She found her greatest success in slick, stylish sex comedies, beginning with 1959’s “Pillow Talk,” also starring Hollywood leading man Rock Hudson. Her performance in the film led to her first and only Academy Award nomination
"Her persona hit a cultural mother lode, tapping into what the average postwar woman was about," Drew Casper, a USC film professor, told the Los Angeles Times. She "was way ahead of her time, a feminist before there was feminism. ... Every female wanted to be Doris Day and every male wanted to marry somebody like her."
Day was born April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati. As a child she dreamed of becoming a dancer, but she turned her eye to singing after a leg injury.
She started her career while she was in her teens, performing as a band singer. She landed her first film role, starring in 1948’s “Romance on the High Seas,” after agreeing to sing and performing at a Hollywood party.
With movies trending for more explicit sex, she turned to television, hosting “The Doris Day Show” from 1966-1973 on CBS.
Despite her success, Day's personal life was tumultuous and in the 1950s she said she suffered from panic attacks "tantamount to a nervous breakdown," CNN reported.
In the 1960s, she discovered failed investments by her third husband, Martin Melcher, left her deeply in debt. She eventually won a multimillion-dollar judgment against their lawyer. Melcher died in 1969.
Day left show business in the 1970s to pursue work ensuring the welfare of animals, founding the Doris Day Animal League and later the Doris Day Animal Foundation, according to her foundation and the Los Angeles Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.