Doris Day Net Worth

How much was Doris Day worth?

Net Worth:$200 Million
Profession:Professional Actress
Date of Birth:April 3, 1922
Country:United States of America
1.7 m

Doris Day was a phenomenon both as an actress and as a singer. She was the all-American girl next door who behind the scenes had a rather dark private life. Often paired on screen with Cary Grant and close friend Rock Hudson, Day turned in one winning performance after another and earned an Academy Award nomination for one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time. Here is the life and career of the great Doris Day.

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Who Is Doris Day

Doris Day, whose full name is Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff was a popular American actress, animal welfare activist, and singer. She began her career in 1939 and immediately became popular thanks to her beauty, charismatic looks, and fantastic acting and singing abilities. Initially, Day started off as a big band singer in the late 1930s before she pursued a solo career and released some commercial hits such as “My Dreams Are Getting Bigger All The Time” and “Sentimental Journey”.

At the peak of her career, Doris Day focused her attention on acting and took over Hollywood in no time. She began her film career during the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood. In her first role, she starred in the 1948 musical drama “Romance on the High Seas”. Besides becoming one of the biggest film stars of the 20th century, Doris Day easily accumulated many awards thanks to her enchanting singing abilities and mesmerizing acting skills. Among some of her many achievements are ten Laurel Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, and one Grammy Award.

Doris Day had a net worth in excess of $200 million dollars at the time of her death, in 2019.

How did Doris Day earn her net worth?

The sensational singer became rich in the 1940s, right after she released her first music projects. Her very first song, “Sentimental Journey” was released in early 1945 and soon, it became a worldwide hit. That same year, Doris continued to release more hit singles such as “My Dreams Are Getting Bigger All The Time”, “Till the End of Time”, and “Aren’t You Glad You Are You?”, all of which were released while Doris was part of the successful Les Brown band.

The association with Les Brown and Bob Hope played an important part in Doris Day’s wealth. Simultaneously with signing with Brown’s band, Doris also appeared for almost two years on the weekly radio program of Bob Hope. She also toured the United States to further promote her work. The performance of her song “Embraceable You” really impressed the songwriter, Jule Styne, and Sammy Cahn. The couple eventually recommended her for a role in what would be her film debut – “Romance on the High Seas”, released in 1948.

After her well-received and impressive performance in the musical drama, Doris received a lot more acting roles. At the same time, she not only took part in several films but also began releasing her own studio albums. In August 1949, she released her debut album “You’re My Thrill”, issued with the record label Columbia Records. The album was met with positive reviews by the music critics and entered many album charts, including the US Billboard 200 where it peaked at number 9. That same year, she took part in the musical comedies “My Dream Is Yours” and “It’s a Great Feeling”.

In the Beginning

She was born Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff on April 3, 1924, in Evanston, OH. Her father, Frederick, was a music teacher and her mother, Alma, was a homemaker. They divorced when she was 12 years old due to Frederick’s infidelity.

Day became interested in dance as an adolescent and started performing in a duo in Cincinnati, but a car accident in 1937 left her with compound fractures in her legs and ended her hopes of going professional.

So she turned to singing instead and began taking lessons after displaying great potential. While performing in a local radio program, Day attracted the attention of orchestra leader, Barney Rapp, who was looking for a female vocalist and had auditioned numerous singers for the job before hiring Day. It was with Rapp that she began using Day instead of Happelhoff, due in part to singing “Day After Day” as one of her first numbers.

Early Career

While with Rapp, Day met trombonist Al Jorden whom she initially disliked, but ultimately dated and married in 1941. Meanwhile, the 17-year-old singer landed a gig with Les Brown and His Band of Renown and went on to greater success, even though at home Jorden routinely and often savagely beat her. She gave birth to her one and only child, Terry, in 1942 – the same year she filed for divorce from his father. Jorden committed suicide in 1967 with a self-inflicted gunshot.

In 1945, Day recorded her first hit with Brown, “Sentimental Journey,” a popular song for soldiers coming home from the war, and had another success with “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.” Despite her all-American appeal, Day was becoming difficult to work and would throw serious tantrums if she didn’t get her way. She left Brown once her contract was up in 1947.

Just before she left Brown, Day married saxophonist George Weidler and appeared as a guest on the radio show, The Bob Hope Pepsodent Show. She became a hit, of course, and appeared in recurring fashion on the show while attracting the attention of Hollywood. Not wanting to be known as Mr. Doris Day, the insecure Weilder informed her of his intentions to divorce via letter.

