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Legendary actress and singer Doris Day dead at 97

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LOS ANGELES — Doris Day, the honey-voiced singer and actress whose film dramas, musicals and innocent sex comedies made her a top star in the 1950s and ’60s and among the most popular screen actresses in history, has died. She was 97.

The Doris Day Animal Foundation confirmed Day died early Monday at her Carmel Valley, California, home. The foundation said she was surrounded by close friends.

“Day had been in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia, resulting in her death,” the foundation said in an emailed statement.

With her lilting contralto, wholesome blonde beauty and glowing smile, she was a top box office draw and recording artist known for such films as “Pillow Talk” and “That Touch of Mink” and for such songs as “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

But over time, she became more than a name above the title: Right down to her cheerful, alliterative stage name, she stood for a time of innocence and G-rated love, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe. The running joke, attributed to both Groucho Marx and actor-composer Oscar Levant, was that they had known Day “before she was a virgin.”

Day herself was no Doris Day, by choice and by hard luck.

In “Pillow Talk,” released in 1959 and her first of three films with Rock Hudson, she proudly caught up with what she called “the contemporary in me.” Her 1976 tell-all book, “Doris Day: Her Own Story,” chronicled her money troubles and three failed marriages, contrasting with the happy publicity of her Hollywood career.

“I have the unfortunate reputation of being Miss Goody Two-Shoes, America’s Virgin, and all that, so I’m afraid it’s going to shock some people for me to say this, but I staunchly believe no two people should get married until they have lived together,” she wrote.

She never won an Academy Award, but Day was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, as George W. Bush declared it “a good day for America when Doris Marianne von Kappelhoff of Evanston, Ohio decided to become an entertainer.”

In recent years, she spent much of her time advocating for animal rights. Although mostly retired from show business since the 1980s, she still had enough of a following that a 2011 collection of previously unreleased songs, “My Heart,” hit the top 10 in the United Kingdom. The same year, she received a lifetime achievement honour from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Friends and supporters lobbied for years to get her an honorary Oscar.

Born to a music teacher and a housewife, she had dreamed of a dance career, but at age 12, she suffered a crippling accident: a car she was in was hit by a train and her leg was badly broken. Listening to the radio while recuperating, she began singing along with Ella Fitzgerald, “trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.”

Day began singing in a Cincinnati radio station, then a local nightclub, then in New York. A bandleader changed her name to Day, after the song “Day after Day,” to fit it on a marquee.

A marriage at 17 to trombonist Al Jorden ended when, she said, he beat her when she was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to her son, Terry, in early 1942. Her second marriage also was short-lived. She returned to Les Brown’s band after the first marriage broke up.

Her Hollywood career began after she sang at a Hollywood party in 1947. After early stardom as a band singer and a stint at Warner Bros., Day won the best notices of her career with “Love Me or Leave Me,” the story of songstress Ruth Etting and her gangster husband-manager. She initially balked at it, but the 1955 film became a box-office and critical success.

She followed with another impressive film, Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” starring her and James Stewart as an innocent couple ensnared in an international assassination plot. She sings “Que Sera, Sera” just as the story reaches its climax and viewers are beside themselves with suspense. The 1958 comedy “Teacher’s Pet” paired her with an aging Clark Gable as an idealistic college journalism teacher and her student, an old-school newspaper editor.

But she found her greatest success in slick, stylish sex comedies, beginning with her Oscar-nominated role in “Pillow Talk.” She and Hudson were two New Yorkers who shared a telephone party line and initially hated each other.

She followed with “The Thrill of It All,” playing a housewife who gains fame as a TV pitchwoman to the chagrin of obstetrician husband James Garner. The nation’s theatre owners voted her the top moneymaking star in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964.

Her first musical hit was the 1945 smash, “Sentimental Journey,” when she was barely in her 20s. Among the other songs she made famous were “Everybody Loves a Lover,” ”Secret Love,” and “It’s Magic,” a song from “Romance on the High Seas,” her first film.

