Legendary actress and singer Doris Day dead at 97

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Doris Day, the honey-voiced singer and actress whose film dramas, musicals and innocent sex comedies made her a top star in the 1950s and '60s and among the most popular screen actresses in history, has died. She was 97.

The Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed Day died early Monday at her Carmel Valley, California, home. The foundation said she was surrounded by close friends.

"Day had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia, resulting in her death," the foundation said in an emailed statement.

With her lilting contralto, wholesome blonde beauty and glowing smile, she was a top box office draw and recording artist known for such films as "Pillow Talk" and "That Touch of Mink" and for such songs as "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" from the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

But over time, she became more than a name above the title: Right down to her cheerful, alliterative stage name, she stood for a time of innocence and G-rated love, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe. The running joke, attributed to both Groucho Marx and actor-composer Oscar Levant, was that they had known Day "before she was a virgin."

34 PHOTOS
Doris Day through the years
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Doris Day through the years
DORIS DAY -- Pictured: Singer/actress Doris Day -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actor Clint Eastwood and actress Doris Day attend 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 28, 1989 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actor Clint Eastwood and actress Doris Day attend 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 28, 1989 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actor Clint Eastwood and actress Doris Day attend Monteray Film Festival Gala on February 7, 1987 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Monteray, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actor Clint Eastwood and actress Doris Day attend 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 28, 1989 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.
367333 02: Living legend Doris Day walks to her car on her 65th birthday with friends April 5, 2000 in Carmel, CA. 'The Pajama Game' star and Carmel resident has not been seen in public for nearly a year. (Photo by Mike Carrillo/Online USA)
American singer and actress Doris Day in an exuberant pose with her arms outstretched, circa 1990. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
Singer and actress Doris Day attending the 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards, where she received a lifetime achievement award, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, January 28th 1989. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson -- Pictured: (l-r) Actress/singer Doris Day, guest host McLean Stevenson on November 26, 1973 -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Episode 9/2/1976 -- Pictured: (l-r) Singer/actress Doris Day and host Johnny Carson on September 2, 1974 -- Photo by: Fred Sabine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
367333 03: Living legend Doris Day walks to her car on her 65th birthday April 5, 2000 in Carmel, CA. 'The Pajama Game' star and Carmel resident has not been seen in public for nearly a year. (Photo by Mike Carrillo/Online USA)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson -- Pictured: Actress/singer Doris Day on November 26, 1973 -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson -- Pictured: (l-r) Announcer Ed McMahon, Actress/singer Doris Day, guest host McLean Stevenson on November 26, 1973 -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Doris Day looks caught off guard as she glances to the side in a casual portrait as Doris Martin, her character from the 'The Doris Day Show,' January 27, 1970. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 25: Actress Doris Day having lunch on February 25,1970 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)
American actress Doris Day with her son, American rock producer and songwriter Terry Melcher (1942 - 2004), early 1970s. Melcher also served as the executive producer of his mother's television series 'The Doris Day Show' from 1968 - 1972. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American actress Doris Day, as Doris Martin, and Buddy Lester (1917 - 2002), as Eddie, try to separate their fighters, Lauro Salas (as Garcia), left, and Larry Storch (as Duke Farentino) in an episode of 'The Doris Day Show' entitled 'The Prizefighter and The Lady,' October 8, 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
American actress Doris Day, as Doris Martin, smiles and Denver Pyle (1920 - 1997), as Buck Webb, looks suspicious in an episode of 'The Doris Day Show,' entitled 'The Prizefighter and The Lady', October 8, 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
American actress Doris Day, as Doris Martin, reads a bedtime story to Philip Brown, as Billy Martin, and Todd Starke (1961 - 1983), as Toby Martin, who play her sons on 'The Doris Day Show,' in an episode entitled 'Doris Strikes Out,' August 14, 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
American actress Doris Day holds her jacket and looks to the side in a formal portrait as Doris Martin, her character on 'The Doris Day Show,' June 7, 1968. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
American actor McLean Stevenson (1929 - 1996), as Michael Nicholson, sits on the desk of Doris Day's character, Doris Martin, in episode of 'The Doris Day Show,' entitled 'Doris Strikes Out,' August 14, 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
The American actress and singer Doris Day wearing a headscarf smiling to the camera in a scene of 'Caprice'. 1967 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
The American actress and singer Doris Day pulling down her glasses looking at something in astonishment in a scene of 'Caprice'. 1967 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1965: Actress and singer Doris Day poses for a portrait circa 1965 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Martin Mills/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Doris Day, *03.04.1924-, eigentlich: Doris Mary Ann von von Kappelhoff, Schauspielerin, Saengerin, USA, mit Cary Grant in, dem Spielfilm 'Ein Hauch von Nerz', USA 1962 (Photo by Pressefoto Kindermann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
circa 1965: Studio headshot portrait of American actor and singer Doris Day resting her chin on her hands and wearing a brown-and-tan striped jacket with a large white fur trim in front of a yellow background. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Doris Day, US actress and singer, wearing a yellow sleeveless top with black trim on the neck, circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
American actress Doris Day, circa 1962. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
American actress and singer Doris Day, circa 1960. (Photo by Bud Fraker/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Doris Day*03.04.1924-eigentlich: Doris Mary Ann von von KappelhoffSchauspielerin, Saengerin, USAPorträt- um 1960 (Photo by Reinhard-Archiv/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Day, Doris - Actress, Singer, USA - *03.04.1924- Scene from the movie 'Pillow Talk'' Directed by: Michael Gordon USA 1959 Produced by: Arwin Productions Vintage property of ullstein bild (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Actor Clint Eastwood and actress Doris Day attend Monteray Film Festival Gala on February 7, 1987 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Monteray, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
(Original Caption) Actress Doris Day talks about her private life during a New York press conference January 6. The press meeting was held in connection with a newly published biography, Doris Day, Her Own Story. She told reporters, 'I'm a survivor. I don't regret anything. I'm very happy now living the nicest life I can live and if I can get that in the book, I guess that will give people hope.' in the book, Miss Day says she 'Staunchly' believes no two people should get married until they have lived together.
LOS ANGELES, CA - CIRCA 1965: Actress and singer Doris Day poses for a portrait circa 1965 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Martin Mills/Getty Images)
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Day herself was no Doris Day, by choice and by hard luck.

