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.