Doris Day: an Actress with Grit

Earlier this month, Doris Day made her final curtain call. For those less familiar with her life and career, this 2004 tribute by President Bush, as he awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is a fine summary:
In the years since, she has kept her fans and shown the breadth of her talent in television and the movies. She starred on screen with leading men from Jimmy Stewart to Ronald Reagan, from Rock Hudson to James Garner. It was a good day for America when Doris Marianne von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio decided to become an entertainer. It was a good day for our fellow creatures when she gave her good heart to the cause of animal welfare. Doris Day is one of the greats, and America will always love its sweetheart.
What is less well-know are the circumstances that led to the discovery of her talent. In 1937, at the age of 25, Day was in an automobile that was hit by a train. Her injuries required an extended recuperation period. She spent many hours alone with her radio listening to popular singers, especially Ella Fitzgerald. She began to sing along with Ella and others, and it wasn’t long before her talent was discovered. As often happens, her talent was born out of adversity. Later in her career, she once again demonstrated her grit following a sudden financial crisis, brought on by her husband and his lawyer, who squandered her $20 million fortune and left her in debt.
This tribute to Day sums up my own personal feelings:
… Doris Day used her gifts of voice and smile to draw millions to the movies. She needed neither nudity nor vulgarity to make her many roles both believable and enjoyable. She was a far more gifted actress than Hollywood cynics would admit and she was convincing in dramatic roles as well as comedy.
As we mourn her passing, let’s acknowledge Doris Day’s grit, which was the springboard to her early career, and provided the resilience to overcome her financial misfortunes later in life. My favorite Doris Day movie is Pillow Talk from 1959. It’s a reminder that some things change, while others remain very much the same.