The Cincinnati native, who first found fame singing withLes Brown's band, made such ballads as "Sentimental Journey," "Secret Love" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" famous. "Que Sera Sera," from theAlfred Hitchcockfilm The Man Who Knew Too Much" became her personal theme.
Day's girl-next-door looks and natural likability led to the chance to make movies. Despite no experience nor training, she made her debut in 1948'sRomance on the High Seas. A string of musical hits followed before she reinvented herself again in a series of romantic comedies alongsideRock Hudson,James Garnerand David Niven. Beginning withPillow Talkin 1959, she became box office gold. Buy by the end of the '60s, her trademark style became a bit outdated. A deeply religious Christian Scientist, she turned down the role that eventually went toAnne BancroftinThe Graduate,uncomfortable with its plot. Instead she made the now-forgotten light comedyWith Six You Get Eggroll.
Day's next move was to TV. But despite heavy promotion by CBS, she was not destined to joinLucyand Maryas a sitcom legend. The deal was crafted by her third husband, the agent-turned-producerMartin Melcher,who also lost her fortune through bad investments. He died not long after cutting the deal with CBS.
She then went into semi-retirement and rarely appeared on TV until the mid 1980s when she hosted a syndicated weekly talk show -- whose most famous episode featured an ailing Rock Hudson as he was dying of AIDS.
Day's sonTerry Melchermade a name for himself as a singer-turned producer, turningThe Rip Chords,ByrdsandPaul Revere and the Raidersinto successful '60s hit-makers. He also began producing his mom's records. Melcher's final success was co-writing and producing The Beach Boysnumber-one smash, "Kokomo." (He died of cancer in 2004.)
A longtime animal rights advocate, Day's personal foundation raised millions for the cause.