When Doris Day (and her fortune) got taken for a ride


Top line: After actress and singer Doris Day (who deceased Monday at 97) was a rising star of the 50s and 60s, she experienced a sudden financial crisis, brought on by her husband (who was also her manager) and a Beverly Hills lawyer who squandered her $ 20 million fortune and left her in debt, as documented by Forbes at the time (read the original 1974 article, below).

  • Doris Day’s husband and agent Martin Melcher let a Beverly Hills lawyer named Jerome Rosenthal handle his wife’s money, according to Forbes. Rosenthal invested it in shoddy investments, took bribes and then charged clients exorbitant fees to save face.
  • Rosenthal’s investments included dummy land bank bond deals, doomed venture capital projects, bankrupt hotels, and shady oil and gas deals.
  • “My husband thought Rosenthal was a genius, Day said at the time. “I was working far away, knowing nothing and trusting.”
  • After Day’s husband died suddenly in 1968, Rosenthal attempted to claim half of Day’s remaining fortune. Day continued. During the trial, sheriff’s deputies had to use force to obtain Rosenthal’s files.
  • In 1974, a bankruptcy attorney judge ruled that Day owed $ 22.8 million. Her son said in an interview in 1986 that she eventually got some of the money from an insurance company but “nothing like that amount”, according to to the New York Times.

Day was known to be one of the biggest box office draws of the early ’60s, with acclaimed roles in Pillow talk– which earned him an Oscar nomination – and in Alfred Hitchcock The man who knew too much. After his film career, Day starred in The Doris Day Show after her husband – in addition to losing his money – signed a contract committing her to the show without her knowing, according to at NPR. She agreed to star in the series in order to pay off her debts.


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