Girl next door was a label that didnt suit a woman whose life was anything but ordinary, says the Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman
Hollywood has always respected itself on being the place where illusion is sold as reality. But no film director was ever as skilled at mining the gap between fantasy and fact as the studios’ PR chiefs in Hollywood’s golden era( 1910 -1 960 ), imposing personas on their aces that had about so much better to do with the truth as indecency does with genuine sexuality. Marilyn Monroe was sold as an all-knowing sexual vamp, when in truth she was a profoundly detriment dame who was sexually abused and exploited throughout her life. Kirk Douglas was styled as an all-American alpha male when his call is actually Issur Danielovitch and he grew up speaking Yiddish, in unimaginable poverty.
Doris Day, who died this week, was in many ways the most interesting example of this dissonance between the public persona and often not entirely private world. Her image of the cheery daughter next door was both the making and eventual undoing of her profession, and it has proved inordinately steadfast in the minds of the public and pundits. Movie followers long ago comprehended that, say, Judy Garland’s image as the innocent sweetened songbird didn’t really match up with the forlorn, pill-addled figure she already was by her mid-2 0s. But it was the uncommon obituary of Day this week that didn’t describe her somewhere as the” girl next door “.
Day was already a singing hotshot when she rotated to movies, and her nutritiou idol compiled her an self-evident compare to, among others, Monroe. One was the woman a guy might fantasise about; the other was the one he would marry, went the press coverage at the time, and Day was energetically sold to the public as America’s virginal suitor. Yet by the sometime 1940 s she was a twice-divorced mother, having had her simply child, Terry, with her first partner, the viciously abusive Al Jorden. He was the first in a long line of unworthy partners Day collected along the way. Undoubtedly the one who hurt her the most deeply was Marty Melcher, her third. But when he died in 1968 after 17 years of matrimony, Day discovered that not only had he expended the millions of dollars she’d worked so hard to earn, but left her paralyzed with pay and signed up to multiple TV specials , none of which she felt well enough to do. Even worse news came the following year when Charles Manson’s partisans slaughtered five people at 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles, including a heavily pregnant Sharon Tate. One of the killers revealed that they had actually been looking for Day’s son, Terry Melcher, a record producer. Melcher had once hired that room, and was targeted because he had refused to produce Manson’s album. The deep traumatised Melcher and Day had to hire bodyguards.
And yet, Day carried on with the mark pluckiness gatherings have always is connected with her. This is probably why her likeness has fooled so many for so long: while she might not have been the innocent damsel the studios claimed, she had a genial doughtiness that kept her exiting long after most of her contemporaries faded away, self-combusted or simply died. It feels entirely right that she- along with the similarly sensible and strong-willed Kirk Douglas and Olivia de Havilland– would be the last ones standing from the golden era.
Hollywood did its best to frame Day out to pasture. By the 1960 s, her wholesomeness felt out of step with the sexually progressive terms, and her name became a byword for an old-fashioned kind of movie that had no place in the new epoch of American cinema. Who had time to remember the sugared innocence of Pillow Talk when the cool children were procreating The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde?