Doris Day felt married to Hollywood legend even though he broke her ribs

Doris Day felt married to Hollywood legend even though he broke her ribs

Move Over, Darling official 1963 trailer

Doris Day lit up the screen for decades, but we lost the timeless star three years ago today.

She was the epitome of wholesome femininity, yet somehow also surprisingly sexy. It was a killer combination.

The star was at the height of her popularity in the early Sixties. In 1960 and 1962-1964 she was the top box office draw in Hollywood.

There was also real steel beneath her smiling surface, which was amply demonstrated while filming Move Over Darling, with her favourite co-star, who she regarded as a “husband.”

Nobody would know while watching the frothy romantic comedy that its leading lady actually spent days on set with her body heavily bandaged.

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The film is inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem Enoch Arden where a shipwrecked husband returns home to find his wife has moved on. The genders are swapped on-screen as Day’s Ellen Arden returns after five years presumed dead to find it’s her husband Nick’s (James Garner) wedding day to new flame Bianca (Polly Bergen).

Ellen tricks her way into Bianca’s hotel room and gives her a massage. Nick bursts in and pulls her off. It was only days later that a horrified Garner realised how badly he had hurt Day.

Shooting subsequent scenes Garner felt heavy bandages under her costume and later recalled: “In one scene she was standing on a bed and I reached up, grabbed her by the waist, and carried her off. In the process, I broke two of her ribs. I didn’t know it until one of the assistant directors told me the next day, because Doris never complained.”

It was typical of Day that she had immediately returned to work, even though she later confessed in her official 1976 biography Her Own Story that it was difficult to breathe and excruciating to laugh.

She even directly addressed Garner: “We had fun. He’s a marvellous actor. He’s very real when he talks to you. He’s so funny and so nice, I just love him. Even though he broke two of my ribs. Jim, if we don’t speak for a while, I forgive you for breaking my ribs. Both of them. Don’t give it another thought.”

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Day also described their special bond in her typically affectionate but playful way: “Jim and I worked together only twice, in Move Over, Darling and The Thrill of It All. He’s so good at what he does… I felt married.

“We didn’t see each other much over the following years, but we’ve stayed friends because we talk on the phone regularly. I don’t know how, because Jim hates the telephone. I usually have to call him. “Can’t you pick up a phone?” I say, but he just grumbles.”

Garner, in turn, spoke glowingly of his superstar leading lady and what made her so special – and so sexy.

He said: “Doris didn’t play sexy, she didn’t act sexy, she was sexy. And then she could take a sexy scene and make you laugh. Which is better in the bedroom than a lot of things. And Doris was a joy to work with. Everything she did seemed effortless. She’s so sweet and so professional – she made everyone around her look good.

“I think Doris is a very sexy lady who doesn’t know how sexy she is. That’s an integral part of her charm… I don’t think she could have had the success she’s had if she didn’t have this sexy whirlpool frothing around underneath her All-American-girl exterior.”

Garner also named Day as one of the two sexiest stars he ever worked with: “I’ve had to play love scenes with a lot of screen ladies, but of all the women I’ve had to be intimate with on the screen, I’d rate two as sexiest by far – Doris and Julie Andrews, both of them notorious girls next door.

“Playing a love scene with either of them is duck soup because they communicate something sexy which means I also let myself go somewhat and that really makes a love scene work.”

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