Thursday Throwback: Doris Day Reigns as Hollywood's Golden Girl

11:00 AM PST 04/03/2014 by Tim Appelo
Newscom

"It's a miracle we finished our movies, we laughed so much!" the actress tells THR of her frequent co-star Rock Hudson as she prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday with a fundraiser for the Doris Day Animal Foundation.

This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

On April 3, Doris Day will celebrate her 90th birthday in Carmel, Calif., with a fundraiser for the Doris Day Animal Foundation. It's a long way from Cincinnati, where the star, born Doris von Kappelhoff, took up singing after a car wreck ended a budding dance career when she was just 15. Adopting a stage name befitting of her bubbly blonde look, Day quickly found success on the radio and by the mid-1940s was a fixture on the Billboard charts. Soon, Day brought her musical skills to Hollywood, where she reigned at the box office in such hits as 1959's Pillow Talk co-starring Rock Hudson.

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"It's a miracle we finished our movies, we laughed so much!" Day tells THR today. But her sunny image hid a darker truth: Her third husband, Marty Melcher, who also had served as her manager, died in 1968, leaving her millions in debt and committed to a CBS series, The Doris Day Show, that she had no desire to make.

Then, in 2004, her only child, Terry Melcher, producer of The Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders, died of melanoma. "Terry's dad was awful, but Terry was a genius," says ex-Raider Jim Valley, who partied at the Benedict Canyon home Terry shared with his then-girlfriend, Candice Bergen, where (after the couple had moved out) Charles Manson's minions killed Sharon Tate and four others in 1969. Terry had auditioned Manson at the home but hadn't signed him. "It scared Terry shitless," says Valley.

Day quit Hollywood in the 1970s to devote herself to animal activism. A fourth marriage to restaurateur Barry Comden ended in divorce in 1981, with Comden reportedly complaining that she preferred dogs to people. Today, at Cypress Inn, the hotel she co-owns in Carmel, animals can socialize alongside humans during the daily "Yappy Hour" held at the restaurant, called Terry's. Says Day, "When we make it a better world for the animals, we make it a better world for people, too."

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