Hollywood Beckons

Day signed a contract with Warner Bros. and went to work with the workman-like director, Michael Curtiz, who replaced a pregnant Betty Hutton with the unknown actress and guided her through her first film, Romance on the High Seas (1948). Though she was horrified by her performance, Day did received an Oscar nomination for her hit song, “It’s Magic.”

Day continued working with Curtiz, receiving top billing in My Dream Is Yours (1949), and starring opposite Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall in Young Man with a Horn (1950). Many of her early films like Tea For Two (1950), On Moonlight Bay (1951), April In Paris (1952), By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953), Lucky Me (1954), were overly sentimental, but also fine entertainment.

Of course, her film career boosted her music career, as with each film she more often than not released a new album, many of which charted in the top ten. Meanwhile, she married producer and manager, Marty Melcher, in 1951. Though he adopted Terry, many of her show business friends thought that he was trying to take her money. In the end, they turned out to be right.

A New Image

Day wanted to change her good girl image and started to play against type. She delivered a tomboyish performance as the titular Calamity Jane (1953) and showed surprising range as 1920s singer, Ruth Etting, in Love Me or Leave Me (1955), co-starring James Cagney.

In another surprising turn, she was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s famed icy blondes in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), which starred James Stewart and featured her Oscar-winning song, “Que Será, Será.” Day went in further into thriller territory and shattered her nice girl image with Julie (1956), in which she played the abused wife of a murderer – a role she felt was much too close to home.

She returned to musical comedy with the adaptation of the Broadway hit, The Pajama Game, only to return to thrillers with Midnight Lace (1960). Once again, she though the material was too personal and decided to stay away from the genre.

Back to playing straight-laced comedies, she starred opposite Clark Gable in Teacher’s Pet (1958), David Niven Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) and Cary Grant in That Touch of Mink (1962).

Also Starring Rock Hudson

Later in her career, Day embarked on one of her most fruitful and valuable collaborations, starring opposite dear friend Rock Hudson in the first of three classic romantic comedies, Pillow Talk (1959). The film was a giant hit and received five Academy Award nominations, including the one and only such honor for Day in her career.

The pair reunited for the less-successful, but no less enjoyable Lover Come Back (1961), where Day and Hudson play rival advertising executives who think they hate each other until they meet and fall in love.

Three years later, they starred together one last time for Send Me No Flowers (1964), a lighthearted marital comedy with Hudson playing a hypochondriac who thinks he’s dying and tries setting up his wife, played by Day, with a new husband.

Nearing the End

As the old studio system gave way to the counterculture New Hollywood of the late 1960s, Day’s happy-go-lucky fare began to feel trite and dated. She turned down the Mrs. Robinson role in The Graduate (1967) and as she was filming With Six You Get Egg Roll (1968), husband and manager Marty Melcher died in 1968.

As if losing her third husband wasn’t bad enough, Day learned that Melcher had squandered most of her vast fortune and left her deeply in debt. Unbeknownst to her, Melcher had signed her on to the CBS sitcom, The Doris Day Show (1968-1973), which she felt obligated to do despite never granting her okay or even knowing about it.

The show starred Day as a widow from the big city who moves back to the rural San Francisco ranch of her youth with her two sons. Though a popular series, it was never a big ratings hit, but it did well enough to last five seasons. By the time The Doris Day Show was off the air, Day was ready for retirement.

On Into Retirement

In 1973, Day retired to Carmel-by-the Sea, CA, where she became a committed animal activist, and founded both the Doris Day Pet Foundation and the Doris Day Animal League. She even gave up her showbiz name and became known to the locals as Clara Kappelhoff.

She married for a fourth and final time in 1976 to Barry Comden, the maitre d’ at a her favorite restaurant. They divorced in 1981. Meanwhile, Day made on last stab at television as the host of Doris Day’s Best Friends, a series about pets on the Christian Broadcasting Network. An emaciated Rock Hudson appeared on an episode just months before his death from complications due to the AIDS virus, shocking fans by his appearance.

Her later years were spent in relative seclusion in Carmel. Day received a number of honors during her retirement, but often turned down receiving them due to a gripping fear of flying, including a Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2004. Also that year, she tragically lost her son, Terry Melcher, to a long battle with melanoma. It was a devastating blow, since mother and son were incredibly close.

