Actress, Singer, America’s Girl Next Door Was 97


American actress and singer Doris Day, whose wholesome screen presence stood for a time of innocence in 1960s films, has died, her foundation says. The foundation said in an emailed statement she was surrounded by close friends and "had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia".

She was the top female box office draw of the 1950s and early '60s.

Her 1976 tell-all book, "Doris Day: Her Own Story", chronicled her money troubles and three failed marriages, contrasting with the happy publicity of her Hollywood career.

By the time Day starred in 1953's Calamity Jane, which saw her take on the title role, she had starred in a further 11 features, making her early career very prolific.

Day became a star with back-to-back films in 1956 and 1957.

Day was nominated for Leading Actress at the Oscars for 1959 romantic comedy Pillow Talk, starring alongside Rock Hudson.

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Her singing popularity led to a movie debut in 1948 in "Romance on the High Seas" and a contract at Warner Bros. "Still don't. I think it's a phony name", Day said more than 30 years later.

"My public image is unshakably that of America's wholesome virgin, the girl next door, carefree and brimming with happiness", she said in a memoir, "an image, I can assure you, more make-believe than any film part I ever played".

She had a chance to change course when director Mike Nichols offered her the role of Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate", but the star wasn't interested. Though she never won an Oscar - an ongoing source of outrage among her fans - she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2008.

Day was married four times, first to trombonist Al Jorden, then saxophonist George William Wiedler, film producer Martin Melcher, and restauranteur Barry Comden. But she resisted Hollywood overtures.

After leaving Les Brown and His Band of Renown to embark on a solo career, she recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century.