Doris Day may have been – once again – absurdly bypassed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors, but at least she’ll be getting some much deserved recognition from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA). Day, 87, has been named the recipient of the L.A. Critics’ Career Achievement Award of 2011 – or 2012, as the ceremony will take place early next year. (This year’s winners will be announced on December 11.)
The first LAFCA award winners were announced in 1975. The annual Career Achievement Award was instituted the following year. Since then, a mere four women have been recognized for their contributions to the motion picture industry: actresses Barbara Stanwyck (1981) and Myrna Loy (1983), editor Dede Allen (1999), and now Doris Day. Male recipients – sometimes two per year – range from auteur John Cassavetes to comedian/auteur Jerry Lewis, from producer John Calley to silent era pioneer Allan Dwan, from animator Chuck Jones to filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.
In the last couple of months, Doris Day made headlines while promoting her 29th album, “My Heart" – her first after a seventeen-year hiatus. Day began her film career at Warner Bros. in 1948, going on to become the biggest female box office attraction in the United States throughout most of the ’50s and ’60s. She was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for the 1959 comedy Pillow Talk, her first of three pairings with Rock Hudson (Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers were the other two).
Day did much more interesting work in Charles Vidor’s 1955 drama Love Me or Leave Me, playing torch singer Ruth Etting and getting slapped around by James Cagney, and in Delbert Mann’s clever 1962 comedy A Touch of Mink, opposite Cary Grant.
Among Doris Day’s other movies are David Butler’s musical Western Calamity Jane (1953), with Day in the title role opposite Howard Keel; Gordon Douglas’ Young at Heart (1954), co-starring Frank Sinatra; Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), married to James Stewart and singing “Que Sera, Sera”; George Seaton’s popular comedy Teacher’s Pet (1958), with Clark Gable; and David Miller’s murder thriller Midnight Lace (1960), featuring Rex Harrison, John Gavin, and Myrna Loy.
Also: Michael Curtiz’s musical Romance on the High Seas (1948), with Jack Carson and Janis Paige; Curtiz’s romantic drama Young Man with a Horn (1950), with Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall; Stuart Heisler’s Ku Klux Klan drama Storm Warning (1951), with Ginger Rogers, Steve Cochran, and Ronald Reagan; Andrew L. Stone’s thriller Julie (1956), in which heroine Day must rescue a plane from disaster; and Norman Jewison’s comedy of suburban mores, The Thrill of It All (1963), with James Garner.
Day, whose last film was the 1969 comedy With Six You Get Eggroll, received the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the 1989 Golden Globes ceremony. Fellow Carmel resident Clint Eastwood presented her the award.
I’ve been told by an Academy “insider” that Day would get the Honorary Oscar statuette if she consented to appear at the ceremony. This source added that unlike eventual no-show Jean-Luc Godard, Day has made it clear she would not be in attendance. We’ll see if she’ll be traveling from Carmel to Los Angeles to pick up her Career Achievement Award from the L.A. critics.
This year’s Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) Career Achievement Award recipient Doris Day is only the fourth woman to be so honored, following Barbara Stanwyck (1981), Myrna Loy (right, 1983), and Dede Allen (1999).
The selection of Doris Day for the 2011 Career Achievement Award is unusual for a couple of reasons. First of all, Day is a woman. Whether in Los Angeles or elsewhere, whether we’re talking about film critics’ groups, film academies, or film festivals, men are the ones who almost invariably have their contributions to motion pictures recognized.
The issue here is not political correctness on my part; anyone who has read my posts on this website knows I despise and fear political correctness the way I despise and fear any sort of illness that corrodes the mind. It’s just that I’m not going to argue with the facts.
As for the other reason that makes Day’s selection unusual, a glance at the list of Los Angeles critics’ Career Achievement Award recipients will show you that in the last 35 years LAFCA voters have been not only very male-oriented, but also very macho-oriented. Allan Dwan, John Huston, Robert Mitchum, Don Siegel, Samuel Fuller, Budd Boetticher, André De Toth, Arthur Penn, Joseph H. Lewis, Richard Widmark, and Jean-Paul Belmondo are filmmakers/actors chiefly associated with male-centered movies. Even Joel McCrea, initially a light romantic/comedy lead, spent the last dozens years of his career appearing nearly exclusively in Westerns, while Akira Kurosawa, for one, is a revered auteur at least in part because his movies focus on men and their issues. (Those are known as epic tragedies; women and their issues are known as melodramas.)
Doris Day movies, on the other hand, were generally romantic dramas and fluffy comedies – hardly the sort of film fare to appeal to Gun Crazy, The Big Red One, and Ran aficionados. Day’s movie image is also quite different from that of her female Career Achievement Award predecessors: Barbara Stanwyck was a tough dame in countless film noirs, Westerns, comedies, and risque melodramas; Myrna Loy matched wits with William Powell, Clark Gable, Melvyn Douglas, and numerous other MGM stars. Dede Allen was one of the few notable American female editors of the last three or four decades, one among whose efforts is the bullet-ridden Bonnie and Clyde. Day, for her part, sang “Que Sera Sera,” “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” and “Tea for Tea,” and during the second half of her career became the cinematic embodiment of traditional American womanhood. But sometimes it pays to have a really long life. At the age of 87, Doris Day has become part of the long and (mostly) distinguished list of LAFCA Career Achievement Award recipients.
The LAFCA began handing out awards in 1975. The Career Achievement Award was first handed out to silent era filmmaker Allan Dwan the following year. Most of the recipients have been directors (or those chiefly associated with their directorial work), but winners also include several actors (Widmark, Mitchum, McCrea, Jerry Lewis, Robert Preston), in addition to composers (Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein), screenwriters (Julius J. Epstein, Abraham Polonsky), animators (Chuck Jones), editors (the aforementioned Dede Allen), producers (John Calley), and cinematographers (John Alton, Conrad L. Hall).
LAFCC Career Achievement Award recipients
1976: Allan Dwan
1977: King Vidor
1978: Orson Welles
1979: John Huston
1980: Robert Mitchum
1981: Barbara Stanwyck
1982: Robert Preston
1983: Myrna Loy
1984: Rouben Mamoulian
1985: Akira Kurosawa
1986: John Cassavetes
1987: Joel McCrea and Samuel Fuller
1988: Don Siegel
1989: Stanley Donen
1990: Chuck Jones and Blake Edwards
1991: Elmer Bernstein and Vincent Price
1992: Budd Boetticher
1993: John Alton
1994: Billy Wilder
1995: André De Toth
1996: Roger Corman
1997: Joseph H. Lewis
1998: Abraham Polonsky and Julius J. Epstein
1999: Dede Allen
2000: Conrad L. Hall
2001: Ennio Morricone
2002: Arthur Penn
2003: Robert Altman
2004: Jerry Lewis
2005: Richard Widmark
2006: Robert Mulligan
2007: Sidney Lumet
2008: John Calley
2009: Jean-Paul Belmondo
2010: Paul Mazursky
2011: Doris Day