Doris Day was a major star during the 1950s and 60s. Even now, many years after her final film and years since her last regular television appearances, the star's name retains currency: she is often invoked as shorthand for a kind of sexuality now felt outmoded, with virginity firmly maintained until marriage. Although this assumption is widespread, close attention to the facts of Day's own life challenges it, and the majority of her film roles also prove otherwise, with Day most frequently portraying a woman of maturely sexual desires. Redressing a surprisingly meagre body of work on Doris Day, this book investigates why the rigid view of Day's maintained virginity should have arisen and become so fixed to the star, even now. Taking a twofold approach, Tamar Jeffers McDonald both closely examines Day's film roles and performances and explores material from other popular media for the source of the virgin myth. Day featured continuously in public discourse, and media stories were often devoted to her personal life: it was widely known that she had been married three times and had a son.
Why then did the pejorative label, 'the-forty-year-old virgin', arise, and why has it stuck so tenaciously to Day until today? Investigating a range of sources in order to discover why this maturely sexual star has become indelibly associated with maintained virginity, Doris Day Confidential analyses in detail Day's characters and performances across her career. By focusing on contemporary popular culture contexts, using newspaper stories, articles from film, fan and lifestyle magazines, reviews and gossip, it charts the developments in Day's screen 'persona', highlighting the changing public perception of the star of Calamity Jane, Love Me Or Leave Me and Pillow Talk, as aided and abetted by the media.