Doris Day Marriage Disasters: Al Jorden cover

Doris Day Marriage Disasters: Al Jorden

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JUST like the sunny characters she played on screen, Doris Day was an incurable romantic.
At the impressionable age of 17 and just embarking on her singing career, the young songbird ignored her bandmates and her mother who warned her not to marry surly trombonist Al Jorden.
Even as a teenager, Doris dreamed of becoming the wholesome housewife she went on to personify in so many movies.
But her 1941 marriage would become more like a dark, violent horror film than a romantic comedy.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars on 2 reviews

"Opening a little jumpy in segues but settles down to an informative read." 4 stars by




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Doris Day Marriage Disasters: Al Jorden

JUST like the sunny characters she played on screen, Doris Day was an incurable romantic.

At the impressionable age of 17 and just embarking on her singing career, the young songbird ignored her bandmates and her mother who warned her not to marry surly trombonist Al Jorden.

Even as a teenager, Doris dreamed of becoming the wholesome housewife she went on to personify in so many movies.

But her 1941 marriage would become more like a dark, violent horror film than a romantic comedy.

Jorden, who was 23 when they wed, cheated on Doris, beat her up repeatedly and ultimately plotted to murder her because she refused to abort their baby.

Her flawed choice of the controlling, abusive musician was the first example of her fatal attraction for the wrong type of men in a lifelong search for love that would always elude her.

Jorden lived in Evanstown, Cincinnati, where Doris was born and they played in the same band.

It was Doris who broke the ice when she was 16 by asking him to collect her each evening and then drop her off after the shows.

He would humiliate her in public, criticizing her table manners when she spoke with her mouth full, spitting food everywhere.

And Jorden almost got Doris and the rest of their band, Sign of the Drum, killed when he overturned his 15ft speedboat during a weekend trip on the Ohio River while racing at top speed in the swell of a paddleboat.

But the young singer remained besotted with Jorden even after he left to join another band on a nationwide tour and happily agreed to marry him when he proposed on his return.

She apparently had no problem turning her back on her own blossoming career to settle down for what she thought would be a life of married bliss.

Despite the objections of her mother, Alma, and her bandleader Les Brown, Doris married Jorden between shows in New York with just enough time for a slurp of champagne.

The very next day, Doris learned what sort of a man she’d married.

As she wrote in her memoir, Doris Day: Her Own Story, “What had been represented to me as love emerged as jealousy – a pathological jealousy that was destined to make a nightmare out of the next few years of my life.”

Her only crime had been to pick up a wedding present from the band’s manager Billy Burton while she was waiting for her new husband to finish rehearsals.

Jorden grabbed Doris by the arm and dragged her back to the squalid apartment he’d rented for them in the Whitby Hotel off Times Square.

“The minute we walked into our apartment, he spun me around and hit me in the face,” she recalled.

“I put up my hands to protect myself but he hit me again and again, knocking me into the furniture and against the wall. All the while he was yelling at me in an uncontrollable rage, shrieking at me, ‘You tramp, you no good little whore.’”

A few months later they went shopping together in her favorite Italian markets around Eighth Avenue when she became aware of the same “psychotic” change in her husband who accused her in a “white fury” of being too familiar with the traders.

“He slammed the door and then started to knock me around the room, sending the bags and their contents all over the floor,” she wrote.

In his biography, Doris Day: Reluctant Star, author David Bret wrote that Doris and Jorden were walking past a newsstand in New York when she pointed to a magazine with a photo of herself in a swimsuit on the cover.

Consumed by jealousy, Jorden slapped her repeatedly across the face in front of dozens of shocked fans.

He’d call her a “dirty whore” and the cycle of brutal beatings and his begging for forgiveness would be repeated over and over again.

But still worse was in store for the young bride when she discovered she was pregnant.

First, Jorden tried to persuade her to go to a backstreet abortionist. When that didn’t work, he attempted to force a miscarriage by making Doris put her feet in a bucket of scalding hot water and feeding her mysterious pills that, she wrote, made her “deathly ill.”

Jorden took her home to Cincinnati to visit his parents but beat her so badly again and caused such a ruckus that they woke his mother.

In her memoir, Doris remembered confiding in Jorden’s mother that he son had been beating her in her pregnancy.

“Well from the looks of you he didn’t hit you very hard,” was the mother’s shocking retort.

Still Jorden didn’t give up trying to get rid of the unborn child, only now he resolved to kill Doris as well.

On the road to Buffalo, NY, where he was booked on a two-week engagement, Jorden drove at breakneck speeds of more than 110 miles per hour along winding mountain roads shouting that he intended to kill them all.

On another occasion, the couple was driving through New England on their way to Boston in Jorden’s Mercury convertible when he reached into the glove box and pulled out a gun.

He pushed the cold gun barrel up against Doris’s pregnant belly and told her, “You and you baby, I’m going to shoot both of you.”

“We rode like that for miles,” remembered Doris.

“I was literally frozen with fear in the truest sense of the word. Every bump and tremor in the road I expected the gun to discharge.”

Somehow she managed to talk him out of this and, according to David Bret, Doris had a fear of sitting in the front of a car for the rest of her life.

Hard as it was to believe, Doris stayed with Jorden – and even worse was to come.

When Doris was just four weeks from giving birth, Jorden had the worst of his rages, dragging her out of bed by her feet in a furnished apartment in Chicago.

He swung her around the room and then slammed his hand into her, knocking her against the wall. All the time she had her arms wrapped around her belly, trying to protect the baby.

Jorden was away working – and womanizing - when Doris’s son, Terry was born on February 8, 1942.

For a while all was peaceful as Doris’s mom helped her with the newborn, but inevitably a contrite Jorden showed up full of apologies and promises of a better life and, just as inevitably, Doris gave in and gave him another chance.

In return, she got more abuse. He insisted only his mother-in-law could look after the child and slapped Doris if she disobeyed.

“After a night on the town with his latest squeeze he would stomp up the stairs, drunk, barge into Alma's room and rattle the bars of Terry's cot, bellowing at him until the terrified child screamed the house down,” wrote Bret.

Doris Day is visited by her mother, Alma Sophia, on the set of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”

”The baby had to stay with me in my room all the time,” recalled Alma. “There were times, I can tell you, when I was fearful he would harm the poor thing. I kept my eye on him all the time.”

Finally Doris had enough and changed the locks.

Their divorce was finalized in 1943 when Doris was not quite 18.

In his book, Considering Doris Day, biographer Tom Santopietro wrote that the star characteristically found something positive out of the train wreck of a marriage.

“If I hadn’t married this bird I wouldn’t have my terrific son Terry,” she said. “So out of this awful experience came something quite wonderful.”

It was years later in July 1967 that Doris discovered Jorden used that same gun in his glove compartment to blow his own brains out.

She didn’t shed any tears. After finally getting Jorden out of her life Doris had gone back to work out of necessity to care for herself and her baby.

And she was on her way to becoming a star.

To learn more about Doris Day's son Terry Melcher, please click here.