There was a time when Doris Day was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. She was a singer and famous actress, starring in everything from romantic comedies with Rock Hudson to Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. She was an Academy Award nominee and truly, America's sweetheart. So it was incredibly shocking that at the peak of her career, the beloved actress found herself in the midst of bankruptcy.
When Day was 29 years old, she married her third husband, producer Martin Melcher. The couple was married from 1951 until Melcher passed away in 1968. During that time, Melcher even adopted the actress's son from a previous relationship, Terry. While Day was busy starring in popular films like Calamity Jane, The Pajama Game, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and The Glass Bottom Boat, she allowed her husband, who also operated as her manager, to manage her finances. He decided to hire a lawyer in Beverly Hills named Jerome Rosenthal to invest her fortune and to put it simply...he lost all of it. A combination of poor investments and most likely pocketing money for himself.
Day didn't even find out about the lost money until her husband passed away and Rosenthal tried to claim some of her remaining funds. It's estimated that roughly $20 million was taken from Day, the equivalent of over $150 million by today's standards. 1968 was a big year for Doris Day. The same year she discovered her debt, she also discovered that her husband had signed her on to star in a TV show without her knowledge, something she had never had any interest in. But considering the financial predicament she found herself in, she felt obliged to go through with it.
The Doris Day Show aired on CBS that same year and of course, Day's signature song "Que Sera Sera" was included as the theme song to generate hype for viewers. The actress starred in the family sitcom as Doris Martin, a widow who brings her sons Billy and Toby (Philip Brown and Todd Starke) from New York City to her father's ranch in California. The Andy Griffith Show alum Denver Pyle starred on the series as her father, Buck Webb, with James Hampton as their ranch hand LeRoy B. Simpson, and Fran Ryan as the housekeeper Aggie Thompson. Though Ryan was later replaced by Juanita (Naomi Stevens). While the storyline in the first season was largely focused on life at the ranch, the TV series decided to reinvent itself in the next season.
The show changed multiple times across its five seasons on the air. In the second season, Doris gets a job working in nearby San Francisco at Today's World magazine and a slew of new characters around the workplace was introduced including future M*A*S*H star McLean Stevenson, Rose Marie, and Paul Smith. In the third season, she moves with her boys to San Francisco into an apartment over an Italian restaurant after tiring of her long commute, and Bernie Kopell, Kaye Ballard, and Billy De Wolfe joined the cast.
But things really took a turn in the fourth season, most likely as a result of CBS shifting their programming to more modern stories. Without any explanation, the entire cast was cut, including Doris's two young sons. For the next two seasons, Doris was an independent career woman, still working at the same magazine but as a staff writer instead of a secretary, with John Dehner starring as her new editor, Cy Bennett. Peter Lawford (Dr. Peter Lawrence) and Patrick O'Neal (Jonathan Rusk) had recurring roles as her love interests.
After the show was canceled in 1973, Day mostly retired from her acting career. She did continue to appear in the occasional TV special and even hosted her own talk show briefly, Doris Day's Best Friends. Her son Terry has openly stated that his father's unexpected death really saved his mother from completely drowning in her own debt. It seems that his decision to sign her on to a TV series was also a blessing in disguise.