Doris Day, “The Prettiest Three-Million-Dollar Corporation With Freckles in America”, became the #1 box office star of the late 50s and early 60s. The theater owners named Doris Day the Most Popular Actress in 1959, and she received the Golden Globe award as World’s Favorite Actress in 1958 and again in 1959.
Doris Day’s musical, comedy, and dramatic films were as varied as “Calamity Jane,” “Pillow Talk,” “Love Me or Leave Me,” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1959 (for “Pillow Talk”) and performed Oscar-winning Best Songs in two of her most popular films, Secret Love (from “Calamity Jane” in 1953) and Whatever Will Be, Will Be (from Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in 1956). But along with her dazzling array of successful films there were a handful of awful movies described here.
Doris Day’s ’10 Best musical Films’ and Doris Day’s 10 Best Comedy-and-Drama Films’ are discussed in other articles. Here are the ten worst Doris Day’s movies.
#1 Where Were You When the Lights Went Out (MGM, 1968)
In this attempt to capitalize on the ‘Great Northeast Blackout’ on November 9, 1965, Doris Day struggles valiantly to bring life to this ill-conceived film. Only the most ardent fan could find this even bearable to watch-it scrapes the bottom of the barrel for lack of story-telling originality and none of the cast is able to salvage this mess. Doris Day disliked making it and it was the worst movie of her career. A contrived affair from start to finish, it relies on blackouts, sleeping pills, embezzled funds and sexual jealousy to bring Doris Day and architect husband Patrick O’Neal to an inevitable happy ending. Doris Day herself has called this film “an alleged comedy” and it was not successful at the box-office.
Starring: Doris Day, Robert Morse, Patrick O’Neal, Terry Thomas, Lola Albright.
Songs: Where Were You When the Lights Went Out (the Lettermen).
#2 April in Paris (Warner Brothers, 1952)
The premise of the awful, David Butler-directed, “April in Paris” (a chorus girl mistakenly sent on a cultural junket to Paris by the US State Department) was so puerile that the film couldn’t survive it. The shipboard romance between Doris Day and a miscast Ray Bolger was made even more implausible by Ray Bolger’s annoying and constantly strenuous hamming. The only bright spots in the film were the lively staging in the ship’s galley of I’m Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight and Doris Day’s version of the title song.
Starring: Doris Day, Ray Bolger, Claude Dauphin.
Songs: April in Paris (Day), I’m Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight (Day) It Must Be Good (Day), That’s What Makes Paris Paree (Day), Give Me Your Lips (Claude Dauphin), I Know a Place (Day & Bolger), The Place You Hold in my Heart (Day & Bolger), I Ask You (Day & Bolger).
#3 The Glass Bottom Boat (MGM, 1966)
In this ill-advised attempt at a comedy spy spoof , Doris Day plays a Public Relations worker at a space plant in the daytime, goes to school at night, and moonlights, part-time, as a mermaid impersonator on Catalina Island. The weak plot has Doris Day suspected of leaking secrets about a top-secret new GISMO project set against her error filled romance with Rod Taylor, a genius engineer with a Jetsonesque house.
Starring: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver.
Songs: The Glass Bottom Boat (Day), Soft as the Starlight (Day).
#4 The Ballad of Josie (Universal 1968)
Bland is too strong a word for this tepid western that never catches fire. Doris Day, in a fright wig, plays a feisty female who turns rancher in this feminist western. She throws conniption fits and butts heads with the local-yokels in a weak attempt to humorously tackle 1960s themes of feminism in a traditional western setting, but the film is unbelievably anachronistic. Doris Day herself calls it a second-rate made-for-TV movie. She is forced to wear a fright wig on her head and throw conniption fits and it is clear that she is out of her element. Doris Day doesn’t look here best in this lesser-known entry from late in her film career, one even she wishes she had passed on.
Starring: Peter Graves, Doris Day, George Kennedy, Andy Devine, William Talman
Songs: The Ballad of Josie (Ronnie Dante), Wait Till Tomorrow (the Sun Set).
#5 Jumbo (aka Billy Rose’s Jumbo) (MGM, 1962)
Seeing a live elephant on stage at the Hippodrome in Billy Rose’s original Broadway circus extravaganza might have been special in 1935 but it was not enough to save MGM’s last musical film in 1962. Doris Day was 38 when she made this less-than-perfect screen adaptation and she looks a tad too old for the ingénue part in this overly melodramatic plot. Co-star Stephen Boyd is terribly wooden and seems visibly uncomfortable during many of the musical moments. The circus hijinks are awfully predictable and none of the songs get anywhere near classic status.
Starring: Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye.
Songs: Why Can’t I (Day, Raye), This Can’t Be Love (Day), The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (Boyd and Durante), My Romance (Day), Little Girl Blue (Day), Sawdust Spangles and Dreams (Day, Boyd, Raye, Durante).