In "Pillow Talk," released in 1959 and her first of three films with Rock Hudson, she proudly caught up with what she called "the contemporary in me." 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.

"I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, America's Virgin, and all that, so I'm afraid it's going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together," she wrote.

She never won an Academy Award, but Day was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, as George W. Bush declared it "a good day for America when Doris Marianne von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio decided to become an entertainer."

In recent years, she spent much of her time advocating for animal rights. Although mostly retired from show business since the 1980s, she still had enough of a following that a 2011 collection of previously unreleased songs, "My Heart," hit the top 10 in the United Kingdom. The same year, she received a lifetime achievement honor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Friends and supporters lobbied for years to get her an honorary Oscar.

Born to a music teacher and a housewife, she had dreamed of a dance career, but at age 12, she suffered a crippling accident: a car she was in was hit by a train and her leg was badly broken. Listening to the radio while recuperating, she began singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, "trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words."

Day began singing in a Cincinnati radio station, then a local nightclub, then in New York. A bandleader changed her name to Day, after the song "Day after Day," to fit it on a marquee.

A marriage at 17 to trombonist Al Jorden ended when, she said, he beat her when she was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to her son, Terry, in early 1942. Her second marriage also was short-lived. She returned to Les Brown's band after the first marriage broke up.

Her Hollywood career began after she sang at a Hollywood party in 1947. After early stardom as a band singer and a stint at Warner Bros., Day won the best notices of her career with "Love Me or Leave Me," the story of songstress Ruth Etting and her gangster husband-manager. She initially balked at it, but the 1955 film became a box-office and critical success.

She followed with another impressive film, Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much," starring her and James Stewart as an innocent couple ensnared in an international assassination plot. She sings "Que Sera, Sera" just as the story reaches its climax and viewers are beside themselves with suspense. The 1958 comedy "Teacher's Pet" paired her with an aging Clark Gable as an idealistic college journalism teacher and her student, an old-school newspaper editor.

But she found her greatest success in slick, stylish sex comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in "Pillow Talk." She and Hudson were two New Yorkers who shared a telephone party line and initially hated each other.

She followed with "The Thrill of It All," playing a housewife who gains fame as a TV pitchwoman to the chagrin of obstetrician husband James Garner. The nation's theater owners voted her the top moneymaking star in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964.