In 2008, Day received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement, but did not attend the ceremony to accept the award. To date, her last public appearance at an award ceremony was in 1989 when she showed up in Hollywood to collect an honorary Golden Globe.

Why was she so famous?

The main reason why Doris Day became famous is because of her incredible acting and singing abilities. Doris was born on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio to a music teacher/choirmaster and a homemaker. During her childhood, she was interested in dancing and was planning to become a professional dancer, however, after she injured her knee during a car accident in 1937, she decided to pursue other dreams. In the late 1930s, she began singing and attended a few singing classes to improve her skills.

The one of a kind actress began her career in 1939 at the age of 17. While she was still recovering from the car accident, Doris began singing on different radio shows. During that time, she stated multiple times that she was inspired by the likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey. While she was attending her singing lessons, the talented Day received offers to become a vocalist for the radio program “Carlin’s Carnival” on the WLW radio, as well as in the local restaurant “Charlie Yee’s Shanghai Inn”. After he saw one of her many performances on the radio, Barney Rapp, a well-known musician and orchestra leader contacted the aspiring singer and offered her to work with him as a vocalist. It was at that time that Doris adopted the name “Doris Day”.

What made her so successful?

The main reason why Doris Day is so successful is because she was able to mix together her talents. After starring in more than 15 movies as well as releasing 10 well-received studio albums in the early 1950s, Doris Day hit the peak of her career. In 1955, she became known primarily as a musical-comedy actress, although she did receive a lot of praise for her roles in more dramatic productions. One of her most fascinating roles at that time was the role of “Ruth Etting” in the 1955 drama “Love Me or Leave Me”. Day’s performance not only had commercial and critical success but it was also compared to Laurette Taylor’s performance in “The Glass Menagerie” – one of the greatest American performances.

In the late 1950s, the actress continued to make a name for herself. Her performances in the films “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Julie”, and “The Pajama Game” not only helped her gain more exposure but earned her several awards and nominations. For the first, she received her first Academy Award in the category “Best Original Song” (for the song “Que Sera, Sera”). Her career skyrocketed in 1959 after she starred in the classic “Pillow Talk”. For reprising the role of Jan Marrow, the actress received her first (and only) Oscar nomination in the category “Best Actress”.

Towards the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, Doris Day continued to build her legacy. In just 20 years, from 1947 to 1967, she recorded more than 650 recordings, and from 1949 to 2011, she released 32 studio albums. During her 50+ years long career in the entertainment business, Doris Day also starred in some of the most classic films of the century such as “Calamity’s Jane”, “The Thrills of All”, and “Lovers Come Back” among many others.

Doris Day Movies

A sensation both as an actress and as a singer, Doris Day typified the All-American girl next door. Her shining virginal persona onscreen made it incredible that her private life would be so plagued by abuse and multiple marriages.

As an actress, Day delivered exuberant performances in the musicals and comedies of the day, ultimately becoming the top box office star in the early 1960s. In no small part, thanks to a trio of collaborations with Rock Hudson.

At times she was known for subverting her virginal image with the occasional thriller, where suddenly she could be seen displayed as a dramatic actress, which was rare for her. The truth is Day found her greatest success acting in fluffy romantic comedies, the ind that eventually fell out of favor during the sexual revolution of the mid-1960s. Still, Day was fondly remembered by classic movie fans decades after she retired and today remains one of the era’s most popular performers. Here is a look at eight movies starring Doris Day, which are all must-see.

1.  ‘Young Man With a Horn’ – 1950

Though third billed behind Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, Day nonetheless shined in one of her more recognized early roles. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Young Man With a Horn featured Day as a jazz singer to Douglas’ alcoholic trumpet player inspired by the tragic life of musician Bix Beiderbecke. While they make beautiful music together on stage, Douglas begins neglecting his career after marrying an aspiring psychiatrist (Bacall) and falling deep inside a bottle, which leads to numerous arguments with everyone around him. Though he staggers toward the edge of tragedy, the faithful Day and his other musician friends come to his rescue and pull him back from the brink.

