Doris Laughs: “Don’t Believe Everything They’re Saying About Me”
1- RUMOR: Columnists say, “The stork is going to pay a visit to the new Beverly Hills home of Doris Day and Marty Melcher. Doris is busy getting a nursery ready for the new baby. A friend reports that the Melchers are looking forward to the arrival of their bundle of joy in November.”
2- RUMOR: Studio workers say, “Since the death of her brother, Paul, last year, Doris has become despondent. She has crying spells on the set, and doesn’t seem to be feeling well. We’re afraid this has sent her into a tailspin mentally and physically, that will be very hard to pull out of.”
3- RUMOR: Acquaintances say, “Doris has been moping because son Terry went to school in the east. She didn’t want it, but Marty and Terry overruled. Now she worries constantly about him, to such an extent that it has become an obsession, and it’s affecting her home life very badly.”
Doris Day clambered down from the cab of a locomotive and collapsed, laughing, against the strong shoulder of her husband, Marty Melcher.
“Whew! What a scene that was!” she said. “Bet you didn’t know you married a locomotive-hopper!”
“Nope,” he grinned, putting his arm around her. “A mean tennis player—yes. A sensational volley ball star—yes. A locomotive-hopper—never!”
Marty wasn’t half so surprised as we were, standing nearby, invited by Columbia to take in the location doings at Chester, Conn., on “Miss Casey Jones.” We just stood there with our mouths open, gaping, for once at a total loss for words.
We were so stunned we couldn’t come out with the question that’s been in everybody’s mind: Are those newspaper reports that Doris is expecting a baby in November true? If so, how in the world can she go jumping around on a moving train in that delicate condition? And so we asked a studio representative who was standing nearby.
The representative spoke bluntly: “Don’t ask Doris about the baby story. It might upset her.”
Well, there was one person we could ask: Marty Melcher—big, stalwart, efficient Marty, a true partner after Doris’ two unhappy marriages. Marty—always eager to act as a protective buffer between his wife and any unpleasantness. He was a smart business man and a straight-shooter, too—not one to hand out a lot of double talk.
And so, cornered by us, when Doris went back before the cameras, Marty met the question head-on. “The story is not true,” he declared flatly.
“Then how did it ever get started?”
Marty shrugged helplessly. “Who knows? But Doris was pretty upset by it.”
Was it the truth?
Considering Doris’ whole situation, it was easy to see why the question would affect her deeply. By the first of her youthful marriages, she has a fine son, Terry, who is now sixteen. The birth of a second child after so many years would be a great event in any woman’s life. For Doris and Marty, the prospect would be so overwhelming that she might well be too sensitive to discuss it at all.
So the reasonable approach, we decided, was the indirect one, through people who had worked closely with Doris during this crucial period of rumors.
The kindly wardrobe woman working on “Miss Casey Jones,” a motherly-looking lady with a mouthful of pins, was fitting a costume on a form labeled “Doris Day.” As she pinned the fabric to this figure, most exactly modeled to Doris current measurements, she said, “Well, yes. Doris has put on a little weight. And it’s a good thing! When she started this movie, she’d just done two others in a row, with no rest in between. That’s enough to take weight off anybody, I can tell you.
“But she’s smart, Doris is. She crammed in calories like crazy, to build up her strength. She never did have a diet problem, and she loves to eat. ‘I sure have a ball with that soda fountain we just had installed in our new house,’ Doris told me at a fitting one day. She’s always had a sweet tooth, and she’s crazy about chocolate malts and fancy sundaes. Good thing, I’d say.”
If anyone should know about changes in a star’s figure—how much and where—it’s a wardrobe woman. So that took care of the extra-weight angle.
Now how about such familiar problems as an occasional feeling of queasiness? we wondered next. During the shooting of a movie, a script girl must keep constant check on each detail of a star’s appearance, to make sure that shots match, even when one scene takes several days of production time. When we asked the script girl on “Miss Casey Jones” she laughed, ‘I’ll never forget Doris and those lobsters! You know, she plays a woman who owns a lobster business, so she had to face up to crates of those big, fishy-smelling things—live and crawling. And in the picture she’s even supposed to have a pet lobster named Sam, who follows her around. And she picks him up!”
