Sunday, August 7, 2011

Doris Day (Saga of Death Valley)

Despite her famous name, in retrospect at least, it is not Doris Day you remember from Saga of Death Valley (1940), an above-average Roy Rogers series entry that co-stars future Republic cowboy hero Donald Barry shortly before he added that "Red" that would dog him forever. Barry plays Roy's long-lost brother who has been raised to do evil by the man (Frank M. Thomas) who kidnapped him as a child. And evil he certainly does, including killing Doris rancher father, Lew Kelly. Such nefarious goings-on must be punished, of course, and Saga of Death Valley ends with Barry dying in brother Roy's arms and not a dry eye in the house.

Confusingly, not only was this earlier Doris Day (1910-1998) also blonde, she was a band singer to boot. A vocalist with Station WLW in Cincinnati, she replaced Marion Mann as Bob Crosby's girl singer in 1940. Following what can only be termed a mild screen career, she made her Broadway debut in “Susan and God” (1943), the role played by Rita Hayworth in the 1940 screen version starring Joan Crawford. This Broadway version of Rachel Crothers' 1937 play starring Gertrude Lawrence lasted only eight performances.

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