April 3rd saw Doris Day celebrating her 90th birthday amid rumours of failing health. This morning I woke up to find her trending on twitter and the web in general and, I admit, my heart sank. But no, the news story was a good one - a delightful one, in fact. Each year, fans throw a birthday party in her honour but this year she made an unannounced personal appearance that seemingly took everyone by surprise - it was her first public appearance in twenty years. The pictures from the occasion show Day looking well, and reports state that she wouldn't leave the function until she had spoken personally with all 175 guests.
It's great to see Doris Day making a public appearance, and looking happy. Like Sinatra, she was one of the relatively few singers who could say that their Hollywood career was on an equal level artistically with their music career. Not only was she always a delight in the musical comedies that dominated her 50s film output, she was also a gifted comedienne (as shown in her pairings with Rock Hudson) and a fine dramatic actress in films such as Julie, Midnight Lace, Love Me Or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Rather like Julie London, she gave up her recording career in the mid-60s and moved into television (although why she did the latter is a long and not very happy story). That she "gave up" singing while at the peak of her powers means that she didn't release a bad album. She is no doubt remembered most for her string of hits that included Que Sera Sera, Black Hills of Dakota, Bewitched and Secret Love, but her greatest artistic success was probably her jazz album, Duet, with Andre Previn, released in 1961 - an album that not only sums up how brilliant a vocalist Day was in her prime, but also reminds us just how good a jazz musician Previn was in the late 50s and early 60s before moving solely into classical music for decades. The release a few years back of songs she recorded in the 1980s shows that she retired far too early - but the decision was hers. Despite various rumours of good offers of work (including, it is said, Angela Lansbury's role in Murder She Wrote) she has seemingly never been tempted back into the limelight following her retirement in the mid 1970s - with the exception of a little-seen TV series centred mostly on her passion for animal welfare (and which was the source of the 80s material released on CD in 2011).
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