16 PHOTOS
Hollywood reacts to death of Doris Day
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Hollywood reacts to death of Doris Day
#DorisDay has died at the age of 97. 💔 She was one of a kind. https://t.co/mcOGcZI7vr
“I like joy; I want to be joyous; I want to have fun on the set; I want to wear beautiful clothes and look pretty.… https://t.co/itrgadomWb
Thank you for your talent. R.I.P. #DorisDay https://t.co/enuaFllpI8
We’ve lost another great Hollywood talent. Take a minute to appreciate the legendary Doris Day: https://t.co/72ssvivryz
For those of us in my generation, Doris Day was synonymous with Hollywood icon. She would no doubt remind us, upon… https://t.co/ehWD5HKjsJ
The one, the only, the woman who inspired so much of what I do... Doris Day I love you, my calamity Jane. An iconic… https://t.co/gNbkupUoua
Condolences to the family of Doris Day. She was the World’s Sweetheart and beloved by all. ❤️ Que Será, Será!😞
God Bless Doris Day! x What a voice. What a legend. R.I.P. https://t.co/87vYpO1NOm
#RIP #DorisDay one of the truly great musical stars we’ve ever had https://t.co/TLVTLLjYo9
Goodbye Doris Day, there was only one of you! I have always loved your voice and the beautiful songs you made etern… https://t.co/ZSNIBdKCo0
RIP Doris Day, who has left us at age 97. She is best remembered as a Hollywood actress and TV celebrity—but she wa… https://t.co/ZwxOKh7Pv1
I fell in love with #DorisDay when I was 10 years old. #PillowTalk
RIP to the one, the only Doris Day. https://t.co/01rV9D7bq9
RIP Doris Day https://t.co/zPHtr9h4Yk
If all dogs go to heaven, surely they’ll be greeting Doris Day right about now. Doris spent a lifetime advocating f… https://t.co/X8bBFeyI1I
No matter how old you are, it’s the music and movies of your youth that forever stir you. Kudos to Doris Day for th… https://t.co/johUp6sXV4
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Her first musical hit was the 1945 smash, "Sentimental Journey," when she was barely in her 20s. Among the other songs she made famous were "Everybody Loves a Lover," ''Secret Love," and "It's Magic," a song from "Romance on the High Seas," her first film.

Critic Gary Giddins called her "the coolest and sexiest female singer of slow-ballads in movie history."

"Romance on the High Seas" had been designed for Judy Garland, then Betty Hutton. Both bowed out, and Day, recommended by songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, won the role. Warner Bros. cashed in on its new star with a series of musicals, including "My Dream Is Yours," ''Tea for Two" and "Lullaby of Broadway." Her dramas included "Young Man with a Horn," with Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, and "Storm Warning," with Ronald Reagan and Ginger Rogers.

Her last film was "With Six You Get Eggroll," a 1968 comedy about a widow and a widower and the problems they have when blending their families.

With movies trending for more explicit sex, she turned to television to recoup her finances. "The Doris Day Show" was a moderate success in its 1966-1973 run on CBS.

Disillusionment grew in the 1960s when she discovered that failed investments by her third husband, Martin Melcher, left her deeply in debt. She eventually won a multimillion-dollar judgment against their lawyer.

She had married Melcher, who worked in her agent's office, in 1951. He became her manager, and her son took his name. In most of the films following "Pillow Talk," Melcher was listed as co-producer. Melcher died in 1969.

In her autobiography, Day recalled her son, Terry Melcher, telling her the $20 million she had earned had vanished and she owed around $450,000, mostly for taxes.

In 1974, Day won a $22.8 million judgment against Jerome B. Rosenthal, her lawyer and business manager, for mishandling of her and Melcher's assets.

Terry Melcher, who died in 2004, became a songwriter and record producer, working with such stars as the Beach Boys. But he was also famous for an aspiring musician he turned down, Charles Manson. When Manson and his followers embarked on their murderous rampage in 1969, they headed for the house once owned by Melcher and instead came upon actress Sharon Tate and some visitors, all of whom were killed.

Day married a fourth time at age 52, to businessman Barry Comden in 1976. She lived in Monterey, California, devoting much of her time to the Doris Day Animal Foundation.

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Associated Press writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles contributed to this report

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