#6 Do Not Disturb (20th Century Fox, 1965)
This shoddy, clichéd, badly thought-out film is just not funny. Slapstick and silliness attempts to disguise a weak script that gets more annoying as it gets more contrived. Director Ralph Levy, apparently dazzled by Doris Day’s star-power, allows her overplay her role and run amuck with ‘aren’t I cute’ behavior. Rod Taylor looks embarrassed, Reginald Gardiner is his usual stuffy self, and Hermione Baddeley is ‘terribly British’. It was set in Europe, but obviously shot on Hollywood soundstages. Even Doris Day cannot salvage this trivial, uninspired, flat, and second-rate film that is weighed down by its own mediocrity.
Starring: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Hermione Baddelely, Sergio Fantoni, Reginald Gardiner.
Songs: Do Not Disturb (Day), Au Revoir is Goodbye With a Smile (Day).
#7 Midnight Lace (Universal, 1960)
This pseudo Hitchcock-type suspense/dramatic role is a change of pace from Doris Day’s lithesome, comedy romps. In spite of opulent production values the film’s weakness is the screenplay. It is an obvious, contrived whodunit in which suspicion is directed at everyone except the real culprit. Even the most trusting viewer will likely put two and two together long before the film reaches its abrupt conclusion. Doris Day’s character, constant sobbing and wailing histrionics, is overdone and melodramatic. Compared to her sincere interpretation of a mother who fears for her kidnapped child in “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, this performance is pitched at a baser level, and accordingly loses much of its potential to identify with her as a helpless victim. Doris Day doesn’t sing in the film, but two numbers, Midnight Lace and What Does a Woman Do? were woven into the score.
Starring: Doris Day, Rex Harrison, John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowall.
Songs: Midnight Lace, What Does a Woman Do.
#8 With Six You Get Eggroll (Paramount, 1968)
Doris Day’s last film was a lame story of two people getting married and having to share their brood of kids. She is the owner of a lumber yard-a young widow with three children and a sheepdog (her best scenes are opposite the dog) who marries a widowed man with a young daughter and a French poodle. Doris Day has a strange chemistry with co-star, Brian Keith, a gruff leading man who is not the caliber of Rock Hudson. The results are disappointing in this poorly-written film with a bratty bunch of children, too many early screeching scenes, and a slapstick ending that is not only ridiculous but boring. The picture is a series of episodes (Doris drives off in a trailer leaving Keith in his underwear by the road) like a half-hour situation comedy padded out to feature film length, with a scarcity of laughs.
Starring: Doris Day, Brian Keith, Barbara Hershey, Pat Carroll, Alice Ghostley.
Song: You Make Me Want You (the Grass Roots).
#9 Caprice (20th Century Fox, 1967)
This is one of the films that Doris Day did not enjoy making; she knew in her heart that the script was banal, convoluted, and confusing. A wiser director than Frank Tashlin, should have edited out some of the ‘cuteness’ which was the main element of Doris Day’s persona. After ‘Caprice’ opened in New York to mixed reviews, critic Judith Crist disparaged Doris Day (saying she looked like an ageing drag-queen in the picture) on the Today Show.
Starring: Doris Day, Richard Harris, Ray Waltson, Edward Mulhare, Irene Tsu, Lilia Skala, Jack Kruschen.
Songs: Caprice (Day).
#10 It’s a Great Feeling (Warner Brothers, 1949)
Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson are not a great comedy team and here they’re not given great comedy material. In this spoof, they play themselves trying to get perky waitress Doris Day a job as the leading lady in their next movie. Without the star cameos, which are not particularly noteworthy, the film would be completely forgettable. The songs, story, and performances are pretty bland. Doris Day herself has called this “not much of a film.”
Starring: Dennis Morgan, Doris Day, Jack Carson, with cameos by Ronald Reagan, Joan Crawford, Jane Wyman, Patricia Neal, Eleanor Parker, Edward B. Robinson, Gary Cooper
Songs: Blame My Absent Minded Heart (Day), Give Me a Song With a Beauiful Melody (Day), Fiddle Dee Dee (Day), At the Café Rendezvous (Day), That Was a Big Fat Lie (Day), There’s Nothing Rougher Than Love (Day).
Doris Day’s voice was golden and she had a way with a song that no other singer in films could match. Her perfect-of-a-type good looks and winning personality were embraced by the film-going public worldwide.
See my other Associated Content articles on Doris Day’s ‘Best Hit Songs’, ‘Best Should-Have-Been-Hit Songs’, ‘Best Songs You Never Heard Of’, ‘Best Albums’, ‘Best Love Songs’, ‘Best Songs from films’, ‘Best Duets’, ‘Best Show Tunes’, ‘Best Christmas Songs’, ‘Worst Songs’, ‘Best Movies’, ‘Worst Movies’ and more.
More information about Doris Day and other popular singers and songs from the 1950s can be found at the website 50sPopMusic.com or in the book “Remembering 1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers” by Daniel Niemeyer.