Doris Day By The Light4

Doris Day — Sunshine Overcame Abuse

I was surprised to read that my favorite actress, Doris Day, was abused by her first husband. When I was a little girl, I watched Doris Day movies like “Move Over Darling”, “That Touch of Mink”, “Pillow Talk” and “The Thrill of it All” — and I loved them (still do.) She has such an upbeat, happy personality and singing voice. When I’m feeling down and stressed-out, I watch one of her films. She makes me feel better.


In reviewing her movies on my blog, I decided to buy an old paper-back, “Doris Day — Her Own Story.” Doris, now in her 80’s and always optimistic and glowing with magic, was physically abused at the age of 17, when she married trombone player, Al Jordan. Pregnant within the first few months, Doris felt trapped, yet hopeful that her dreams of a happy marriage and family could still come true.


As I read her story I found that she suffered the blows of his hands across her face, shoving, pushing and throwing her body around — even at eight months pregnant. Doris feared for her life and her unborn son. Here was my heroine in the grips of an evil man. He even pulled a gun on her at one time, pointing it to her pregnant belly. She finally got away from him and found safety in her hometown, with her mom. But not until after her baby was born. Years later, Al Jordan pulled up to a stop sign, pulled that same gun out of the glove box and shot himself in the head.


Before her marriage, and at the age of 16, Doris Day had been traveling as the lead singer in big bands. She had the prospects of a great career. Les Brown, the band leader warned her about Al — he told her he was bad medicine. But she was young and in-love.


Each time disaster struck, Doris pushed through. At age 13, a train struck the car she was riding in, almost destroying her leg. The next morning she was secheduled to leave for Hollywood to begin her dancing career.


She weathered her parents failed marriage, her own failed marriage, an abusive husband, and lost all her money with husband Melcher. But, her life was also one of service to others. She joined the Bob Hope tour and traveled to the armed forces. Her singing voice brought joy to others in the song, “Sentimental Journey“.


I think that is the big message of her story. There is sadness and pain, but she recovered — every step of the way. In the first few pages, the author, A. E. Hotchner, relates his first meeting with Doris Day to pitch the book idea (which he didn’t think would amount to much, as everyone thought she had the story-book life she presented on-screen.)

“Doris arrived fifteen minutes late on a chariot of sunshine. Kitsch metaphor or not, that exactly describes her entrance as she came striding into the garden, yellow sweater, beige slacks, yellow straw hat perched on the back of her blond hair…you could feel a sort of mass positive response to her smiling, striding presence…this radiation of joyful well-being…smiling the smile of someone who had enjoyment of life written all over her, infectiously radiating that joy of life.”

She shared her story, because her life was not all rosy sweet as portrayed in her movies.  “I have suffered and I have had good times.” Tears filled her eyes as she related those awful events surrounding her first marriage to the abusive Al Jordan. The memories of how he tried to force her abortion with drugs, of how he beat her and pulled a gun on her, pointing it to her pregnant belly.


But she did not let this experience, this man keep her down and unhappy. She recovered and found happiness, not in a perfect marriage or a perfect life. Doris Day chose to be happy and acted on her instincts. She sang and auditioned when she not only felt like crying, but cried, right through the song (her movie audition for “Romance on The High Seas” was “Embraceable You”).


Happiness became ingrained in her personality and it  came out on the screen. Her life is an example that there is recovery and joy after abuse.
Doris Day, Sunshine overcame abuse
Birthname: Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff
Nationality: American
Born: Apr 3 1924

  • What a wonderful story to show us all that abuse truly does happen to everyone. And that this is a fact we can help change by talking about it, as we are today for It’s Time To Talk Day. Thank you for taking part!

  • GingerSoul

    I love this post. Doris Day has always been a favorite with me, and when I read about the abusive relationships that befell her, it brought tears. I really felt for her.
    I like the phrase “Happiness became ingrained in her personality”; it’s what I strive for every day. Lovely article, Deila. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the feedback — I was so surprised to read about her life. We can all work on happiness, as it takes effort! Doris Day is still one of my favorites. Glad to know someone else enjoys those old films too.

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