The world knew Doris Day as the sunny blonde with the dazzling smile and sweet, girl-next-door nature but in the weeks following her death, controversial stories have emerged that cast America’s box-office sweetheart in a very different light.
Shortly after her death on May 13, her only grandchild, Ryan Melcher, came forth with claims that Day's longtime manager reportedly refused to let him see his grandmother, even when she grew older and "her mind begun to slip."
On Facebook, Melcher wrote a lengthy post expressing his sadness and regret about not seeing more of his grandmother before she died. He claimed this was because of interference by Day's manager, Bob Bashara, who he claimed also fired members from his grandmother's animal-rescue foundation.
Day had always been a fierce animal-rights advocate but towards the end, she grew increasingly reclusive in her final years and only seemed to care about her dogs, a former employee said, according to Fox News.
"Doris spent most of her last 10 years in her bedroom or the kitchen. She barely used the rest of the house . . . She would only want to talk about [her] dogs or hear about what fan mail she had.”
One of Day's close pen-pals, Mike DeVita, said he had exchanged over 500 letters with the legendary actress, often sharing personal details about their lives. He described Day as a trusting woman who "was manipulated all her life, usually by her husbands," Fox News reported. "People think, because of Doris’ movies, she was always happy-go-lucky. She had a lot of tragedy," he added.
Day's first husband, Al Jorden, routinely hit her and reportedly threatened to shoot her. In her 1975 autobiography, "Doris Day: Her Own Story," Day recalled that he first hit her when she accepted a wedding gift and continued to beat her for two months.
Day then became pregnant with her son Terry, which caused her to stay in the marriage, even though Jorden beat her during the pregnancy. She eventually worked up the courage to kick Jorden out of their Cincinnati home in 1943. He committed suicide 14 years later.
Three years after she booted Jorden, Day met and married saxophonist George Weidler from 1946 to 1949.
Three years after that she met her third husband, Martin Melcher, who adopted hier son Terry, and squandered her savings, leaving her broke and committed to several TV appearances. Day only found out she was in debt after Melcher’s death in 1968 but she was eventually awarded over $22 million for fraud and malpractice.
Speaking about Day's final years, an unnamed neighbor said her final moments were steeped in controversy. Pointing to Melcher's claims that Bashara had isolated Day from friends and family, the neighbor said there was "a lot of bad feeling surrounding the last few years of Doris’ life and how friends and family were pushed out."
Charley Cullen Walters, Day’s publicist, admitted there were people in the actress' life who tried to take advantage of her, including her husbands, but Bashara was not one of those people, Fox News reported. Day's neighbor noted that Day's life eventually became all about her animals.
"In the last 20 years of her life, all she cared about was her animals," said the neighbor. "She trusted animals more than she did humans. I don’t blame her."
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