There had been no mention of pregnancy rumors; the script girl herself hinted at the subject. “Well, I read the gossip columns, of course. So I admit I wondered how Doris would react to this scene. There was a man in the lobster business, who had supplied these things for the picture and knew how to handle them. ‘Miss Day,’ he said, ‘you pick him up like this.’ Then he hesitated and said, ‘If it’s too much for you, ma’am, maybe the studio people could rig up a fake one.’ ”
Giggling herself at the recollection, the script girl continued. “Doris just burst out laughing and reached for that big, wriggling thing. ‘C’mon, Sam,’ she said. ‘Let’s get acquainted.’
The script girl shook her head admiringly and said, “She’s a real pro—a pleasure to work with. After that, it got cold and clear and we did the lobster scene on the beach. And she worked all through one chilly night, there on the shore, and just laughed about it. She has a wonderful laugh, you know, the kind that makes everybody else feel like joining in.”
Slyly, the script girl added, “Now, does that sound like a girl who’s ‘in a family way’?” And then answered her own question: “I don’t think so.”
Yes, we saw the answer with our own eyes, too. There, on location in Connecticut, Doris Day was playing Miss Casey Jones right to the hilt, clambering around on the cab of a locomotive.
And so we drew CONCLUSION NUMBER 1: There is no baby in the Marty Melchers’ near future.
That settled, we decided to look into Rumor Number 2, the stories that have been circulating around that her brother’s death has pushed Doris close to a nervous breakdown. A studio man who had worked with her on many pictures was our first target.
“Yes,” he said, “Paul’s death hit Doris very hard. He was her only brother, you know, and as kids they were very close. It was the first break in her family, too—her mom and dad are both living, hale and hearty. You know, Doris isn’t the snooty type, who sashays off to her dressing room the minute the cameras stop turning. No, she’ll stay on the set, munching candy bars and yacking it up with the crew.
“But this time it was different,” he confided. “She’d just sit. Her thoughts seemed to be miles away. She wouldn’t see the press. And sometimes she’d cry. We got kind of scared. We thought, maybe she’s making herself sick. Like that time back in 1954—remember? When she was afraid she had cancer? Then it turned out that all she needed was a very minor operation, and right away, she was her old self again.”
Nearby was seated a woman friend of Doris’, from Beverly Hills. We introduced ourselves and asked about the rumor. “Nonsense!” she exploded. “Of course, Paul’s death affected her very much. He was much more than just a brother to her. She often told me how, when she was little, she idolized Paul. She always wanted to be wherever he was, and do whatever he did.
“She used to pester him to let her play football with his gang. And when he finally said, ‘Okay, Doke. Come on,’ that was the biggest thrill in her life. For the first time, she felt accepted. She knocked herself out, and collected any number of bruises and bloody noses, and the important thing was that Paul never tried to butt in or brush her off. He understood how much it meant to her.
“And Paul was only three years older than Doris,” the woman added. “Isn’t it always an especially hard blow when death comes to someone so young?”
We located a grip on the set and cornered him with the same question.
“Sure Doris cried. Who wouldn‘t cry over the loss of a close brother? But I’ve worked with her before, and I knew that she’s a very emotional girl. When she’s happy about something, she cries. And when she’s unhappy, she cries, too. But no more than any other movie star. I think this whole thing’s been exaggerated.
“About not giving any interviews? Sure, that’s true, too. But that poor kid was so completely pooped at the end of a full day’s shooting that none of us could blame her. It was all she could do to keep her energy up for the part. And she couldn’t have been nicer to her co-workers through it all.”
An extra standing nearby added. “Doris had something else to see her through, too, you know. Her religious faith is very strong, very real. That is such a comfort in time of loss.”
And we remembered something Doris had said not long ago and deeply as she felt Paul’s loss, it didn’t seem likely that, after her experience in 1954, Doris would ever again give way to despondency to the point of becoming ill. “I learned then,” she said, “that the only thing that made me sick was fear.”
CONCLUSION NUMBER 2: Doris is a fighter. Never count her out. Photoplay says, there is no truth to those ill-health rumors. Doris is healthy and she is happy She has three things very dear to her: her family, her career and her faith.
Doris found that faith the hard way, it is true. In a strange way, too. A way that, perhaps, has made it all the stronger. And curiously, it came as a result of the breakup of her second marriage to George Weidler, a Hollywood saxaphonist. Theirs was a young, romantic dream that faded fast, jinxed by separations. The last parting came when they were broke. Doris had to leave their little trailer in Hollywood to take a job in New York. George wrote her that he didn’t want to go on with the marriage.
