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Doris Day: Vintage Hollywood Sunshine

Rarely seen pictures, recently discovered in the Getty Images archives, of the actress and singer in her apple-cheeked-adorable heyday.

When she first hit the big screen — 70 years ago today (June 25) in a musical comedy called "Romance on the High Seas" — a Midwestern girl born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff turned up the dial on a career she'd apparently never imagined. "All I ever wanted," Doris Day would say decades later, in an interview reflecting on her heyday, "was to get married, have a nice husband, and have maybe two or three children, and keep house, and cook, and live happily ever after.... And I ended up in Hollywood."

Of course, the story of Doris Day's rise to movie stardom is more complicated than that sheeny soundbite would suggest. By the time of that film debut at age 26 (she's 96 years old now), Day had already survived a horrific car accident; recorded with Les Brown's big band (including the World War II hit "Sentimental Journey"); had her only child, a son named Terry; divorced his physically abusive father; and was on the brink of divorce No. 2. But there was something in her face and in her demeanor — the sweetness and clarity of her voice; those perky, freckled features; the guilelessness that charmed the Oscar-winning director, Michael Curtiz, who first cast her — that distills her image to something lasting and undeniably simple, as glimpsed in these rare photographs recently discovered in the Getty Images archives: While Marilyn and Liz sizzled as the sexpots, while Audrey played the chic gamine, Doris was the quintessential girl next door.

RADIO DAYS Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive RADIO DAYS Growing up in Cincinnati, Day had originally shown promise in dance, but when she was 15 her right leg was shattered in a car wreck that tanked those pursuits. She spent her months-long recovery in bed, singing along to the radio; discovering that she wasn't half bad nudged her down a different path. Over her career she sang on close to 30 albums and soundtracks, with the Oscar-winning "Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" among her signature tunes. (Here: an undated and rare photo of Day in the CBS Studio.) SENDING HER FLOWERS Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive SENDING HER FLOWERS At the start of her acting career, Day worked multiple times with director Curtiz, whose credits already included such classics as "Casablanca" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy." But of all the stars he helped shoot to fame — Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, and John Garfield among them — Day was his proudest discovery. When looking to cast a singer for "Romance on the High Seas," all of the candidates blathered on about their acting experience...except Day, who readily admitted she had zilch. "She was honest, and her freckles made her look like the all-American girl," Curtiz once said (Pictured: The new Warner Bros. star receiving flowers from admirers the year she and Curtiz made their second musical, "My Dream Is Yours.")

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AND SPEAKING OF THOSE FRECKLES... Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive AND SPEAKING OF THOSE FRECKLES... Here, a rare portrait from 1949 that pretty well illustrates Day as "wide-eyed, pert, pugnacious" — the words the New York Times used to describe her 10 years later when writing of "Pillow Talk," her hit romantic comedy with Rock Hudson. HORSING AROUND Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive HORSING AROUND A rarely seen shot, undated in FOTO's archives but likely from the 1950s, of Day with an equine friend. Following her retirement from showbiz, Day turned her full energies toward another great passion — the welfare of animals. HER FURRY FRIENDS Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive HER FURRY FRIENDS Even at the height of her fame, Day was outspoken about how animals were treated on movie sets. As she recalled in a 2006 interview with Bark magazine, she once approached Alfred Hitchcock, her director on "The Man Who Knew Too Much": "I said, 'Hitch, I can't bear it, I can't bear to see what goes on here with animals.' The horses were so thin, the donkeys were overburdened, and I was just horrified at the dogs running loose and starving. I told him I really couldn't work unless we fed these animals." Hitchcock assured her that he'd take care of it, "but then I thought, once we leave, it will go right back to the way it was," Day recalled. (Pictured: a rare, undated photo of a delighted Day with her leaping French poodles.) THAT HEALTHY SUMMER GLOW Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive THAT HEALTHY SUMMER GLOW Like many other stars during Hollywood's Golden Age, an era when celebrities and the press who covered them enjoyed a more easygoing relationship than exists today, Doris Day invited photographers inside her private world. In these next rare images from FOTO's archives, likely dating back to the early 1950s, photographer Phil Burchman snapped Day posing around the pool in her backyard. FAMILY LIFE Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive FAMILY LIFE On screen over the years, Day played opposite a string of tall, dark, and handsome types: her friend Hudson, of course, but also Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, James Garner, even Ronald Reagan (whom she briefly dated). Off screen, she found husband No. 3 in Martin Melcher (pictured), who also served as her manager and a producer on many of her movies. HOLD THE PHONE Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive HOLD THE PHONE BATHING BEAUTY Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive BATHING BEAUTY SERVE! Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive SERVE! Day at play with unidentified visitors. For years she lived in Beverly Hills, where startled fans would spot her casually riding her bicycle around town. Her home was open to a cast of luminous guests, her son Terry recalled in a 1998 interview: "For dinner, Clark Gable, Jimmy Cagney, Judy Garland, Billy Wilder... Needless to say, Rock Hudson was here all the time." THE WATER’S FINE Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive THE WATER’S FINE A DAY FOR SNEAKERS Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive A DAY FOR SNEAKERS SUNNIER TIMES Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive SUNNIER TIMES With her son Terry splashing in the pool behind her, Day looks gleeful on Melcher's shoulders. She would long outlive them both: Melcher died in 1968 (leaving Day deeply in debt and committed to a television show she had never agreed to do), while Terry, who grew up to be an influential record producer in 1970s California, died in 2004 of skin cancer. STANDING TALL Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive STANDING TALL In her 1975 book "Doris Day: Her Own Story," the actress opened up about the shockingly dark times of her life, including that grisly car wreck, the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her first husband Al Jorden (who would later commit suicide), and the financial devastation and betrayal she uncovered following Melcher's sudden death. But through it all, her outward attitude toward life has remained as buoyant as her on-screen image. From that 2006 interview with Bark: "I always said I was like those round-bottomed circus dolls — you know, those dolls you could push down and they'd come back up? I've always been like that." HAVING A BALL Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive HAVING A BALL Another rare and undated photo of Day playing with one of her French poodles. Today, she lives with her beloved animals on a sprawling property in Carmel, California, where fans have gathered annually to sing her "Happy Birthday".



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