The Five Best Doris Day Performances

1. Lover Come Back (1961) – Doris Day wasn’t just a fine comedienne–she was an outstanding comic actress. Yes, she generates plenty of laughs in Lover Come Back, but she also makes her character believable. That’s why it’s so funny to see aggressive advertising executive Carol Templeton turn into mush when she thinks she has found an intelligent, sensitive, male virgin that looks like Rock Hudson. She earned her only Oscar nomination for Pillow Talk (1960), but I think she’s even better in Lover Come Back (which is also a better film…functioning as a satiric look at the world of advertising).

2. Calamity Jane (1953) – Considering her success as a singer, it’s surprisingly that Doris didn’t make more musicals than she did. This one is her best, allowing her to strut around as a sharpshooting tomboy and then find her sensitive side with a sublime rendition of “Secret Love.” She also teams wonderfully with Howard Keel (from an acting and musical standpoint).

3. Pillow Talk (1960) – Speaking of movie teams, who was the genius that paired Doris Day and Rock Hudson? Granted, the wonderfully written Pillow Talk provides them with tailor-made roles as an early feminist and a swinging playboy. However, the duo have an incredibly natural rapport and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Doris Day helped Rock Hudson become a first-rate comic performer. (To be honest, his non-Doris comedies, such as Come September and A Very Special Favor, just don’t compare).

4. The Thrill of It All (1963) – James Garner essentially played the straight man (and did so very well) in his comedies with Doris Day. That allowed Doris to shoulder more of the comic load, which she does effortlessly in another comedy about advertising. This time, though, she plays a mother who unexpectedly becomes spokesperson for the Happy Soap company. This movie also features my favorite Doris Day quote when her character inadvertently states on camera: “Hello. I’m… I’m Beverly Boyer and I’m a pig.”

5.Love Me or Leave Me (1955) – I have mixed feelings about this fictionalized biography of jazz singer Ruth Etting which co-stars James Cagney. However, it features Doris’ best dramatic performance…and allows her to sing some classic tunes, too.

Honorable Mentions: That Touch of Mink, Move Over, Darling, and By the Light of the Silvery Moon.

What’s your favorite Doris Day film? Let us know in the comments!

Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café, and you can find him on Facebook and Twitter. We originally reprinted this article in 2016 and are featuring it again today as part of our celebration of the life of Doris Day.

  • Gloria

    I’ve always felt that Doris Day’s performances in Hitchock’s Man Who Knew Too Much and Young at Heart (w/ Frank Sinatra) were some of her best.

  • Tom Johnson

    I recently saw “Midnight Lace.” WOW! Who knew she could be so wonderful in a thriller! I highly recommend it.

  • Joseph23006

    Love Me or Leave Me showed she could outside of light fluffy musical athough it gave her the chance to sing. Midnight Lace and Julie were rally good thrillers.

  • Ron

    Hard to give only 5 choices. I think she was pretty wonderful in PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES, YOUNG AT HEART, I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, TEACHER’S PET, STORM WARNING, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, PAJAMA GAME, and MIDNIGHT LACE.
    And LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is her finest hour by far.

  • billyweeds

    She was highly underrated in “The Pajama Game” and “Billy Rose’s Jumbo,” two of her best and arguably better musical performances than “Calamity Jane.” She was award-worthy in her turn in “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” and “Teacher’s Pet” was a far better outing for her than the mediocre “The Thrill of It All.” Just my opinion. One of my favorite
    movie stars ever.

  • Mark Wanek

    Teacher’s Pet is one of my all-time favorites. That and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Her rendition of ‘Que Sera Sera’ is just fantastic!

  • Starboy28

    These are all excellent choices, but “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies” is one of my favorites, and will always hold a special place in my Day guilty pleasures.

  • Michaline ‘Micki’ Rezler-Morri

    I have to go with “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. She was so convincing as the distraught mother!

  • Kingpong

    “That Touch of Mink” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much”

  • DollyT

    She was my all time favorite and I thoroughly enjoyed all of her movies.

  • Butch Knouse

    My favs are The Glass Bottom Boat and Hello Darling. Also, Rock Hudson proved the Gay is not a choice. How else could he do all of those movies with her and not fall in love.

  • Trippy Trellis

    “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, by a mile.