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Doris Day Films on TCM: 1 of Top Box Office Draws

Doris Day It’s a Great FeelingDoris Day It’s a Great Feeling publicity shot: As a tribute to one of cinema’s biggest names of the 20th century, Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” series will be presenting 12 Doris Day films on Aug. 26.
  • TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” schedule – Aug. 26: Turner Classic Movies will be airing 12 titles starring Doris Day, the (usually) sunny star of some of the most successful musicals and light comedies – plus a few dramas – of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • This Doris Day article includes a brief overview of three of her TCM films: Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Love Me or Leave Me, and The Glass Bottom Boat.

TCM’s ‘Summer Under the Stars’ schedule on Aug. 26: 12 Doris Day films of various genres, including some of her biggest box office hits

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” schedule – Aug. 26: TCM will be presenting 12 Doris Day films, including several light musicals (My Dream Is Yours, Tea for Two, etc.), several light comedies (Pillow Talk, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, etc.), one heavy-duty musical (Love Me or Leave Me), and one heavy-duty drama (Julie).

The bad news: Missing from the roster are Day’s lesser-known star vehicles that have rarely – ever? – been aired on TCM: Frank Tashlin’s comedy thriller Caprice (1967), Andrew V. McLaglen’s comedy Western The Ballad of Josie (1968), and Hy Averback’s comedy of mores Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? (1968), in which Day plays a parody of herself – a Broadway star (“The Constant Virgin” is her latest play) eager for a change of image.

Saved from damnation

Probably the film star with the sunniest smile, the yellowest blonde hair, the most upturned nose, the most abundant freckles, and the most shimmering blue eyes, Doris Day could have been sickeningly unbearable. Her genuineness – even when, paradoxically, you can tell she’s playing a part – is what saved her and her movies from the pits of cutesiness hell.

The granddaughter of four German nationals, this most American of Hollywood performers (born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff[1] on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio) became a star in the post-World War II years, when she was generally cast as the embodiment of “all-American” womanhood in fluffy musicals costarring the likes of Gordon MacRae and/or Gene Nelson.

A bunch of light comedies and a handful of heavy dramas – in the latter, Day, somewhat surprisingly, rose to the occasion – would follow in the next couple of decades, until her premature big-screen retirement at age 46 following Howard Morris’ 1968 comedy hit With Six You Get Eggroll.

Top box office draw

Now, how big a star was Doris Day?

Well, in the first half of the 1960s, Quigley’s exhibitors’ poll listed Day four times (1960, 1962, 1963, 1964) as the no. 1 box office draw in the United States.

In addition, she one of the Top Ten (domestic) box office stars six other times (1951, 1952, 1959, 1961, 1965, 1966) and one of the Top Twenty seven other times (1953–1958, 1968).[2]

Besides, Day is one of only six performers to have been in the top spot three or more years in a row[2] and one of a handful of women to have reached that position after 1940.

Of course, such lists are to be taken with extreme caution; yet Day’s constant presence throughout the 1950s and 1960s provides indisputable evidence of her appeal.

Oscarless movie icon

Doris Day died in May 2019 without having ever received either a Best Actress Academy Award (she was nominated for Pillow Talk, 1959) or, far more egregiously, an Honorary Oscar.

When it comes to the latter omission, the blame lies with the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors, who, especially in the last 15 years, have not infrequently chosen to honor less deserving – but more media-friendly – talent instead.

Below is a brief overview of three Doris Day movies: Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Love Me or Leave Me, and The Glass Bottom Boat. (See TCM’s Doris Day “Summer Under the Stars” schedule further below. Most titles will remain available for a while on the Watch TCM app.)

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960)

Although not exactly one of the greatest “family” comedies ever made, Charles Walters’ glossy Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is worth a look because of star Doris Day and second female lead Janis Paige – who will be turning 101 next Sept. 16.

Based on humorist and playwright Jean Kerr’s 1957 bestseller – consisting of various essays about the experiences of white, middle-class, mid-20th-century American suburbanites and the joys/horrors of parenting – Isobel Lennart’s screenplay focuses on the travails of a specific New York City couple and their four sons after they move into a rundown (but affordable) mansion 70 miles from town.

Day plays the idealized, if overburdened, all-American housewife – her kids are poster-boys for the general distribution of free contraceptives and the most lenient reproductive rights laws – while Oscar winner David Niven (Separate Tables, 1958) is her husband, a university professor turned theater critic who is now once again enamored of the bright lights of the big city.

As (sort of) “the other woman,” former Warner Bros. contract actress turned Broadway star Janis Paige* plays a seductive stage diva who, by way of a hard slap at Sardi’s, gives a solid boost to Niven’s new career.

Livening up Please Don’t Eat the Daisies’ supporting cast are veterans Richard Haydn (Ball of Fire, Sitting Pretty), Spring Byington (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for You Can’t Take It with You, 1938), Warners veteran Margaret Lindsay (Fog Over Frisco, Bordertown), and, after a 17-year absence from the big screen, Patsy Kelly (Pigskin Parade, Topper Returns).