2.  ‘Calamity Jane’ – 1953

A lighthearted musical Western that barely touched upon the historical reality of its namesake, Calamity Jane allowed Day to cut loose in a flashy role. Day portrayed the gun-toting, tough-talking Jane with a sparkle and a wink, as she keeps up with the boys of Deadwood while swearing it up with old pal, Wild Bill Hickcok (Howard Keel), whom she comes to learn that she’s loved all her life. Meanwhile, Jane attempts to convince a stage star from Chicago to sing at the local opry house, only to falter and bring her maid (Allyn Ann McLerie) to town instead. Day’s energetic performance might be seen as a bit too over the top, though she gave it all in the role, especially when singing the Oscar-winning song “Secret Love.”

3.  ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ – 1955

A vibrant musical based on the life of 1930s singer Ruth Etting, Love Me or Leave Me was that rare song-and-dance movie that eschewed sentimentality in favor of a gritty realism that reflected the true nature of its subjects. Day delivered a quality performance as Etting, a jazz and blues singer who rose to stardom in the 1920s thanks to her association with a Chicago gangster, Martin “The Gimp” Snyder (James Cagney). While forced to be with Snyder, Etting falls for musician Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell) and nearly suffers tragedy when her boss tries to kill him. Day’s gutty performance showed her gift for dramatic performance, a potential that was never fully realized following her turn to fluffy romantic comedies that turned her into Hollywood’s top box office star.

4.  ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ – 1956

In an attempt to shed her goody two shoes image, Day became one of Alfred Hitchcock’s famed icy blondes in his remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Day starred opposite James Stewart as a pair of American tourists who become pulled into a web of international intrigue after witnessing the murder of a Frenchman they had previously befriended. They learn about a pending political assassination with the Frenchman’s last breath, but are unable to tell police because their son has been kidnapped, forcing them to stop the plot on their own. While attention was largely paid to Stewart, Day more than held her own in an atypical performance and once again sang an Oscar-winning song, “Que Será, Será.”

5.  ‘The Pajama Game’ – 1957

Unable to find consistent success as a dramatic actress, Day returned to what she did best with this hit adaptation of the Broadway musical, The Pajama Game. Day was the only performer not in the original stage cast in playing Babe, a pajama factory worker who becomes her union’s spokesperson after management refuses to give workers a nominal raise. Complicating matters is Sorokin (John Raitt), the management’s representative who happens to be in love with Babe. Despite the underlying political tone, The Pajama Game was a fun romp that featured such musical highlights as “Steam Heat” and “There Once Was a Man.” More importantly, the film foreshadowed the box office success Day would experience toward the end of the decade.

6.  ‘Pillow Talk’ – 1959

Though always ranking high as one of Hollywood’s top box office attractions, Day catapulted straight to number one with this classic romantic comedy that marked the first of three successful collaborations with Rock Hudson. Day played an interior decorator to Hudson’s charming composer who step all over each others’ toes while sharing a party line. Naturally, they come to despise each other until Hudson meets her in real life and falls head over heels in love. Pillow Talk was a massive box office hit and an instant classic that earned five Academy Award nominations, including Day’s only one for Best Actress.

7.  ‘Lover Come Back’ – 1961

Reuniting with Hudson, Day played a rival advertising executive trying to climb the corporate ladder, only to run afoul of Hudson’s carefree Madison Avenue adman who fails upwards while using his charm and ability to woo clients. Angered by his rather unseemly way of advancing his career – which largely consists of securing dates for clients with attractive women – Day tries in vain to report him to the ad council and is constantly rebuffed by his unethical behavior. That behavior stretches to conning everyone including Day with a dummy ad campaign for a fictional product, which leads to her renewed attempts to turn him in and later the unexpected prospect of falling in love. Though not as well-remembered as their first collaboration, Lover Come Back was another big hit and solidified Day and Hudson as a powerful onscreen pair.

8.  ‘That Touch of Mink’ – 1962

While still number one at the box office with That Touch of Mink, Day was on the cusp of a career slide thanks to a burgeoning sexual revolution that rendered her virginal persona obsolete. Here she played Cathy Timberlake, a young woman who refuses to bed a suave businessman (Cary Grant) until he agrees to tie the knot. Naturally, he refuses and sets off a romantic comedy of manners that ultimately results in him doing the right thing. While there’s little in the way of complications or overall plot, That Touch of Mink featured two memorable performances from its two leads, particularly Grant, who himself was on the verge of leaving the movie business altogether.


Often considered to be one of the greatest and most iconic actresses of the 20th century, Doris Day quickly took over the world with her stunning beauty, incredible acting skills, and fantastic abilities to sing. The legend spent more than 50 years in the entertainment business and to this day, she remains one of the eminent names in Hollywood.

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