Filled Under: Laraine Day
(October 13, 1920 – November 10, 2007)
Laraine Day was born La Raine Johnson on October 13, 1920 in Roosevelt, Utah, to an affluent Mormon family. She later moved to California where she was a 1938 graduate of Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California and began her acting career with the Long Beach Players. In 1937, Day debuted onscreen in a bit part in Stella Dallas. Shortly afterwards, she won lead roles in several George O’Brien westerns at RKO, in which she was billed as “Laraine Hays” and then “Laraine Johnson”, such as “Border G-Man” (1938), “Painted Desert” (1938), and “Arizona Legion” (1939). In 1939 she signed with MGM and changed her stage name to Laraine Day. At MGM she became popular and well-known as “Nurse Mary Lamont”, the title character’s fiancee in a string of seven “Dr. Kildare” movies beginning with Calling Dr. Kildare (1939), with Lew Ayres in the title role. Other movies of note for MGM were “The Trial of Mary Dugan” (1941) opposite Robert Young, “Fingers at the Window” (1942) with Lew Ayers and Basil Rathbone, and “Keep Your Powder Dry” (1945) with Lana Turner and Susan Peters. Most of these roles were in medium budget films and did not do much to advance the career of such an attractive and talented performer such as Laraine Day.
At MGM, Day was often loaned out to other studios for roles that were for the most part far more stimulating than those MGM gave her, including a prominent supporting part in the Irish melodrama “My Son, My Son!” (1940). Some of the other roles Day had with other studios during this time were in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “Foreign Correspondent” (1940) with Joel McCrea, “Mr. Lucky” (1943) with Cary Grant, “The Story of Dr. Wassell” (1944) with Gary Cooper, and the psychological mystery “The Locket” (1946) with Robert Mitchum, Brian Aherne, and Gene Raymond.
In 1945 MGM told Day that if she did “Keep Your Powder Dry” (1945) that she would be rewarded with the female lead in “Undercurrent” (1946) with Robert Taylor. When the role was given to Katharine Hepburn Day left MGM and never returned. Day would later be quoted as saying, “MGM never really gave me a break. They loaned me out for leading roles, but cast me in programme pictures.” After Leaving MGM Day went on to star in movies such as “Tycoon” (1947) with John Wayne, “My Dear Secretary” (1948) with Kirk Douglas, “The Woman on Pier 13” (1949), and “Without Honor” (1949). As her movie career started to decline, Day turned to television and in 1951 hosted her own show called “Daydreaming With Laraine”. Day went on to appear on many television shows and movies over the next thirty seven years. Among the many other shows Day appeared in were: “All Star Revue”, “Screen Directors Playhouse”, “Celebrity Playhouse”, “The Loretta Young Show”, “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”, “Wagon Train”, “The Love Boat”, and “Fantasy Island”. Her last role was in 1987 in a two part series for “Murder, She Wrote”.
In her personal life, Laraine Day was described by many as being very kind, intellectual, ladylike, and influential. She had long friendships with many of her co-stars, some of which included Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, Herbert Marshall, Joel McCrea, John Wayne, Lew Ayres, Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Marsha Hunt, and Angela Lansbury. Day recalls one of her fonder memories, “I recall playing practical jokes with John Wayne. I once got a whole bunch of keys and had little tags made that said, “If lost, please return to John Wayne, RKO Studios. Reward.” And I just dropped them all over town. He got a lot of phone calls, people showing up at the studio. He never learned who did it.”
A very patriotic American, she displayed the American flag outside her home everyday of the year. On days when the weather was unfit for the flag to be displayed outdoors Day hung it within her home. During her time in Hollywood, she hosted a big BBQ at her home every July 4 and invited not just her family but many of her friends from the acting world. She was the photo girl of the World War II plane “Lucky Lady”, PC-3 headed by Max Pyles. In 1944 Pyles wrote Day, who was at the time a favorite with lonesome G.I.’s, asking her for a photograph to put on the plane. Day immediately wrote back with an attached photo of her in a negligee and the “Lucky Lady” soon became and held the honor of having the highest record flights in the autumn of 1944. Her photo remained pasted on the L/gun door and the crew and Day frequently sent letters back and forth. Day was very proud and interested to get updates about “her airplane”.
Day was a devout Morman and was very active in her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Day’s fame mostly coincided with her dedication to Mormonism. Throughout her life she never swore, smoked, or drank any kind of alcohol, coffee or tea. In 1961 she appeared with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their production of “Let Freedom Ring” which was an inspirational one hour program dedicated to the spirit of American Freedom. Day was very honored to have had the opportunity. Other members of this special included Howard Keel, Richard Boone, and Dan O’Herlihy. Her then husband Michael Grilikhes produced and wrote the special. Until her death in 2007 she retained her Mormon faith stating that, “It brings me comfort in a confusing world”.
Laraine Day was married three times. Her first marriage was to Ray Hendricks in 1942. The couple divorced in 1947.
Day then married baseball manager Leo Durocher in 1947. She took such an active interest in his career and the sport of baseball in general that she became known as “The First Lady of Baseball”. While Durocher was managing the New York Giants, she wrote, “Day With the Giants” in 1952. That same year she wrote and published another book entitled “The America We Love”. She was also the host of “Day With the Giants,” a 15-minute television interview program broadcast before New York Giants home games. Day and Durocher were married for thirteen years before divorcing in 1960.
Shortly after her divorce from Durocher, Day married television producer Michael Grilikhes in 1960. She and Grilikhes had two daughters, Dana in 1962 and Gigi in 1964. They remained married until his death in 2007.
Laraine Day moved back to her native Utah in March 2007 following the death of her third husband Michael Grilikhes. She had been a resident of California for over seventy years. She died in Ivins, Utah on Saturday, November 10, 2007 at age 87 from natural causes. Following her death her body was taken back to California and on Thursday, November 15, 2007 a memorial service was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. She is buried there next to her husband Michael.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Laraine Day has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6676 Hollywood Blvd.