Laraine Day

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Laraine Day was born La Raine Johnsonon October 13, 1920 in Roosevelt Utah. Laraine, her twin brother Lamar, and their six other siblings came from a well-off family and were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Johnsons eventually relocated to California where Laraine graduated from Polytechnic High School and started acting with the Long Beach Players. While in this local acting group, Laraine caught the eye of a talent scout and she was offered a contract from Goldwyn studios. She made her film debut in1937 playing a small role in Stella Dallas and was curtly dropped from her contract as the studio was underwhelmed by her talents. Despite this setback, Laraine went to RKO Pictures and starred in multiple George O’Brien Westerns. Day also helped establish a Los Angeles Playhouse for “Mormon actors” at this time.

I’d rather win a pennant than an academy award.

– Laraine Day

Her film career took off after she signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayerin 1939, earning her most recognizable role as Nurse Mary Lamont in Dr. Kildare. In 1940, Day starred in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Foreign Correspondent. The following year, she made her stage debut in the national tour of Angel Streetplaying opposite Gregory Peck. Laraine married flying instructor James Ray Hendricks in 1942, and the couple adopted three children before divorcing in 1946. That same year she left MGM and switched to a contract at RKO where she starred in the psychological mystery The Locket. Day married baseball manager Leo Duracher in 1948. The two then moved to New York, where Day earned the nickname “The First Lady of Baseball.” She even wrote a book called Day with the Giants while her husband was managing the New York Giants.

In 1951, she began hosting the Laraine Day Show, and took on a midnight interview series with New York radio station in 1952. Her last major film roles were in The High and Mighty (1954), and The Third Voice (1960). Day and Durocher divorced in 1960, and she returned to California. She remarried in 1961 to television producer Michael Grilikhes with whom she would have two daughters. Laraine remained a member of the church her whole life. A newspaper once mentioned her unusual Hollywood lifestyle remarking, “herself a good Mormon, Laraine does not smoke and confines herself to soda pop and milk when she goes to nightclubs.”

As her acting career died down, Laraine remained in the public eye through her political advocacy for candidates like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (whom she’d performed with in Hollywood). In 1971 Laraine wrote a book called The America We Love. Throughout the rest of the 1970s, she travelled across the country sharing her view on environmental issues as a spokesperson for the Make America Better campaign. During this campaign she commented on her faith in the church saying, “it gives me strength in a confusing world.”After the death of Day’s husband Michael in March 2007, she returned to Utah to live with her daughter. Just nine months later, on November 10, 2007, Laraine Day died at the age of 87. Her body was brought back to California where she rests at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills