Expert comment: Doris Day image nothing like the reality

The popular image of screen legend Doris Day was nothing like the reality, according to a University expert on her life and career.

Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald, author of Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood, Sex and Stardom, says Day’s image, as a virginal, girl-next-door character, was at odds with the way she lived her life and was created by the Hollywood celebrity media of the time.

She comments: ‘What is fascinating about Doris Day is the fact that the image we have of her is actually so at odds with the facts of her life and career.

‘Entering Hollywood already famous because of her recording career, she was hailed as a bona fide movie star after only her first film, Romance On The High Seas (1948). This cast her as a bouncy, wise-cracking, street-wise chanteuse, a persona that sat well with her own past experiences.

‘However, her studio then tried her in a variety of roles and soon settled on a much tamer girl-next-door image, usually in a period setting, in films such as On Moonlight Bay (1951). Even the bumptious heroine of Calamity Jane (1953) fit this mould, and 1959’s Pillow Talk, which looked like it had changed it by putting her into a maturely-scripted risqué comedy, actually sealed her into this persona, adding age and coyness to make her the definitive mature maiden.

Day’s inability to control her own image makes her seem a very contemporary star, in that the celebrity media of her time – the glossy, gossipy movie magazines – thoroughly negotiated and determined her public persona as much as the internet and social media do for the stars of today.’

Dr Jeffers McDonald is a Reader within the University’s School of Arts. Her research includes various aspects of the Hollywood film industry, including film stars and stardom, film costume and movie magazines.