Obituary

Doris Day did not like talking about death

From left: Entertainers Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall at the Sands Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas in 1956. Actress Doris Day was known for her roles in films such as Pillow Talk (1959) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
Actress Doris Day was known for her roles in films such as Pillow Talk (1959) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
From left: Entertainers Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall at the Sands Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas in 1956. Actress Doris Day was known for her roles in films such as Pillow Talk (1959) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
From left: Entertainers Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall at the Sands Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas in 1956. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • Hollywood icon Doris Day, who died on Monday, will not have a funeral.

Her manager Bob Bashara told People magazine that the actress, who died after a bout of pneumonia at age 97 in her California home, left behind a will that stipulated "no funeral, no memorial and no tombstone marker".

He added that Day, who was famous for her wholesome appeal and starred in movies such as Pillow Talk (1959) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), was uncomfortable dealing with life-and-death issues.

"She didn't like death and she couldn't be with her animals if they had to be put down. She had difficulty accepting death," Mr Bashara noted.

He believes that Day did not want any fuss over her death because "she was a very shy person".

"She was guileless and I had discussions with her about how popular she was and she would say, 'I don't understand it', about why she was so loved."

Day was also a hit on the music charts, with the Que Sera, Sera (1956) singer getting a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2008.

But pianist Michael Feinstein, who posted a photograph of him with Day at her birthday celebration last month, said she was not one to listen to her records because she was "so tough on herself" and did not want to detect any previously unnoticed flaws.

Paul McCartney, who visited her home in California, described her as a true star and a "very funny lady" with a heart of gold.

"I will miss her, but will always remember her twinkling smile and infectious laugh, as well as the many great songs and movies she gave us," he wrote in a blog post.

Of German parentage, Day was born Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 3, 1922.

Her parents divorced when she was 13, leaving her to be raised by a pushy stage mother.

After a near-fatal car crash that ended her hope of becoming a dancer, she made the switch to singing, reported Agence France-Presse.

By the time she was 20, she was already divorced from a physically abusive husband and the mother of a young child - the first of her four failed marriages.

In 1948, she made her first film, Romance On The High Seas, and had other box-office hits, including Calamity Jane (1953) and Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1960).

On her 29th birthday, she married Mr Martin Melcher, who became her manager. After his death in 1968, she discovered that he had mismanaged her affairs and that she was millions of dollars in debt.

She won a US$22-million lawsuit against a man hired by Mr Melcher to invest her money.

Mr Melcher was the adoptive father of her only child - son Terry Melcher, who died of cancer in 2004.

All the upheaval in Day's life, however, was kept in the background.

She kept up a squeaky-clean image in her choice of movie roles, famously turning down the role of Mrs Robinson in hit film The Graduate (1967) for being too racy.

She bolstered her wholesome image with her hit television variety programme, The Doris Day Show (1968 to 1973).

Day never won an Oscar, although her many honours included the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

After retiring from acting, she became a tireless animal-rights activist, running a pet-friendly hotel in California.

She said: "My message is just be kind to your animals and let them know you love them.

"Please watch out for your loved ones and don't worry about me."

Her assets will go to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which she set up in 1978.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2019, with the headline 'Doris Day did not like talking about death'. Print Edition | Subscribe