Monday, April 4, 2016

The Five Best Doris Day Performances

Carol learns the truth about "Linus."
1. Lover Come Back (1961) - Doris Day wasn't just a fine comedienne--she was an outstanding comic actress. Yes, she generates plenty of laughs in Lover Come Back, but she also makes her character believable. That's why it's so funny to see aggressive advertising executive Carol Templeton turn into mush when she thinks she has found an intelligent, sensitive, male virgin that looks like Rock Hudson. She earned her only Oscar nomination for Pillow Talk (1960), but I think she's even better in Lover Come Back (which is also a better film...functioning as a satiric look at the world of advertising).

2. Calamity Jane (1953) - Considering her success as a singer, it's surprisingly that Doris didn't make more musicals than she did. This one is her best, allowing her to strut around as a sharpshooting tomboy and then find her sensitive side with a sublime rendition of "Secret Love." She also teams wonderfully with Howard Keel (from an acting and musical standpoint).

3. Pillow Talk (1960) - Speaking of movie teams, who was the genius that paired Doris Day and Rock Hudson? Granted, the wonderfully written Pillow Talk provides them with tailor-made roles as an early feminist and a swinging playboy. However, the duo have an incredibly natural rapport and I don't think it's a stretch to say that Doris Day helped Rock Hudson become a first-rate comic performer. (To be honest, his non-Doris comedies, such as Come September and A Very Special Favor, just don't compare).

4. The Thrill of It (1963) - James Garner essentially played the straight man (and did so very well) in his comedies with Doris Day. That allowed Doris to shoulder more of the comic load, which she does effortlessly in another comedy about advertising. This time, though, she plays a mother who unexpectedly becomes spokesperson for the Happy Soap company. This movie also features my favorite Doris Day quote when her character inadvertently states on camera: "Hello. I'm... I'm Beverly Boyer and I'm a pig."

5. Love Me or Leave Me (1955) - I have mixed feelings about this fictionalized biography of jazz singer Ruth Etting which co-stars James Cagney. However, it features Doris' best dramatic performance...and allows her to sing some classic tunes, too.
A publicity still with Cameron Mitchell and James Cagney.

Honorable Mentions: That Touch of Mink; Move Over, Darling; and By the Light of the Silvery Moon.


  1. Lover Come Back has a amazingly cynical, justly Oscar-nominated screenplay. One doesn't look for such subtexts in a Dorisrock joint.

    Speaking of which, Calamity Jane's on most gay subtext lists. There's a lot of gender confusion, whether intentional, or just for laffs. And "Secret Love" had become sort of a gay anthem.

    Whether any of this ties into her performances, it's always good to have a richer script from which to work.

  2. "Lover Come Back" tops my list as well. I think of Doris as a singer first and it was a pleasant surprise to me as a youth to discover Doris the movie star. I'd probably make room somewhere for "Young Man With a Horn". Doris' role isn't as showy as Bacall's, but the skill is not less.

  3. I liked her a lot in Midnight Lace and in Julie as well.

  4. "Lover Come Back" and "The Thrill of It All" are my favorite Doris Day films. Doris is so charismatic that she makes her screen roles feel effortless. I have to admit, too, that I love her support for animals, and especially dogs. Miss Day celebrated her 92nd birthday on April 3rd. Thanks for this timely tribute to her, Rick!

  5. I STILL haven't seen Calamity Jane, and I'm not sure why that is! Anyway, I completely agree with the rest of the Top 5 List.

    Doris is a fabulous comedic actor. She once said that to do comedy, you have to "believe" the situation your character is in. I think she does that perfectly.

  6. Wonderful choices. Two more that are favorites of mine are "Teacher's Pet" and "The Pajama Game."

  7. No mixed feelings for me. Love Me or Leave Me is my favorite. Doris shares the screen and the motivations with the great Cagney and never waivers! Two characters out for themselves and what a finish!
    I grew up with the Doris/Rock movies on TV. I will have to revisit them sometime.

  8. Great choices Rick, but I've always considered Send Me No Flowers one of her best comedic performances with the scene of her sneaking into the kitchen window with her nightgown on and her sudden change from being a concerned wife ( to a supposedly dying Rock Hudson ) to an enraged woman who thinks her husband is having an affair. Fun stuff from a lovely lady.

  9. I haven't seen THE PAJAMA GAME in a long time, so that's one I definitely need to visit. I think all her comedies from 1957-1964 were very good to excellent.

  10. SEND ME NO FLOWERS a comedown from the previous Dorisrocks. Frankly, they're much less interesting, and convincing, as a married couple.

    Almost like something they'd do for tv.

    1. I think it's a funny effort. The boxed set with it, PILLOW TALK, and LOVER COME BACK is a great buy.

  11. I am not a big DD admirer but for me Lover Come Back is her best film with The Thrill of it All running second. Her worst is arguably a terrible film called Julie that lacks any kind of believability.

  12. Doris Day is my favorite singer and actress