Oh dear. Bad enough for the respective authors that their biographies of Doris Day should come out within days of each other. Worse that the books’ covers should look close to identical – all pinks and whites and jauntily cursive typefaces laid over the exact same soft-focus shot of the girl Oscar Levant knew ‘before she was a virgin’. There she is, in recline, an angel with a blonde beehive for a halo, the tilt of her head saying come hither, the slow burn in her eyes warning you off. Her best-loved films were built around such contradictory signals, of course. Teacher’s Pet, That Touch of Mink, The Thrill of It All, Pillow Talk – these are Shakespeare-style comedies of disguise and misrecognition, in which Day does her darndest to disabuse the likes of Gable, Grant, Garner and Hudson of the idea that the way she looks is the way she is.
Such slippage between image and reality intrigues these two authors. Beneath the sunlit uplands of Day’s movie persona, they both argue, lay a shady netherworld of misery and torment. And who could demur? Born Doris Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1922 (Bret sticks with the more commonly accepted 1924, but