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'Foreign Correspondent' Actress Laraine Day Dies at 87

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Laraine Day, a ladylike leading lady who appeared in almost two dozen MGM films from 1939 to 1945, notably as nurse Mary Lamont in the series of Dr. Kildare movies, died Saturday in Ivins, Utah. She was 87.

For 13 years she was popularly called "the first lady of baseball" for her marriage to Leo Durocher, the Hall of Fame manager.

Her death, at the home of her daughter, Gigi Bell, was announced by her publicist, Dale Olson. She had moved to Utah in March after the death of her third husband, producer Michel Grilikhes, to whom she had been married for 47 years.

Never a major star, Ms. Day was relegated to what she called "B+ movies" at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She was almost the victim of an ax murderer in "Fingers at the Window" (1942), was married to a traitor in "A Yank on the Burma Road" (1942) and served as intrepid newspaper publisher Edward G. Robinson's girl Friday in "Unholy Partners" (1941).

Ms. Day captured roles in A movies only when she was lent to other studios. In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock borrowed her to co-star with Joel McCrea in the spy thriller "Foreign Correspondent." She was lent to RKO to play the virtuous society girl who reforms a draft-dodging gambling ship owner (Cary Grant) in "Mr. Lucky" (1943). And Paramount borrowed her at the request of director Cecil B. DeMille to play the steadfast nurse at the side of Gary Cooper's heroic doctor in "The Story of Dr. Wassell" (1944).

Starring Lew Ayres as Dr. Kildare and Lionel Barrymore as the chief of surgery, Dr. Gillespie, the Kildare series was tremendously successful.

"Kildare, Maisie and the Andy Hardy pictures were the bread-and-butter pictures for MGM," Ms. Day said in her oral history. "Through those three series, they could afford Garbo and Crawford and Shearer, and they could make the big pictures."

Years after "good, marvelous, true, honest" Nurse Lamont was hit by a truck while rushing to buy furniture on her wedding day, people would stop Ms. Day on the street and ask, "Why did you die, Mary Lamont?"

Ms. Day's marriage to Durocher in 1947 landed her in a front-page soap opera that lasted for months. She married him in Texas, one day after being granted an interlocutory decree—a temporary court order, now seldom used—setting forth terms of divorce from her first husband, singer Ray Hendricks, in California.

Because that divorce would not be final for a year, a California superior court judge tried to revoke it, citing "collusion and fraud." The solution allowed her to stay married in 47 of the 48 states in the union at the time but ruled that cohabiting with her new husband in California would be bigamy.

During her marriage to Durocher she was the host of "Day With the Giants," a 15-minute television interview program broadcast along with New York Giants home games. After her divorce from Durocher in 1960, she told an interviewer that she had never liked baseball. "When our relationship was over, so was my relationship with baseball," she said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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