Screen legend Doris Day dies, aged 97

Doris Day had been in good health for her 97 years but died after a recent bout of pneumonia.

Doris Day had been in good health for her 97 years but died after a recent bout of pneumonia. Photo: Getty

Doris Day, one of the most beloved and recognisable stars of the 20th century,  has died aged 97.

Day died late Monday (Australian time) 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”.

She celebrated her 97th birthday on April 3.

The singer and actor whose movie dramas, musicals and romantic comedies made her one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and 1960s, was among the most popular screen actresses in history.

She was a top box office draw and recording artist known for such films as Pillow Talk and for such songs as Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much.

AE Hotchner, who collaborated with Day on her memoir, said she had a “sweet and sour” existence.

“She was such a positive, absolutely enchanting woman,” he told The Associated Press. “And she was so loved.”

Paul McCartney, a friend, called Day “a true star in more ways than one”.

“She had a heart of gold and was a very funny lady who I shared many laughs with,” he said in a statement.

“I will miss her, but will always remember her twinkling smile and infectious laugh as well as the many great songs and movies she gave us. God bless Doris.”

Her 1976 tell-all book, Doris Day: Her Own Story, chronicled her money troubles and three failed marriages.

“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.

The song for which Day will always be remembered

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

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

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

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.

Singing at a Hollywood party in 1947 led to early stardom and after 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 romantic comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in Pillow Talk.

-with AAP

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