Monday, April 3, 2017

Doris Day and James Garner: Their Films and Friendship

Doris was everybody's darling and I wish I could have done fifty more pictures with her. 
~ James Garner

Doris Day (whose birthday is April 3rd) and James Garner (whose birthday is April 7th) made only two films together in 1963, but they remained friends until Garner's death in 2014. The films, The Thrill of It All and Move Over, Darling, are not as famous as Day's film pairings with Rock Hudson, but they were extremely successful at the box-office due to the wonderful on-screen chemistry between Day and Garner. This chemistry stemmed from their off-screen friendship and respect for the other's abilities as an actor.

In their autobiographies, both Day and Garner had only nice things to say about each other, despite the fact that Garner (accidently) broke Day's ribs during the filming of Move Over, Darling.
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.
We had fun. He's a marvelous 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.
~ Doris Day, The Garner Files
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.
~ James Garner, The Garner Files

Garner was also known to say that Doris had the "best tush in Hollywood." In an essay included in Day autobiography, Garner goes on in depth about his love and admiration for her, as well as her "girl next door" image:
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.
I remember the first time I saw her on screen. I was just a regular moviegoer then, hadn't turned to acting yet, and here was this new girl, Doris Day, on a train with Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson [It's a Great Feeling (1949)], singing a song, and I looked at her and said to myself, "Oh, God, ain't that beautiful, and listen to that voice!"
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.
One other thing about acting with Doris - she was the Fred Astaire of comedy. You know the way Astaire used to change partners but the dancing was always uniformly spectacular because Astaire just did his thing and anybody who danced with him was swept up by it. Well, same thing about Doris. Whether is was Rock Hudson or Rod Taylor or me or whoever - we all looked good... I used to come to the set with a preconceived notion of how I was going to play a particular scene, but when I saw what Doris was doing in the scene, her tempo, her feel for the scene, 99.9 percent of the time I'd toss my pre-conception away and play it with her. Making a movie with Doris was a piece of cake - a sexy ride on her coattails all the way.

♥ ♥ ♥

The two films that Day made with Garner are very similar to the films she made with Rock Hudson. The main difference is that in both of them they are already married with children at the beginning of the film (Day's character is only married to Hudson's character in their third and final film together, Send Me Know Flowers, made the year after her films with Garner).

In The Thrill of It All (1963), Day plays a normal housewife who is offered a job as the spokesperson of a soap company after she is overheard telling a story about how their soap, Happy Soap, saved her life. Her doctor husband (Garner) is less than thrilled when she signs a one-year contract that keeps her away from the home and her wifely duties. Here's a good synopsis of the film.

In Move Over, Darling (1963), a remake of the 1940 Cary Grant/Irene Dunne classic My Favorite Wife, Day plays a wife who has been lost at sea for five years and been declared legally dead. Upon arriving home, she discovers that her husband, Garner, has remarried just that morning. She heads to the hotel where he is going to be staying with his new wife (which happens to be the same hotel THEY stayed at on THIER honeymoon) to try to stop him before he makes the marriage "official." You can read more about the two films in the post I wrote for my Remakes blogathon.

I highly recommend both films. Not only are they fun to watch but Day and Garner are very convincing as a married couple and evenly matched as comedians.
If Doris Day was the national symbol for the All-American girl, then Jim was her male counterpart - somewhere between a steelworker and a Saturday afternoon football hero.
~  Raymond Strait.

~ Sources ~

Considering Doris Day. Tom Santopietro. 2007.
Doris Day: Her Own Story. Doris Day and A. E. Hotchner. 1975.
The Garner Files: A Memoir. James Garner and Jon Winokur. 2011.
James Garner: A Biography. Raymond Strait. 1985.
This post is part of The Doris Day Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood in honor of Day's birthday on April 3rd. Be sure to read all of the other posts celebrating this icon of Classic Hollywood!


  1. They are fun movies, made even more so by these delightful stars. You chose a lovely way to celebrate Doris' birthday.

  2. Loved this post! I adore this friendship, especially the fact that Garner had so much respect and admiration for Day. His remark about her being the Fred Astaire of comedy is so spot-on. They were just a really great pair. Thanks so much for contributing this piece!

    1. Thanks! It's always great to see actors with good relationships.

  3. I LOVE THE THRILL OF IT ALL!! So adorable! I still need to see Move Over Darling- but it should be sute- as I adore My Favorite Wife!! They should have been in more movies together!

  4. Really enjoyed learning about their mutual appreciation of each other! She seemed to have had some great friendships with some of her leading with Rock Hudson, too. That enjoyment of each other really came through! Thanks so much - I learned a lot!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! It was fun to put together.

  5. Doris Day is one of my favorite actors, and James Garner has always impressed me onscreen and off, so I really enjoyed this post :-) I've seen both their films together, but a long time ago -- I should see them again!

  6. Oh I LOVE both Doris & James. I wish they would've done more together. Though I love her & Rock, I like the 2 she made with Garner better.