Doris Day Discussion Post

Aw, Doris Day died. I watched so many of her movies, and listened to so many of her songs when I was young. She is Hollywood, not Indian, but I feel like in many ways in spirit she was part of Indian films.

I’ll start with the most obvious connection. Prabhudeva (as is common) was doing more of a tribute to Gene Kelly than Doris Day in this song, reimagining the “Get Happy” number from Summer Stock. But the song he chose also gave us a little nod towards Doris.

I have to admit that, when we were children, my big sister decided we didn’t like Doris Day movies. She was right, seeing That Touch of Mink at age 8 when we were going through every Cary Grant movie was very disturbing. So we avoided all the early 60s Doris Day movies, the “sex farces” that were somehow all about sex and yet not sexy. And then my sister went to college and I rebelled by watching every Doris Day movie available at my library, or any library in America (thank you interlibrary loan). Being a mature person, the un-sexy sex farces were less disturbing. But much more fun were the early Doris Day movies, the silly actually sexy farces from her early career. And the later movies when she played the strong motherly type.

That’s what makes me think of her with Indian films, the way her female persona shifted depending on audience tastes. In the same way that Madhuri went from young innocent, to sexy item dancer, to virtuous mother, so did Doris. Only she went backwards, there’s a famous Oscar Levant quote “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin”. It’s not a slam at Doris herself, not at all, but rather at how American’s morality changed over the years. Doris started as a peppy fun girl next door, in an era when the girl next door could have a job, go on dates, be aggressive and go after her man. And then American society shifted and suddenly if she wanted to stay the “good” girl, she had to be suddenly virginal and unapproachable and only interested in marriage.

I like her best as that first style, the fun confident cheerful heroine who goes after the man she wants. This is my favorite song of hers, from April in Paris (It reminds me of “Engine Ki Seeti from Khoobsurat with a similar confident female agent of chaos):

There’s a few other Doris connections in Indian film. Her movie Lucky Me has a similar plot to Kismat Konnection. And Shaadi Se Pehli is a remake of her Send Me No Flowers. I am sure there are other little nods I don’t know about.

That’s all I have on Doris Day. Let me know what your favorite Doris movie is, what you would like to see remade in India, what song of hers you like, anything else you want to talk about.

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5 thoughts on “Doris Day Discussion Post

  1. Ah. Well, the working title for my in-progress book on the sartorial identities of women born in 1949 is “Que Sera, Sera”, because of the emotional tie I had with that song. (I am finding out I was not alone.) It came out when I was seven years ago, and I remember singing it at the top of my lungs — all the verses from memory — while swinging on the swings at recess. It perfectly captures the promise of an unknown future which turned out to be (surprise!!!) growing up to be your mother. An apt theme song for the little girls of the 1950s.

    The reality that her own married life was complex, messy, and ultimately unhappy is the bitter icing on the cake.

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    • Have you watched The Man Who Knew Too Much recently? Hitchcock, whether accidentally or because he wanted that extra stress, made Doris and Jimmy Stewart’s marriage just a little bit scary. Seeing her dancing and singing with her little boy, with her husband glowering in the background and reminding her to take her unspecified “pills” adds a whole different layer to the song.

      On Mon, May 13, 2019 at 4:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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  2. Not a big fan, but glad you did a tribute. She was dependable, I’ll say that, and she loved animals. I liked best the one with Cagney where she plays against type, can’t think of the name right now. Gotta run. Back later.

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