Filmed for PBS in 1991, Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey is a fitting tribute to one of Hollywood’s biggest and most enduring legends. Doris Day began her career as a big band singer in the 1940’s, made her big screen debut in 1948, and went on to become one films biggest stars for the next two decades, earning an Oscar nomination in 1959 for Pillow Talk. Though she’s stayed largely out of the public eye for the last quarter century, Doris turned 96-years old on April 3, 2018 making the release of this documentary on DVD very timely.
Some people dismiss Doris as a goody-goody, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. One listen to her hit recording of “Sentimental Journey” (1945) with Les Brown & his Band and it’s clear that she’s a superlative vocalist with a sexy style for the era. Embarking on a solo career, she recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century; All the while, being one of the biggest movie stars in the world.
Day is interviewed and is resolutely modest about her life, despite some significant hardships. She had dreamed of becoming a dancer, until she fractured her leg in a car accident as a teenager. Her first marriage to musician Al Jorden was abusive and forced her to stop working for a year, before she could divorce him. As bad as that marriage was, it resulted in her only child, a son, Terry Melcher, who later became a noted record producer, and some say, ran afoul of the Manson family.
Doris was still a top box office draw in April of 1968, when her third husband Martin Melcher died. She was shocked to learn that he and a business partner had squandered her earnings, leaving her deeply in debt. Additionally, he had committed her to various projects, including a CBS sitcom, which she had little interest in doing. The Doris Day Show as it became known, enjoyed a successful five-year run, until it was canceled in 1973. Day mostly retired from acting after that, with public tastes changing and her persona regarded as outmoded.
During the 1985-86 season Doris hosted Doris Day’s Best Friends, on the Christian Broadcasting Network about celebrities and their pets. Though it only ran 26 episodes, I can remember watching that series on Sunday afternoons. Almost a teen at the time, I was a fan of her films by then and enjoyed watching her talk to famous people she knew. Among the most famous guests she had on the show was her friend and frequent co-star Rock Hudson, in an interview taped mere weeks before he died of AIDS in October of 1985. I remember being shocked when he appeared on the screen; pale and malnourished looking. Nothing like I had seen just months earlier on Dynasty.
Since that last foray into television, Doris has spent much of her time in Carmel Valley, California where she’s lived for nearly half a century, devoting herself to The Doris Day Animal Foundation and other animal rights organizations.
Around comments from Doris Day herself, celebrity friends including Betty White, Clint Eastwood, Rosemary Clooney, Kay Ballard, Tony Randall, and her biographer A.E. Hotchner Director Dick Carter provides well edited clips of her recordings and film appearances in The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Pajama Game, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, The Thrill of It All and her three iconic romantic comedies with Rock Hudson.
Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey is available on DVD now from MPI Media Group and special features include a bonus interview from The Merv Griffin Show; The Doris Day Show episode titled “The Job,” plus a collection of Doris Day movie trailers and promotional spots.
Movie title: Doris Day - A Sentimental Journey (1991)
Director(s): Dick Carter
Actor(s): Doris Day
Genre: Documentary, Biography