Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Miss Kappelhoffer came a long way

It is fashionable to mock Doris Day. She presently lives on the Carmel Peninsula in California (for which I profoundly envy her) and has latterly devoted her life to animal welfare. It was my impression she'd filled her house with cats but I accept The Crow's correction (see below) that the cats were dogs. As to her singing she’s probably remembered for bouncy inconsequential numbers like The Deadwood Stage, and Ya-Ya Roly Poly Bear. She appeared in a suprisingly wide range of non-singing movies of which intellectuals were wont to complain about the sexual ambiguities implicit in those with Rock Hudson

With the “professional virgin” thesis disposed of, I thought the Day/Hudson movies were quite witty, but that’s another matter. What is criminal is that her voice might be forgotten. A very precise and lovely instrument indeed capable of handling dross (A Bushel and a Peck), trades union negotiations (Seven and a Half Cents), great thirties standards (Bewitched, A Foggy Day, I’m Beginning to See the Light) and much more. It was said she sounded too healthy, too happy to be a great singer but, for goodness sake, she did Hollywood films.

Away from rank commercialism she could move me as much as Ella, Sarah or Peggy and she was just as technically accomplished. Still think I’m a sentimental old twerp? Try Fools Rush In, exquisitely accompanied by the Andre Previn Trio – very slow with beautifully sustained, rock-steady tone control. Forget the anatomical impossibility line (“my heart above my head”) and dwell instead on those aching final words “and let this fool rush in.” Despite the richness of the voice the sentiment is expressed modestly, the gentlest of pleas.

Incidentally she is the subject of an excellent biography by A. E. Hotchner who, at the time, had just done Hemingway and thought he was above movie stars. But she said she’d tell him everything and she did.

8 comments:

The Crow said...

It's dogs, BB. Did you see her TV show, self-named? There was a huge English sheepdog that I remember from that program. One of the reasons she bought hotels, aside from the investment, was so that people would have a place to stay where they could bring pets.

She has always been one of my favorite actresses. How nice of you to write about her here.

marja-leena said...

She was a favourite of mine too, part of my growing up years. I still have some of her recordings on vinyl. Those movies and songs from the 50's and 60's now seem so 'twee' (a new word I learned from a Brit) but I still enjoy the nostalgia once in a while when they reappear on TV. Showing our age, we are, but what surprises me most is that one of our daughters and her film study husband and their kids have been watching a lot of those old movies this past year. They seem so refreshingly happy compared to today's films.

Lucy said...

There was a big, rather camp, cult of DD in the eighties, I seem to recall, we listened to her quite a lot then.

I'm quite happy to hear you make her case here, and Crow's information that she promoted dog-friendly hotels further enhances her in my eyes!

WV 'collying', an abbreviation of 'molly-coddling'?

Sir Hugh said...

Thanks for reminding me of an old sweetheart. I have just downloaded Doris Day - Golden Girl with 48 tracks,
and am now wallowing in unashamed nostalgia as I tap the keys.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: Your wider experience is now acknowledged in the post. I never saw the TV programme. As to her abilities as an actress, see my re-comment to M-L below.

M-L: I would query your application of the word "twee". It's equivalent meaning is probably "cute" except that in the UK both tend to be terms of abuse. The movies where she starred with Rock Hudson came as close to being risqué as general releases got in those days. The one in which Hudson plays her hypochondriac husband who imagines he will shortly snuff it has one or two black moments. And there were others: Crossfire, where she was married to Steve McNally who was a member of the KKK; another (name forgotten) where she's married to Rex Harrison who's planning to murder her; another (name forgotten) where she's a stewardesses who safely lands a Jumbo jet; "Young at Heart" where Frank Sinatra (of all people!) falls in love with her and attempts to commit suicide. Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew too Much. As I say, wider abilities than most people give her credit for.

Lucy: Don't tell me she was a gay icon. And if she was, please tell me what gay guys get out of having icons. Typecasting meant she appeared in a lot of poorly written films but my aim was to remind people about the quality of her voice.

Collying. Did you ever coddle eggs?

Sir Hugh: I take it there was a price. May I recommend you delete the bouncy tracks and concentrate on the better songs which give her the advantage she deserves.

Plutarch said...

Camp or not camp, I would never mock her.

The Crow said...

"...heart above my head." I always thought that meant she was following her heart, instead of being practical or rational. Does it mean something else?

One thing I remember from an interview with her years and years ago was that she rubbed petroleum jelly on her feet and hands, covered by socks and cotton gloves, respectively, before going to bed each night. She said it kept her cuticles soft and that she had the softest heels. I tried that a couple of times but got Vaseline in my eyes and the socks slid off my feet, so I quit doing it. I think I was all of thirteen at the time.

She might have had cats, as well, BB, but the fan mags of the day only showed her with her dogs. Well, yes, of course I read fan magazines when I was a girl. That's where I got all the pictures of my favorites to tape on the walls of my room.

Probably more than you wanted to know, eh?

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch; I should have made it clearer: other people tend to mock her, not I.

The Crow: Your interpretation is quite correct, emotion overcoming intelligence. But it could be more elegantly expressed:

And so I come to you, my love,
My heart above my head.


creates an unfortunate image, or at least it does for me.

Soft cuticles? Soft heels? Wouldn't these be disadvantageous? I too read Picturegoer, so you aren't alone in these moments of weakness. No reason why one shouldn't graduate to Proust later in life. In fact Proust himself paid to spectate in brothels which always struck me as a poor return on his investment.