Doris Day – A Portrait

Doris Day, Actress and Singer, b: 3 April 1924

I’ve always been a huge fan of old movies (particularly the black-and-white ones) and even at a young age knew a great many of the movie stars’ names. My parents were always clued-up to ‘who was who’ in the classic films, and I probably gained my interest from them.

Doris Day1 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog

The ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ produced some of the best actors and actresses, in my opinion and my most favourite, Doris Day. Actors and actresses at that time seemed to have style, poise and above-all mystique. Many of the modern-day stars parade every aspect of their life in the glare of the media: marriage breakdowns, personal and emotional problems etc. There is no mystery about most of them, sadly.

Quite a few years back, my Mother and younger sisters would constantly watch Doris Day movies and I would go and sulk in my room. As I grew a little older, I became a huge fan of Doris Day and in the early 1980’s I wrote a letter to this Hollywood legend, and sent it to her along with a portrait that I had done of her. To my utter delight and astonishment she wrote back! I don’t think there was anyone in that little terraced street that didn’t know my news by the end of the day.

My correspondence with Doris Day took off over the years, much to the delight of a lovely lady in Stanley Post Office, who was also a big fan. I remember her chatting to me, whilst sticking the stamps on Doris Day’s letters with pride.

The last letter I received from Miss Day was on 23 April 2012, when I had taken a day off work, to celebrate my patron saint’s day with an English ale in my English garden. After receiving this unexpected piece of mail, I could really say it was a ‘red-letter day’, as the sun was shining and all seemed well with the world.

During the last thirty years, I have done numerous drawings of Doris Day, one of which was shown in a large exhibition in Liverpool, but most of them have been for my own pleasure. Some of these have been coloured-pencil or pastel sketches, but the majority have been done with a technique, known as pointillism (if you look at some of my earlier posts on Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, you will see more examples of this technique).

I think my favourite movie of Doris Day’s has got to be ‘Pillow Talk’ (1959) in which she c0-starred, alongside her friend, Rock Hudson. The chemistry between the two characters, Brad and Jan, still amuses me to this day, along with Doris’ indignant expressions as she tries to reason about the best way of sharing a telephone party-line.  But I also have a special memory of playing at my friend, Kae McNeil’s house when I was just a young boy.  We were both heartily singing along to the Black The Hills Of Dakota, whilst her father, George, was trying to enjoy the movie ‘Calamity Jane’ (1953).

Doris Day has given me hours of laughs and I am grateful for the skill and talent that she has shared with the world. If you’re reading this Doris, I would like to applaud you and wish you a very Happy Birthday!    Michael

Lauren Bacall – A Portrait

Lauren Bacall, Actress and Model, b: 16 September 1924 – d: 12 August 2014

I was very sorry to hear that Lauren Bacall had died last month, at the age of 89.   She would have celebrated her 90th birthday today. The news of her passing came to my attention many days after the event, as I had been on holiday in Scotland when the news of her death had broke. I had seen her picture on the front of a newspaper in Scotland and assumed it was something to do with her approaching 90th birthday.
Lauren Bacall for blog
Lauren Bacall was another one of my favourite actresses and had been since I was a teenager. It was the sultry voice, the arch of her eyebrow and her panther-like way of moving that had attracted my attention. She had an amazing look of intelligence and sophistication, which was enhanced by the roles she played, often as a wisecracking woman of the world.

Like Ingrid Bergman, as mentioned in my post last month, I remember Lauren Bacall’s starring role in Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder On the Orient Express’ (1974). She played the part of the garrulous Harriet Belinda Hubbard. She always amuses me in this role, as the gum-chewing, non-stop-talking former actress, who seemed to fluster Hercule Poirot with her incessant chatter and the mention of her multiple husbands! However, it will be ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946), that I will vividly remember her for – her beauty and sophistication were very prominent, in her role as Vivian Rutledge, in this film noir classic, which starred Humphrey Bogart.

When I was younger my hobby was collecting autographs. I remember getting the address of Ms Bacall’s agent and writing her a fan letter, with my autograph request. It was an exciting day when the autograph arrived, with a personal letter. So many of the ‘BIG’ stars of the silver screen would not have bothered, but she wasn’t a person who forgot her fans. I still collect autographs now (only of the actors and actresses I personally like), but the autograph from Lauren Bacall will always hold a special place in my collection…

This portrait I produced of Lauren Bacall, created by using very small dots, was done by-hand and took many hours of patient and careful work. It was one of a number of movie star portraits that were featured in a small, private exhibition in Liverpool. The feedback of the portraits was very good at a time when I was just trying new techniques. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that I couldn’t quite bring myself to sell the majority of the pen-and-ink originals…

You don’t always win your battles, but it’s good to know you fought.
Lauren Bacall