Any documentary that can marshal both Kirstie Alley and John Updike to offer praise for its subject is worth considering, and, indeed, Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey proves to be the reputation-rescuing effort this singer-actress deserves. While lots of people dismiss her as the goody two-shoes who sang ”Que Sera, Sera” and made square ’60s comedies with Rock Hudson, others know the truth: that Day was a superlative, sexy vocalist in the big-band era, and that her movie persona was a lot more complex than goody-goody.
Film critic Molly Haskell sees her as something of a feminist role model, observing that in everything from Calamity Jane to Pillow Talk, Day offered an image that ”resisted mightily any feminine passivity.” This, in fact, is why Alley calls Day ”my hero” even as Updike praises the ”unbidden sensuality” of her ”tomboy” quality.
Director Dick Carter surrounds these comments with a well-edited barrage of movie clips and excerpts from Day’s recordings. The star herself is interviewed, and it only adds to her charm that she’s not particularly enlightening — Day is so resolutely modest and matter-of-fact that she lacks the self-consciousness to analyze her stardom. But in the words of her admirers and the examples of her work shown here, we can see why Updike is moved to burble that Day in her prime was ”not the only star in the sky but certainly one of the brightest.” B+