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In 1954, Frank Sinatra starred in the movie Young at Heart alongside Doris Day. His career was finally having a comeback after a several-year slump. He had recently won an Academy Award for his role in From Here to Eternity and was rebuilding some of the confidence he had lost. As a result, he wanted to assert a bit of dominance on the film set. When someone accidentally hit Day with a box of Kleenex, Sinatra went after him.

A black and white picture of Frank Sinatra sitting in an arm chair and Doris Day sitting next to him.
Frank Sinatra and Doris Day | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Doris Day liked Frank Sinatra, but she said he was always late

Day first met Sinatra in 1947, and they starred in Young at Heart together in 1954. Day liked Sinatra, but she wasn’t always thrilled with his onset behavior. He was nearly always late.

“He and I always got along beautifully,” she said, per the book Sinatra: The Chairman by James Kaplan. “He was very protective, you know, and really dear to me. But he was late. Every day … Everyone was ready at 9:00 and we would maybe shoot at 11:00, and the studio was not too happy about that. Nobody knew what the problem was, but he was always late, which was not very professional.”

She wondered if he liked keeping people waiting on him.

“He’s like a bad kid,” she said. “He seems to enjoy keeping people waiting and things, which is not very attractive and annoys an awful lot of people … But other than that, I really liked him very much, and still do, of course.”

Frank Sinatra defended Doris Day at a birthday party

Outside of his lateness, Sinatra tried to be very polite on set, particularly to women. While shooting the movie, Sinatra organized a surprise party for co-star Ethel Barrymore’s 75th birthday.

“Sinatra proposed a toast to her and she kissed him on the cheek,” Day said. “I knew that it was entirely possible that this might be her last birthday, and my emotions being what they are, my eyes filled with tears.”


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Someone at the party called out that Day needed a tissue, and a man threw a box of Kleenex at her from across the room.

“I didn’t see it coming and the box struck me in the forehead,” she said. “It stung a little and I gasped, more in surprise than pain. Frank sprang at the man who had flipped the box at me, and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling the fabric up tight under his chin.”

Sinatra yelled at the man, telling him not to ever do something like that again. Day insisted that she wasn’t hurt. 

“That’s beside the point!” Sinatra said. “You bring the box, you creep, and you offer a Kleenex — you got that? You offer a Kleenex.”

Day explained that the memory stuck with her for life.

“Frank let the man go and came over to me to be sure that I was alright,” she said. “Often, over the years, whenever I pulled a Kleenex out of a box, I thought of Frank.”

The singer also stood up for a young Liza Minnelli 

Sinatra pulled a similar stunt after a man insulted Liza Minnelli’s singing. She was young at the time and looked to Sinatra as an uncle. When the man went to the bathroom, Sinatra and two friends followed him. Sinatra punched him in the stomach when he walked out and left him crumpled on the bathroom floor. 

As the man had been drinking, he couldn’t entirely remember what happened. Sinatra left the bathroom and went to another bar.