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Doris Day: why she was not a ‘forty year old virgin’

Doris DayDoris Day’s image as ‘maidenly’ was created by the popular media of her time, rather than by Day herself, according to new research from the University of Kent.

Undertaken by Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Reader in Film, at the University’s School of Arts, the research examines why Day has become permanently associated with ‘virginity’ despite being ‘maturely sexual’.

Dr Jeffers McDonald combined analysis of Day’s films, such as Pillow Talk, with research into lifestyle magazines, reviews and gossip columns which helped establish her ‘old maid’ image. The analysis built a picture of the actor struggling to change public perception of her persona, stardom and roles.

The research, which looked at over 500 articles, examines not only key texts but also their position on the page, layout, font and colour, helping to confirm how the perception of the star was manufactured by the media.

Dr Jeffers McDonald said: ‘Even now, many years after Day’s final film and television appearances, her name is still associated with virginity firmly maintained until marriage and although this assumption is widespread, close attention to the facts of Day’s own life challenge it. Similarly, the majority of her film roles also prove otherwise with Day most frequently portraying a woman of maturely sexual desires.

‘It's important to realise our ideas about Day are largely based on assumptions made about the star over fifty years ago - and not true then. She has a much more complex image than people frequently imagine. Since she is so often held as the emblem of the Fifties and early Sixties, the time before Sexual Revolution, to underestimate her is to misrepresent them. She is more complex than given credit for, more adult, and so were her times.’

A dedicated ‘Weekend with Doris’ will take place at the Gulbenkian Theatre on the University’s Canterbury campus on Friday 27 – Sunday 29 September. For more information, visit:

The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2011) and undertaken at the Film Department, part of the University’s School of Arts.


Story published at 11:29am 27 September 2013

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Last Updated: 09/05/2013