This week two icons of the entertainment world, and my youth, passed away and received their angel wings. Doris Day and Tim Conway were much the same, and yet two very different people.
Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff was born on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Day, who changed her name from Kappelhoff at the urging of orchestra leader Barney Rapp because he felt Kappelhoff was too long for marquees, recorded her first hit song, “Sentimental Journey,” in early 1945.
It soon became an anthem of the desire of World War II demobilizing troops to return home. The song continues to be associated with Day, and she rerecorded it on several occasions throughout her career.
During 1945-46, Day (as vocalist with the Tes Brown Band) had six other Top Ten hits on the Billboard chart.
Day starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense film “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) with James Stewart. She sang two songs in the film, “Que Sera, Sera,” which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and “Well Tove Again.” The film was Day’s 10th movie to be in the Top 10 at the box office. No doubt we’ve all heard the popular song “Que Sera, Sera.” The song has been recorded dozens of times by dozens of singers. But the most popular version was the one created for Hitchcock’s film. Day went on to record the song for Columbia Records. It became a massive hit. She also used it as her theme song in her television comedy, “The Doris Day Show,” which first aired on Sept.24, 1968, and ran until 1973.
In 2004,she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for her achievements in the entertainment industry and for her work on behalf of animals. President Bush stated: “In the years since, she has kept her fans and shown the breadth of her talent in television and the movies. She starred on screen with leading men from Jimmy Stewart to Ronald Reagan, from Rock Hudson to James Garner.
“It was a good day for America when Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio, decided to become an entertainer. It was a good day for our fellow creatures when she gave her good heart to the cause of animal welfare. Doris Day is one of the greats, and America will always love its sweetheart.”
Thomas Daniel “Tim” Conway was also born in Ohio, in the Cleveland suburb Willoughby, in 1933. He portrayed the inept Ensign Parker in the 1960s World War II situation comedy “McHale’s Navy” and was a regular cast member on “The Carol Burnett Show” in the 1970s.
He co-starred with Don Knotts in several films in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. He starred as the title character in the Dorf series of comedy films, and provided the voice of Barnacle Boy in the animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Conway became a regular on “The Carol Burnett Show,” after having been a frequent guest for the show’s first eight seasons. Conway’s work on the show earned him four Emmy Awards: one for writing and three for performance, one of which was before he became a regular.
Two of Conway’s memorable characters on the Burnett Show were The Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball.
These two amazing people helped keep laughter, love and intrigue in our lives for over 70 years, and fortunately their memory will live on through recordings and re-runs that are absolutely timeless.
I wonder if either of them could have ever imagined “what would be.”
Que sera, sera my friends!
Rich DeLong, formerly of Richmond Hill, is the executive director for The Villas & The Grand of Seagrass Village in Panama City Beach, Florida. Reach him at SeniorMomentsWithRich@gmail.com.