AFTER the passing of American big-screen legend Doris Day this week, Ruth Wishart looks at her lasting legacy...


FROM all the obituaries, I glean the news that Doris Day apparently went out of fashion in the swinging sixties when wholesome girls next door gave way to feisty feminists.

But here I am, a woman of a certain age, a fully paid up feminist and someone still in thrall to the magic of the movie star who left us this week.

Nobody who watched and loved Calamity Jane could ever suppose she did good impersonations of doormats, even if she did morph into a starry-eyed, molten-hearted miss when she got seduced by a big handsome bloke.

Well, I say seduced; Day made movies in the days when, as Cole Porter had it, “a glimpse of stocking was simply shocking” so there was no chance of anything steamy going on behind the bedroom door.

And the only time we saw her naked in Pillow Talk was when she was in her bath and safely swathed in bubbles, and he was in another bath in another place. Those were not the days!

Yet she was, in her way, a gritty woman who fought her corner, and fought back from the debt bequeathed her by one of her four husbands by setting up and starring in a successful TV show.

And she was brave with it. She posed for a publicity shot with Rock Hudson when he was already dying of Aids; that took guts in an era where prejudice against the gay community was commonplace.

But the simple truth of it all was she made the kind of movies which let everyone who saw them check out of whatever harsh realities they were facing back home in their own ranch.

These early romcoms may have been escapist but they were, not infrequently, full of clever one-liners too.

And she was of course, not at all incidentally, a beautiful woman with a heartstopping smile, and a great voice for a popular song.

If I needed any other reason to be a fan it was her devotion in later life to animal welfare, most especially the dogs she re-homed.

The night she died, I unashamedly luxuriated in a special tribute put together on BBC4 which, judging by the amount of assembled material, had already been prepped for the archive in the event of her death.

No matter. We saw her singing her heart out with bands in the early days. We saw clips from all her best movies, including the rare ones where she was allowed to show off her acting skills more fully as well her comedic touch. We saw a woman who, for a period, defined popular cinema.

Doris Day: RIP a fine woman.