Critic Gary Giddins called her “the coolest and sexiest female singer of slow-ballads in movie history.”

“Romance on the High Seas” had been designed for Judy Garland, then Betty Hutton. Both bowed out, and Day, recommended by songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, won the role. Warner Bros. cashed in on its new star with a series of musicals, including “My Dream Is Yours,” ”Tea for Two” and “Lullaby of Broadway.” Her dramas included “Young Man with a Horn,” with Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, and “Storm Warning,” with Ronald Reagan and Ginger Rogers.

Her last film was “With Six You Get Eggroll,” a 1968 comedy about a widow and a widower and the problems they have when blending their families.

With movies trending for more explicit sex, she turned to television to recoup her finances. “The Doris Day Show” was a moderate success in its 1966-1973 run on CBS.

Disillusionment grew in the 1960s when she discovered that failed investments by her third husband, Martin Melcher, left her deeply in debt. She eventually won a multimillion-dollar judgment against their lawyer.

She had married Melcher, who worked in her agent’s office, in 1951. He became her manager, and her son took his name. In most of the films following “Pillow Talk,” Melcher was listed as co-producer. Melcher died in 1969.

In her autobiography, Day recalled her son, Terry Melcher, telling her the $20 million she had earned had vanished and she owed around $450,000, mostly for taxes.

In 1974, Day won a $22.8 million judgment against Jerome B. Rosenthal, her lawyer and business manager, for mishandling of her and Melcher’s assets.

Terry Melcher, who died in 2004, became a songwriter and record producer, working with such stars as the Beach Boys. But he was also famous for an aspiring musician he turned down, Charles Manson. When Manson and his followers embarked on their murderous rampage in 1969, they headed for the house once owned by Melcher and instead came upon actress Sharon Tate and some visitors, all of whom were killed.

Day married a fourth time at age 52, to businessman Barry Comden in 1976. She lived in Monterey, California, devoting much of her time to the Doris Day Animal Foundation.

___

Associated Press writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

The Associated Press

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Liberal MPs call for national standards for long-term care homes

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OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is being pressured by some of his own Liberal backbenchers to implement enforceable national standards for the operation of long-term care homes in Canada.

The pressure came Thursday from five Toronto-area Liberal MPs, whose ridings are home to some of the elder-care facilities that have been devastated by COVID-19.

And it came just as the prime minister was preparing for his 11th conference call with premiers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in mid-March.

He had promised to repeat on the call his offer of federal help to improve conditions in care homes and provide paid sick leave for workers forced to stay home due to COVID-19.

Both issues fall squarely within provincial jurisdiction and could test the Team Canada spirit that has prevailed among first ministers so far during the COVID-19 crisis.

Trudeau’s offer of help has met with a mixed reaction so far from provincial and territorial leaders.

In a letter to Trudeau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, the five Liberal MPs upped the ante, asking Ottawa to call on the Ontario government to launch a full, independent, public inquiry to investigate the failings of the province’s long-term care system and make recommendations for fixing them.

Those failings were exposed in appalling detail earlier this week in a scathing report by the military, which has been called in to help out in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec. The report cited examples of neglect, abuse and unsanitary conditions in five Ontario homes.

Similar problems had been reported in some Quebec homes in April, although a military report this week on that province said conditions have now improved somewhat.

The five Ontario Liberal MPs — Gary Anandasangaree, Yvan Baker, Jennifer O’Connell, Judy Sgro and Sonia Sidhu — also called on the federal government to work in partnership with provinces to establish and implement enforceable national standards for long-term care homes across the country.

“The significant number of deaths in long-term care homes related to COVID-19 is not unique to our constituencies,” they wrote.

“It is a tragedy taking place across Canada as approximately 80 per cent of all COVID-19-related deaths across our country have occurred in long-term care homes.”

So far, Trudeau’s weekly conference calls with premiers have been notable for their collegial, collaborative spirit as the prime minister and premiers all work as one to cushion the impact of the deadly pandemic on Canadians’ health and the country’s economy.