She was heartbroken. But time had a way of easing the hurt and Doris was able to pick up the pieces of her life and continue—alone.
It wasn’t until a long time later, their first meeting after the divorce had become final, that a strange thing happened. Purely by chance, she met George one day in Hollywood. Over a cup of coffee, they talked like old friends.
“You’ve changed,” she told him. “You seem so different.”
Then he told her why. How he had found religious faith, and it had given him a new Outlook on life, new hope for the future.
Outwardly, her own future at the time looked glorious. “I’ve made a few successful pictures for Warners’,’’ she told him, “and now that I’m doing well, I can bring Terry and my mother to Hollywood to live with me.”
But George sensed that underneath, Doris wasn’t happy. She seemed frightened and confused. “What’s wrong, Dodo?” he asked.
Two broken marriages had left her tense and uncertain. And because she felt like talking, Doris opened up. “When I’m working on a picture, everything’s fine,” she said. “It’s the rest of it that gets me down—the thousand and one demands on my time. Fittings, pictures, interviews, public appearances—I can hardly bring myself to enter a room with more than four people in it. I feel so shy.” Except for the prospect of having Terry with her soon again, the rewards of fame, she felt, were more of a burden than a blessing.
George knew well that business deals, contracts threw her for a complete loss. She hadn’t even been able to keep her checkbook straight when they were married.
She couldn’t worry her mother about it. She had no one. So she had gone along, feeling miserable, sure that she would never find anybody, anything to make a difference.
And, from that meeting with George, came faith: If George had found such peace, couldn’t religion do the same for her?
Doris began to search for it. Eventually, she found the answer for herself in Christian Science. But the form of worship wasn’t of primary importance. It was the big thing, shared by all religions—a firm faith and trust in God and His goodness.
And she had found a wonderful man who shared it, too—Marty Melcher. She met Marty when he became her business manager. She liked him from the first day—when he had given her a wonderful sense of relief by straightening out her muddled checkbooks. Soon, she learned that he was more than her solid rock in a sea of troubles. He was good, clear through. “Marty is a very special kind of person,” Doris puts it. “I know now that I never jell in love with him. I loved him all along, right from the beginning.”
But was Marty’s love, and their strong faith, enough to carry Doris through another danger that, according to Hollywood buzzing, was threatening her? The third and perhaps unkindest rumor of all—that she was so opposed to Terry’s going to school in the East that it had left her shattered with worry, and was affecting her home life?
We asked a family friend who has been close to the Melchers for years. “Nothing to it,” was his prompt reply. “When Terry left, true she was fussing around like a mother hen. And she told everybody, ‘Well, here I am, acting like a worried mother.’ She was, too—but wouldn’t any woman act that way when her son’s leaving home for the first time? She probably felt it all the more, too, because they’re an especially close family.
“But Doris is not an overprotective mother and recognizes the fact that kids need a certain amount of independence. She is very intelligent about facing this sort of thing, and has never let her attachment for Terry stand in the way of what was best for him.
“About his going East to school,” he continued, “I happen to know how Doris and Marty both felt about it. Marty said, ‘Out here, every kid of sixteen has to have a Jaguar or a Thunderbird. I don’t like it.’ And Doris agreed completely. They don’t want Terry to grow up dissatisfied by having too much.”
Still . . . was Doris trying to quell her real feelings by trying to be sensible?
“Doris hasn’t had time to worry,” the first woman friend laughed when we asked her this. “She couldn’t sit and mope if she wanted to. She’s had the new house to move into and furnish, Marty’s new office to help with, and they’re both up to their ears in plans for their production company, Arwin, and the details for the picture she’ll make in London. ‘Roar like a Dove.’ ”
And finally, to Doris herself. On the “Miss Casey Jones” set, she looked anything but worried as she sat beside Marty, watching a scene rehearsal. We were watching too, and decided to ask her pointblank, about this rumor.
“No truth at all,” she replied. “We’ve seen Terry. He’s been up here on set to visit us, and in fact, he’s going to play one of the extras, so the three of us will be together more than ever before. The way it’s worked out, Terry’s switch from Hollywood to the Loomis School here in Connecticut has worked out exactly as we’d hoped.”
Just what we wanted: CONCLUSION NUMBER 3.
And, as a P.S., we’ll let Doris have the last word. She laughed and said, “Don’t believe everything you hear about me!”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1958