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Hollywood icon Doris Day dies aged 97

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Hollywood legend Doris Day, whose films made her one of the biggest stars of all time, has died aged 97, surrounded by close friends, after contracting pneumonia.

Doris Day, whose wholesome screen presence stood for a time of innocence in films in the 1960s, has died aged 97.

The Calamity Jane actress died early on Monday at her home in Carmel Valley, California, surrounded by close friends, the Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed.

"Day had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia, resulting in her death," the foundation said in an emailed statement.

The foundation also said she requested "no funeral or memorial service and no grave marker".

The honey-voiced singer and actor whose film dramas, musicals and innocent sex comedies made her a top star in the 1950s and 1960s was among the most popular screen actresses in history.

Day's lilting voice, wholesome beauty and ultra-bright smile brought her a string of hits, first on records, and later in Hollywood.

But over time, she became more than a name above the title: right down to her cheerful, alliterative stage name, Day stood for a time of innocence, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe.

Day herself was no Doris Day, by choice and by hard luck.

Doris Day
Doris Day prepares to speak at a press conference at the dog friendly hotel she owns in Carmel, California July 16, 1985
Getty Images

Her 1976 tell-all book, Doris Day: Her Own Story, chronicled her money troubles and three failed marriages, contrasting with the happy publicity of her Hollywood career.

"I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, America's Virgin, and all that, so I'm afraid it's going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together," she wrote.

She never won an Academy Award, but Day was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

In recent years, she spent much of her time advocating for animal rights.

Although mostly retired from show business since the 1980s, she still had enough of a following that a 2011 collection of previously unreleased songs, My Heart, hit the top 10 in the UK.

Born to a music teacher and a housewife, she had dreamed of a dance career, but at age 12, she suffered a crippling accident and her leg was badly broken.

Listening to the radio while recuperating, she began singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, and later began singing in a Cincinnati radio station, then a local nightclub, then in New York.

A bandleader changed her name to Day, after the song Day After Day, to fit it on a marquee.

Pillow Talk
American actor Doris Day as Jan Morrow, in 'Pillow Talk', 1959.
Getty Images

Her Hollywood career began after she sang at a Hollywood party in 1947. After early stardom as a band singer and a stint at Warner Bros, Day won the best notices of her career with Love Me Or Leave Me in 1955.

She followed with another impressive film, Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much and the 1958 comedy Teacher's Pet.

But she found her greatest success in slick, stylish sex comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in Pillow Talk.

Day asked to have no funeral, memorial service or grave marker, her foundation said.

 

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