Laraine Day was born Laraine Johnson on October 13, 1917 in Roosevelt, Utah. Her father was a Mormon businessman of great success, and her mother was an opera singer. When she was 18, she and an older sister moved to Long Beach, California to try their hand at acting. Laraine was given a spot first with the Long Beach Players, and later in some George O'Brien western films. Finally, she got her big break in 1939 when she was signed by MGM, had her named changed to Laraine Day, and given the role of Mary Lamont, nurse to Lew Ayres's popular Dr. Kildare in the series of the same name. Soon, Lamont and Kildare came to love each other, and Laraine was a huge success. Finally, in Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day, the happy couple were married - only to see the union end in tragedy when she was killed off at the end of the serial. Fans everywhere were devastated, but the movie was a rousing success.

At the same time, Laraine herself got lucky in love when she met clarinetist Ray Hendricks, who played in Hoagy Carmichael's band. The two married in 1942, and together adopted two children who had lost their parents during the war. Laraine had continued to earn top roles in medium-budget films, including Yank On The Burma Road with Barry Nelson, Journey For Margaret opposite Robert Young, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 hit Foreign Correspondent. In 1946, she received much accolade for her most challenging role yet, that of Nancy, the young bride with a troubled past in The Locket. In 1947, she played the romantic lead opposite the legendary John Wayne in Tycoon. Laraine, who was known for her teasing sense of humor, walked around Hollywood with about 100 keys with keychains on them that read: "If lost, please return to John Wayne, RKO Studios. Reward." Swamped with phone calls, Wayne and RKO never found out who was the culprit until years later. That same year, her marriage to Hendricks ended abruptly, due to Laraine having met a new love interest: the pesky 40 year old manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Leo Durocher.

With The Lip at her side, Laraine scaled back her motion picture schedule, turning out just three movies from 1948 to 1950, including the classic propagandist comedy I Married a Communist with Robert Ryan. In 1951, she did her last major Hollywood stint on "The Laraine Day Show," where she interviewed her friends for the ABC network. Finally, she moved to New York City to be with Leo for good, and took up television, appearing on many of the popular playhouse dramas that littered the small screen. She even made a special appearance as a guest panelist on "What's My Line?", next to none other than her hubby, Mr. Durocher. She also made another movie with The Duke, The High And The Mighty in 1954. Guest appearances on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour", "The Jack Benny Hour", and "I've Got A Secret" kept her name in the newspapers, but soon her marriage to Leo Durocher overshadowed her work on stage and screen. She frequently made it to the ballgames and congratulated the teams on winning, and her appearance was so ubiquitous she became known as "the First Lady of baseball."

In 1960, however, her marriage to Durocher ended, again abruptly due to a new man in her life: screenwriter Michael Grilikhes. Durocher's alcoholism contributed much to the decline of their marriage, but Day still laments about the man she knew as Leo The Lion. By this time, Day's movie career was all but through (she would star in The 3rd Voice that year) and her television roles were limited to guest appearances on "Wagon Train", "The FBI", and Rod Serling's "Night Gallery." Essentially retired since 1970, she has made sporadic television cameos since, including one notable spot as Jessica Fletcher's younger sister Constance on the CBS hit Murder, She Wrote.

Later in life, Day resided in Long Beach with Michael, her two adopted children, and two daughters from her current marriage. She passed away in November 2007. She was 80 years old.

Fun Fact: Laraine Day used her movie money to open a LDS theater in California. She put an ad out in the papers asking for writers to submit their material. One clumsy newsboy brought her nearly a hundred manuscripts. Impressed by the boys' hard work (if not his scripts), she hired him as an actor. He spent nearly a year in the troupe before heading off to college, and eventually, to fame as one of the greatest writers of his generation. His name? Ray Bradbury.

Sources

  • http://www.imdb.com/Name?Day,+Laraine
  • www.classicimages.com/1996/may/laraineday.html
  • www.dramaticpublishing.com/bradbury.html

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