An aside: The Larchmont, New York, house where Jean Kerr wrote Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was sold for $5.4 million in 2022.

* In 1954, Janis Paige starred in the Broadway musical The Pajama Game; three years later, Doris Day was given her role in Warner Bros.’ big-screen transfer. Prior to Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Paige and then-Hollywood newcomer Day appeared together in Warners’ 1948 musical comedy Romance on the High Seas, directed by Michael Curtiz.

Doris Day Love Me or Leave MeDoris Day in Love Me or Leave Me: An unusually serious Doris Day (don’t let the image above fool you) stars as 1920s torch singer Ruth Etting in the international hit Love Me or Leave Me – one of two dramas found in the Doris Day DVD Collection, released in 2005.

Love Me or Leave Me (1955)

Charles Vidor’s biographical musical drama Love Me or Leave Me is one of Doris Day’s few dramatic star vehicles.

Day stars as 1920s torch singer and Ziegfeld Follies performer Ruth Etting, who gets slapped around by her gangster/protector husband Martin Snyder, a.k.a. “Moe the Gimp” (played by veteran James Cagney), while pining for her younger, better-looking piano accompanist Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell, as a fictionalized version of Harry Myrl Alderman).

Rehashing his by then quarter-of-a-century-old psycho mobster persona, James Cagney earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination that year.* Yet Love Me or Leave Me is foremost a Doris Day showcase, allowing her to demonstrate that she could be a truly impressive dramatic actress, as previously indicated in a subordinate role in Stuart Heisler’s 1951 Ku Klux Klan drama Storm Warning, and as further evidenced by three subsequent thrillers: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Andrew L. Stone’s Julie (also 1956, and also on TCM on Doris Day day), and David Miller’s Midnight Lace (1960).

Though featuring two stars associated with Warner Bros. – Day and Cagney had already shared the screen in Warners’ 1950 musical The West Point StoryLove Me or Leave Me was actually a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release. It grossed a remarkable $5.6 million in worldwide rentals.[3]

An aside: Doris Day would be the inspiration for the Liza Minnelli character in Martin Scorsese’s 1977 musical drama New York, New York, written by Earl Mac Rauch and Mardik Martin, from Rauch’s screen story. Robert De Niro’s abusive saxophone player was based on musician Al Jorden, Day’s husband from 1941–1943. (Scorsese, for his part, has said he used My Dream Is Yours [also on Day’s TCM schedule] as an inspiration.)[4]

* James Cagney had previously won an Oscar for another musical, Michael Curtiz’s lighter-hearted flag-waver Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). The 1955 Best Actor winner was TCM’s Aug. 25 star, Ernest Borgnine, for Delbert Mann’s Marty.

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Despite its commercial success and the presence of capable, personable stars Doris Day and Rod Taylor, Frank Tashlin’s romantic spy comedy The Glass Bottom Boat lacks romance, thrills, and laughs.

Perhaps the key problem lies with Tashlin handling the proceedings as if he were directing one of his Jerry Lewis comedies like Rock-a-Bye Baby and The Disorderly Orderly, while guiding his actors as if he were guiding Lewis.

Here’s the gist of the plot: As Rod Taylor’s* new assistant/“biographer” – he’s the president of a Long Beach-based aerospace research company – Doris Day is mistaken for a blonde Mata Hari: Could she be a Soviet mole? However absurd the notion, commie spies and freedom-fighting counterspies aren’t going to take any chances.

Like nearly every post-Julie Doris Day movie, The Glass Bottom Boat lists Day’s husband (and Patty Andrews’ former husband) Martin Melcher as a producer – here sharing screen credit with Everett Freeman (who was also credited for the screenplay).

* Doris Day and Rod Taylor had previously starred in Ralph Levy’s 1965 domestic comedy Do Not Disturb, which has key plot points in common with Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (but with an English setting).

Immediately below is TCM’s Doris Day movie schedule.

TCM’s ‘Summer Under the Stars’ schedule: Doris Day

Aug. 26, EDT

6:00 AM My Dream Is Yours (1949)
1h 41m | Musical
Director: Michael Curtiz.
Cast: Jack Carson, Doris Day, Lee Bowman, Adolphe Menjou, Eve Arden, S.Z. Sakall, Selena Royle, Edgar Kennedy, Sheldon Leonard, Franklin Pangborn. Uncredited: Iris Adrian, Marion Martin.

8:00 AM Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)
2h 5m | Musical
Director: Charles Walters.
Cast: Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye, Dean Jagger, Joseph Waring, Lynn Wood, Charles Watts, James Chandler, Robert Burton, Norman Leavitt, Grady Sutton.

10:15 AM On Moonlight Bay (1951)
1h 35m | Musical
Director: Roy Del Ruth.
Cast: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Jack Smith, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Mary Wickes, Ellen Corby, Billy Gray. Uncredited: Esther Dale.

12:00 PM Tea for Two (1950)
1h 38m | Musical
Director: David Butler.
Cast: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson, Eve Arden, Billy De Wolfe, S.Z. Sakall, Bill Goodwin, Patrice Wymore, Virginia Gibson.

