Though best remembered today as the virginal heroine in such light sex comedies as Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, Doris Day began her career as a vocalist during the big band era. Her voice graced such popular hits as ''Sentimental Journey'' and ''My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time,'' earning her a reputation as one of the most seductive singers of that era.
Born Doris Kappelhoff, in Cincinnati, Ohio, she began to study dance at age six. At thirteen she won an amatuer contest and her mother decided to take her to Hollywood. A car accident along the way prematurely ended her dream. Her right leg was severely injured, and she returned to Cincinnati to recuperate. Living above a tavern owned by her uncle she had access to a jukebox and began to take an interest in singing. She studied voice and won an amatuer contest on radio station WLW, singing ''Day by Day.'' Soon after she began performing at a local club, changing her name to ''Day,'' from the song that had launched her career.
In 1940 she auditioned for and landed a job with Bob Crosby's orchestra. She stayed only three months however, deciding to quit after, reports say, a member of the band made strong passes at her and frightened her. She was soon hired by Les Brown, with whose orchestra she fit right in. Brown's group was probably as respectable as swing musicians could be! Doris retired after only a year, though, to marry Jimmy Dorsey musician Al Jordan. Jordan soon began to physically abuse her, and after the birth of their son, Terry, she divorced him. Brown convinced her to return to his orchestra in late 1942, and it was not long after when the group recorded their biggest hit, ''Sentimental Journey,'' which helped propel Doris to stardom. She remained with Brown until he disbanded in 1946, after which she began a solo career.
Her early recordings were often quite jazzy, though her work began to soften over subsequent years. Her most visible sides from the 1950s onward were pop songs. Some of her biggest hits were with "Secret Love," from the film Calamity Jane, and "Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)," which she sang in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Doris began her film career in 1948, with Romance on the High Seas, and starred early on in several serious films and musicals. 1958'sTeacher's Pet, however, marked a turning point in her career. It was the first of what would become the many wholesome roles for which she is best remembered. She quickly became a pop culture icon, her wholesome innocence the perfect non-threatening match for Marilyn Monroe's sexuality. This new image was not to her liking and was the responsibility of her husband/agent, Marty Melcher. Melcher had begun to sign her for films that she didn't want to make. He had also begun to embezzle from her earnings. When he died in 1968 she found herself broke and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Before he had died, Melcher had also committed her to a television sitcom. The Doris Day Show ran between 1968 and 1973 and was a huge success, helping her rebuild her finances. In 1974 she also won a $22 million judgement against her deceased husband's lawyer for his role in the mismanagement of her funds. She then retired from show business, returning only briefly in the mid-1980s for the cable series Doris Day's Best Friends. Doris currently lives in Carmel, California, where she runs the Doris Day Animal League and co-owns the Cypress Inn.