How Al Jorden Made Doris Day’s Life A Living Hell

Published April 16, 2018
Updated April 23, 2018
Published April 16, 2018
Updated April 23, 2018

Doris Day was regularly beaten by her first husband, Al Jorden. When she was pregnant, he even tried to induce a miscarriage after she refused to get an abortion.

Doris Day

Wikimedia Commons

In 1940, Doris Day was at the start of her promising career. A talented singer, she had just signed on to perform with Barney Rapps’ band, which performed regularly in Cincinnati where she lived with her mother, Alma. It was there she met the band’s trombonist, Al Jorden.

At first, Day was not attracted to Jorden. When she was only 16 years old and he was 23, he asked her out for the first time and she turned him down, telling her mother “He’s a creep and I wouldn’t go out with him if they were giving away gold nuggets at the movie!”  

However, Jorden kept trying and ultimately wore her down. Day agreed to let him drive her back home after shows, and eventually she fell for the moody and abrasive musician.

Dorris Day With Lester Brown

Wikimedia CommonsDoris Day with Lester Brown.

After Rapp had decided to take the show on the road, Day left the band, and following a brief stint performing with Bob Crosby, landed a job singing with the Les Brown band.

Day was one of the biggest singing stars in the nation, but she decided to leave it behind to marry Jorden. She claimed she wanted to settle down and have a normal and happy home and family life. She believed that marrying Jorden would give her the stability she craved.

Her mother disapproved of the relationship from the beginning, but that did nothing to hinder Day from her plans to marry him. They were married after only a year of dating, in March of 1941, when Day was just 17 years old.

It wasn’t long into their marriage that Day began to realize the man she married was psychologically and physically abusive. Just two days after the wedding, he grew furious after he saw her giving a bandmate a kiss on the cheek as a thank you for a wedding present, and beat her senseless.

Al Jorden was manipulative and pathologically jealous, and believed she was being unfaithful when she was just singing and performing with other men. Day wanted a divorce, but just two months after their wedding, she realized she was pregnant. In response, Jorden tried to convince her to get an abortion, but she refused. Jorden became infuriated and beat her in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. He continued to beat her throughout her pregnancy, but Day was determined to have the child.

She gave birth to a son, Terry Paul Jorden, on Feb. 8, 1942. He was her only child. Following his birth, the beatings continued. At one point, Jorden became so violent she was forced to physically lock him out of the home. Any hope Day might have had of having a happy home life disappeared. The following year, Day filed for divorce.

Day Portrait

Wikimedia Commons

Barely 18 years old and with an infant to support, Day went back to work singing and acting. Day went on to regain her stardom. Jorden, who was believed to have had schizophrenia, committed suicide in 1967 by shooting himself in the head.

Terry would take the surname of Day’s third husband Martin Melcher. He went on to become a successful music producer who worked with The Byrds and Paul Revere & the Raiders, among other bands. He died in 2004 at age 62.

Day never said she regretted marrying Al Jorden, despite all he put her through. In fact she said, “If I hadn’t married this bird I would have my terrific son Terry. So out of this awful experience came something wonderful.”

Next, see 25 photos of Norma Jean Mortenson before she became Marilyn Monroe. Then, look at these candid photos of vintage Hollywood couples.

Aimee Lamoureux
Aimee Lamoureux is a writer based in New York City.