Top 5

Citizen Dame 5: Favorite Doris Day Movies

On Monday it was announced that singer and actress Doris Day passed away at the age of 97. Day’s career was a fascinating and highly complex one in Hollywood history which the Dames have chosen to honor with this week’s top 5. Be sure to leave us your favorite Doris Day features in the comments.

Kristen’s 5

I can’t say Doris Day is my favorite actress, and yet I was surprised to realize just how many of her features I’d seen. Her persona was that of a wholesome girl-next-door but that often hid the subversiveness of her work. The five films I’ve included here show different facets of the woman who was a chameleon and will be greatly missed.

The Thrill of It All (1963)

This is my favorite Day feature of them all and illustrates how Day’s persona as being the Virgin Mary actually allowed her to get away with a lot of sexiness. As Beverly Boyer she’s introduced as the typical stay-at-home mom, but when she becomes a famous spokeswoman it causes a lot of instability within her family, particularly with her husband (James Garner). Garner himself said if he was ever going to leave his wife for another woman it would have been Doris Day and it’s easy to see that on-screen; the two have sizzling chemistry. More than anything this movie proves that Day was a woman with desires and was able to show that. It’s also great to see how this movie mocks men who get upset that their wives are more successful than them.

Midnight Lace (1960)

The feature that proved Day had serious acting chops, Midnight Lace is a solid thriller in the vein of Gaslight (1944) or Dial M for Murder (1954). I’m so happy Kino is releasing this on Blu since I need to rewatch it again. It’s worth it purely to see Day teamed up with Myrna Loy.

Move Over, Darling (1963)

Originally this was supposed to star Marilyn Monroe and was titled Something’s Got to Give, but with Monroe’s death the project stalled and turned into something very different. A remake of 1940’s My Favorite Wife, Monroe’s sexiness was switched in favor of Day’s sweetness and light. Much like the original feature, Day plays a wife presumed dead who returns home only to discover her husband (again played by James Garner) has remarried. This is a fun comic throwdown with high amounts of thirst from its ladies and proves the original story still had some mileage in it. I could write quite an article about how Day’s relationship with Chuck Connors in this is HIGHLY indicative of the ’60s compared to Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott’s.

Love Me or Leave Me (1955)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this, but I remember adoring what Day brought to the story of torch singer Ruth Etting. Unlike other biopics of the time, Love Me or Leave Me thoroughly explores a toxic and co-dependent relationship, which Day could relate to considering her own marriage at the time. She’s never looked lovelier and is such a powerhouse.

Calamity Jane (1953)

I remember watching this in a women in cinema class in college and being wowed by the queer reading of it. The discussion of femininity within the film, and Jane’s weird interest in the clean-cut girl (and the girl herself) would have never passed muster with another leading lady. It’s because Day was the star that there was more depth mined from the premise.

Karen’s 5

I have a confession to make. I have actually seen fewer than five Doris Day movies. I blame my mother, but it’s weird because she was a big Doris Day fan. She just never passed that on to me. But her passing is a big deal, and I fully support this five. Even if I can’t contribute fully.

knew-too-much

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

I really enjoy this Hitchcock thriller, but then, I never saw the original. I always thought that if Hitch felt the need to remake his own film, there was probably a good reason. Doris Day is good in this, even if her role is not given as much weight as it should. The focus is on James Stewart as the titular man instead. But I like Day’s work and am glad she got the chance to branch out a bit from the types of projects she was most well known for. Also, I kind of love that the hopeful song “Whatever Will Be, Will Be,” came from this film. My mom used to sing this to us all the time when I was a kid, and when I found out it came from a Hitchcock film, I was pretty surprised.

Pillow Talk

Pillow Talk (1959)

I love these movies that are so of their time that they can’t truly be remade. This is one of them, and it’s one that used to play often on KTLA Channel 5 on Saturday afternoons. This movie is cute and funny and charming. Particularly when you put Doris Day and Rock Hudson on screen together. Of course, this whole notion of falling for someone who initially annoys you is really only cute in the movies.

MoveOverDarling

Move Over, Darling (1963)

As Kristen already mentioned, this was originally intended to be a much different film. I’m glad it turned out the way it did, even though I, obviously, wish that change had come under different circumstances. Doris Day is so much fun here, again. And the cast is awesome. How do you not love 1960s James Garner? Plus, when you add in Thelma Ritter, John Astin, Don Knotts and more, this is a movie that I just adore.

Lauren’s 5

knew-too-much

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

I have mixed feelings about this film (Hitchcock’s only proper remake of his own work), partially because the original is so damn good, and partially because I seriously dislike James Stewart in this role (I mean…he drugs his wife before telling her that their son is missing). But Day does a good job with a relatively slight role, and the film brings in her star persona to excellent effect as she uses her voice to save her son and foil an assassination plot. Day didn’t get enough credit as a dramatic actress, but her performance here is actually a nice change from her regular comedies, and a good example of the variety of women that Hitchcock used in his work.

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Midnight Lace (1960)

A twisty sort-of-adaptation of Dial M For Murder, Midnight Lace was the film that convinced me that Doris Day could act after I caught it on TCM one evening. It’s a somewhat rote thriller, but Day gives it her all and turns in a convincing, affecting performance as a woman beset by a shadowy killer. A few years later and a twist of a career and it might have been a giallo (what a shame Doris Day never went that route), but as it stands it’s a diverting film and a strong reminder that Day was a bit more than a light comedy girl.

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Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960)

I honestly prefer this film to most of her movies with Rock Hudson. Part showbiz comedy, part Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is peak Day AND peak David Niven, with the pair finding a lot of chemistry as a married couple torn between the society of city living and the comfort of suburbia. Yes, it is very late 50s/early 60s. Yes, it is all kinds of problematic. But I still enjoy the hell out of it.

touch-of-mink

That Touch of Mink (1962)

Speaking of all kinds of problematic…That Touch of Mink is one of those comedies that is all about sex, despite no one ever actually saying the word. Cary Grant is a dashing playboy who gets his hooks into a sweet young virgin (we presume—though, again, no one will ever actually say the word). All kinds of mishaps ensue as the pair dance around each other, but one of the undercurrents is the degree to which female value is attached to virginity. She can keep him on the line—and get a lot of value for it—just as long as she never “gives in.” If this is a battle of the sexes, she actually wins, according to the dictates of her culture. Not a great message, but kind of admirable all the same.

calamity-jane

Calamity Jane (1953)

I also have many mixed feelings about Calamity Jane—like how we’re supposed to read Jane’s persona throughout—but it’s one of Day’s best musical performances and lets her out of her “innocent ingenue” type for a while to actually ride roughshod over Howard Keel, fire a gun, and sing a number of faux Western songs.

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