1:45 PM Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
2h 2m | Musical
Director: Charles Vidor.
Cast: Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith, Tom Tully, Harry Bellaver, Richard Gaines, Peter Leeds, Claude Stroud, Audrey Young.

4:00 PM The Winning Team (1952)
1h 38m | Drama
Director: Lewis Seiler.
Cast: Doris Day, Ronald Reagan, Frank Lovejoy, Eve Miller, James Millican, Russ Tamblyn, Gordon Jones, Hugh Sanders, Frank Ferguson, Dorothy Adams.

6:00 PM Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960)
1h 51m | Comedy
Director: Charles Walters.
Cast: Doris Day, David Niven, Janis Paige, Spring Byington, Richard Haydn, Patsy Kelly, Jack Weston, John Harding, Margaret Lindsay, Carmen Phillips.

8:00 PM Pillow Talk (1959)
1h 45m | Comedy
Director: Michael Gordon.
Cast: Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall, Thelma Ritter, Nick Adams, Julia Meade, Allen Jenkins, Marcel Dalio, Lee Patrick, Mary McCarty, Alex Gerry, Hayden Rorke.

10:00 PM Move Over, Darling (1963)
1h 43m | Comedy
Director: Michael Gordon.
Cast: Doris Day, James Garner, Polly Bergen, Thelma Ritter, Fred Clark, Don Knotts, Elliott Reid, Edgar Buchanan, John Astin, Pat Harrington Jr., Eddie Quillan, Max Showalter, Alvy Moore.

12:00 AM The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)
1h 50m | Comedy
Director: Frank Tashlin.
Cast: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Paul Lynde, Edward Andrews, Eric Fleming, Dom DeLuise, Dick Martin, Elisabeth Fraser, George Tobias, Alice Pearce, Ellen Corby.

2:00 AM Julie (1956)
1h 39m | Suspense/Mystery
Director: Andrew L. Stone.
Cast: Doris Day, Louis Jourdan, Barry Sullivan, Frank Lovejoy, Jack Kelly, Ann Robinson, Barney Phillips, Jack Kruschen, John Gallaudet, Carleton Young, Hank Patterson, Mae Marsh.

4:00 AM The Tunnel of Love (1958)
1h 38m | Comedy
Director: Gene Kelly.
Cast: Doris Day, Richard Widmark, Gig Young, Gia Scala, Elisabeth Fraser, Elizabeth Wilson, Doodles Weaver.

“Doris Day Films on TCM: 1 of Top Box Office Draws” notes

Doris Kenyon

[1] Doris Day was named after silent and early sound era star Doris Kenyon (Monsieur Beaucaire, The Road to Singapore [1931]).

Day would later recall that she eventually met Kenyon, who lived in the same Beverly Hills neighborhood.

Top 25 box office stars

[2] Additionally, Doris Day was listed among the Top 25 U.S. box office stars in 1950 and 1967.

That means Day was one of the Top 25 domestic draws from 1950 to 1968, or just about her whole Hollywood career – the exceptions being her first two years in movies (1948–1949).

Also: The other five stars in the no. 1 slot for three or more consecutive years were Bing Crosby (five), Burt Reynolds (five), Shirley Temple (four), Mickey Rooney (three), and Robert Redford (three).

Commercial hit

[3] Love Me or Leave Me rentals via online sources quoting the Eddie Mannix Ledger, found at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library.

More specifically, Love Me or Leave Me took in $4 million in the U.S. and Canada, and $1.6 million internationally.

Rentals represent the share of the box office gross that went to the studio. As a general rule of thumb, in the last half century or so rentals have hovered around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross.

Scorsese inspiration

[4] Here’s Martin Scorsese in the documentary A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies:

My Dream Is Yours had all the trappings of a Doris Day vehicle produced on the Warner Bros. assembly line. It seemed to be pure escapist fare. But the comedy had a bitter edge. You saw the performers’ personal relationships turning sour and being sacrificed to their careers. … The film makes you aware of how difficult, if not impossible, relationships are between creative people. It was a major influence on my own musical, New York, New York. I took that tormented romance and made it the very subject of the film.”

My Dream Is Yours – which, in point of fact, has a (however phony) happy ending – is a revamped remake of Warners’ run-of-the-mill 1934 musical Twenty Million Sweethearts, directed by Ray Enright, and starring Dick Powell (his delivery of “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” is the movie’s highlight), Pat O’Brien, and Ginger Rogers.

In the reboot, Day has the Powell role and Jack Carson the O’Brien role. The Ginger Rogers character is split in two, between Carson (nice) and Lee Bowman (self-centered).

Doris Day “Summer Under the Stars” schedule via Turner Classic Movies.

Martin Scorsese quote via Alan K. Rode’s Michael Curtiz: A Life In Film (University Press of Kentucky, 2017).

Doris Day Love Me or Leave Me movie image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

“Doris Day Films on TCM: 1 of Top Box Office Draws” last updated in September 2023.

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