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Doris Day wanted to star in MGM’s adaption of Annie Get Your Gun, but unfortunately, she was under contract to Warner Brothers at the time.
Thankfully, three years later, Day found herself playing a similar character in Calamity Jane, a fan-favorite musical and a role that the actress loved. In fact, she even joked that the character was like herself.
“I think I had more fun in that part than anything I'd ever done,” Day said. “I loved everything about it.”
1. It was based on a real figure.
The musical was inspired by Martha Burke, also known as “Calamity Jane,” since she promised calamity to those who crossed her. A good markswoman, Burke worked as a scout and transporter for the United States Army in the Great Plains. Similar to her musical characterization, Burke had a knack for telling tales, and she told supposedly true stories of her times with General Custer and Wild Bill Hickok. "I loved portraying Calamity Jane, who was a rambunctious, pistol-packing prarie girl. I lowered my voice and stuck out my chin a little," said Day.
2. The score had a hit song.
Doris Day was a fan of the music from the moment she heard it. "I just about fell apart. I loved the whole score so much I was just dancing around the house,” Day said. The big song was, of course, “Secret Love,” which was a number one song for three weeks and spent another 19 weeks on the pop chart. The song became a gold single for Day, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and entered the Grammy Hall of Fame. Day was asked to sing the song at the Oscar ceremony, but she politely declined because she was nervous to sing in front of her peers.
3. Day and Keel got along.
Doris was actually given the opportunity to choose her leading man and chose Howard Keel – perhaps because he had been the male lead in Annie Get Your Gun. The pair got along so well that Day trusted him with the stunt in “I Can Do Without You.” Keel grabbed Day for real, and afterward, she even had a couple of bruises. Unfortunately, they were never paired together on screen again, despite their chemistry in this film.