But there are signs that team spirit may be starting to give way to the usual regional tensions and jurisdictional spats that have historically bedevilled federal-provincial relations in Canada.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, whose province has always jealously guarded its jurisdiction against perceived federal intrusions, is lukewarm about Trudeau’s promise to ensure 10 days of paid sick leave for workers who fall ill with COVID-19 or are required to go into quarantine.

“I told Justin Trudeau this morning first, regarding sick leave, that there was a very negative reaction from the corporate side,” he said Wednesday.

“Well, obviously, there is a question there that isn’t clear: Who will pay?”

On long-term care homes, Legault came close to suggesting the feds should butt out, apart from sending the provinces more money for health care in general which they could then spend as they see fit.

“We’re telling Mr. Trudeau if you really want to help us in long-term care facilities, please increase your transfers in health to all provinces. Then we’ll be able to hire, pay better and have more staff in our long-term care facilities.”

At the outset of the pandemic, the federal government did increase those transfers by $500 million.

In contrast to Legault, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has been effusive in his thanks for the offer of federal help to fix what he calls “this broken system.”

Ford too has called for more federal funding but he’s gone beyond that. He’s said “everything is on the table,” including integrating long-term care homes into the public health system, which is delivered by the provinces but under the national principles of the Canada Health Act.

And he’s called for national standards for such facilities.

“We need a system standard … a standard operating procedure that applies right across the country, no matter if it’s in Quebec or Ontario or B.C.,” he said Tuesday.

Trudeau has been careful so far to avoid wading into specifics, repeatedly stressing the federal government will respect provincial jurisdiction as it embarks on discussion with the premiers.

“I’m not going to short-circuit that conversation by putting forward aggressive proposals right now,” he said Wednesday.

Trudeau must also deal with the fact that not all provinces have been as hard hit by the pandemic as Ontario and Quebec and are less keen to have the feds rush in with help.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said that if the federal government wants to move ahead with paid sick leave, the federal government should not expect employers to pay for it.

“There can be no cost to the businesses that are just trying now to dust themselves off and reopen and get back into the marketplace,” Moe said Thursday.

He also said any pandemic-specific measures should have an end date, as longer-term conversations about sick leave belong in collective bargaining.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister shared that sentiment but nevertheless welcomed a national program to encourage any worker who feels ill to stay home.

“I’d like to see us arrive at some type of program nationally that would cover everybody in that event,” he said Wednesday, adding that it should be funded federally, “in partnership potentially with the provinces to some degree.”

Trudeau has credited British Columbia Premier John Horgan with first raising the idea of a sick leave program. And Horgan appeared optimistic Wednesday that agreement can be reached among first ministers to put one in place.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.

— with files from Giuseppe Valiante, Stephanie Taylor, Allison Jones, Dirk Meissner and Steve Lambert.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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Oilpatch advocates tell MPs help needs to be faster, easier to get

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OTTAWA — Representatives from Canada’s oilpatch say they don’t know of a single energy company that has yet benefited from any of Ottawa’s COVID-19-inspired loan programs.

Several company owners and industry advocates are painting a grim picture of the state of the country’s energy sector today at a virtual hearing of the House of Commons finance committee.

Peter Kiss, the president of Morgan Construction and Environmental Ltd., says he has laid off 80 per cent of his staff, watched his revenues crash 87 per cent and still considers his company one of the lucky ones because there is still at least some money coming in.

Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, says some of the loan programs promised from Ottawa have the right intention but the money is still not flowing, and qualifying is unnecessarily complicated.

The combination of a drastic drop in demand for fossil fuels because of the pandemic and an oil production war between Saudi Arabia and Russia forced oil prices to record lows in recent months and left many Canadian producers on the verge of collapse.

The sector’s advocates warned the committee that if the government doesn’t make the loan programs less complicated, companies aren’t going to survive.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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may, 2020

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