DOROTHY DANDRIDGE BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Dorothy Dandridge was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 9th, 1922. Her mother was an actress named Ruby Dandridge. Her father, Cyrus had his wife Ruby walk out on him with their first child Vivian when she was four months pregnant with Dorothy. Ruby found various jobs to support her daughters such as cleaning houses and also singing and reciting poetry for local theater groups. A close friend of Ruby's named Geneva moved in with them and began teaching Vivian and Dorothy how to sing, dance and play the piano. She was also Ruby's lover.
Ruby and Geneva moved to Nashville and called the girls, "The Wonder Children". They hoped that with the talent both girls possessed, this was their ticket to stardom. The girls were signed with the National Baptist convention to tour churches throughout the Southern States. Geneva would play the piano and Vivian and Dorothy would sing, dance, perform acrobatics and recite poetry.
The girls were losing any chance of having a normal childhood as they were pushed to be the best. The tour was successful lasting three years on the road which was quite tiresome for both girls. Their education took a back seat against their performance career.
As the Great Depression hit, a sudden halt was put on the girls career. Ruby and Geneva decided to take a chance at films in Hollywood with the girls. They relocated to California and enrolled the girls at Hooper street School as well as a afternoon dancing class where they met another young girl, Etta Jones. Ruby and Geneva felt that these three girls together would made a great singing trio.
An African American agent named Ben Carter, took the girls under his wing and helped get them work at various theaters in Southern California. Their popularity began to increase and they soon landed a role in an uncredited cameo, "The Big Broadcast of 1936". Small film roles followed after this one as well as a booking at the prestigious Cotton Club in New York city.
The girls moved to New York with Geneva as their chaperone while Ruby stayed back in Hollywood pursuing her character acting career. In New York during rehearsals at the Cotton Club, Dorothy met Harold Nicholas who had a dancing act with his brother, the two began dating outside of work.
Again, the girls were highly liked by the public and for their outstanding performances they received another opportunity to tour Europe. The tour was a success, but due to World War II, it was short lived.
Vivian and Dorothy returned to Hollywood and luckily Harold Nicholas was also working in Hollywood with his brother filming, "Down Argentine Way" and so the couple continued their romance in California. The sisters continued to work together as a team but then Dorothy expressed her interest to move on as a solo performer.
Dorothy wanted to pursue film and was quite successful landing a small role in a low budget film, "Four Shall Die" (1940) followed by small roles in "Lady From Louisiana" and "Sundown" (both 1941). Both Dorothy and her sister were staying employed separately with solo careers but were still hounded by their mother Ruby and her partner Geneva.
On September 6th, 1942 Dorothy finally married Harold Nicholas. She had always dreamed of the picture perfect wedding and marriage. She was a very good wife and on September 2, 1943 the couple had a daughter together, Lynn. Dorothy hoped their child would make Harold act as a better husband, however nothing changed Harold from seeing other woman and spending as little time as possible at home with Dorothy.
Dorothy continued to work as an actress but also made sure she had plenty of time to dedicate to her daughter. She appeared in a short scene in, "Since You Went Away" (1944) and "Pillow to Post" (also 1944). Dorothy began to notice that her two year old daughter was not developing normally and her husband nor any Dr was of any help. In 1949, she finally revealed to Harold that their marriage was in shambles and it was time to put an end to the union.
While Dorothy tried to get back into the swing of things with her career her mother Ruby and Geneva agreed to help take care of Lynn. Dorothy met with a manager Phil Moore who agreed to help her relinquish her image. She did not want to get back into the night club scene but knew she really had no other choice if she wanted to increase her popularity. Her act was well received and soon she was offered a role in, "Tarzan's Peril" (1951) followed by another role in, "The Harlem Globetrotters" (1951).
After working on these two films, again she made her return back to working in nightclubs in May, 1951. She opened the act at one of Hollywood's top nightclubs, The Mocambo and her performance led to numerous offers to appear in Paris, New York and also a couple television appearances.
When MGM released their plan to create an all black cast drama called, "Bright Road" (1953) Dorothy was offered the role of the school teacher and when the film released the film was well accepted by critics. An Austrian director, Otto Preminger had plans of an all black production of, "Carmen Jones" and since he had heard so much of Dorothy from her success in "Bright Road" he agreed to meet with her. Upon their first meeting, Dorothy expressed her interest in playing the lead Carmen, however, Preminger felt she was not right for the part. Determined to change his mind, Dorothy dressed the part and returned to prove him wrong, and that she did as she got cast as the lead for his production.
"Carmen Jones" was released in 1954 and in February 1955 she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She was the first black woman ever to be recognized with this nomination, however, she lost to Grace Kelly for her role in, "The Country Girl".
After publicity of this film calmed down, Dorothy returned to nightclub work awaiting another film offer. She did receive an offer for a role on, "The King and I", however she found the role degrading and turned it down. She later on regretted this decision as the film turned out to be a hit and she blames her career dwindling on the fact that she did not take this role.
Luckily, Dorothy was financially stable and was able to buy a nice home in Los Angeles and continued to get quite a lot of attention from the public. However, her personal life had changed drastically, she had lost contact with her sister and her mother was still working as a character actress and living with another woman. She was having a private affair with Preminger whom was married and she was not being offered any significant roles career wise.
Finally, two years after the release of Carmen Jones, Dorothy was offered a role in, "Island in the Sun" (1957), a movie that dealt with interracial relationships and was highly controversial. Due to the directors hesitation to take the scenes to far, the film was accepted by critics but also dubbed as slightly on the boring side.
Dorothy's next project was a production called, "Tamango" (1958), which had more daring scenes, however the film was not released in the U.S. for four years. She was offered a role next on "Porgy and Bess" (1959), and she really was not interested in the story line or playing the part, however after she had turned down the role in "King and I" she was scared to make a poor decision again. She also knew that her last two films were low budget foreign films and she was really wanting to step up her career again.
When the film was released, it did not receive as good reviews as ' Carmen Jones" but she did win a Golden Globe for her performance. From this point on, things career wise were looking up for Dorothy, or so she thought, until her personal life took a drastic change.
She met a white business owner whom despite warnings from others to stay away from him, Dorothy enjoyed his attention and she married, Jack Denison on June 22nd, 1959. Their marriage was a disaster, as he turned out to be very controlling of Dorothy and her career. He was also very verbally and physically abusive to her. He controlled all her finances and Dorothy turned to alcohol to relive her troubled marriage. Dorothy lost all control of her finances and was unable to continue paying her friend Helen Calhoun to watch her daughter Lynn. When Dorothy finally had the nerve to file for divorce from Denison, she was given Lynn back and could not care for her, therefore being forced to commit her daughter to a state hospital. She then filed for bankruptcy in 1963 and lost her home.
Dorothy attempted to get work again for various nightclubs and she did occasionally receive employment but her act was never as well received as it used to be. A friend of Dorothy's, Earl Mills tried to help Dorothy get back on track, however sadly, on September 8th, 1965, Mills went to Dorothy's apartment to find out why she had not shown up to a Dr appointment and he found her body laying on the bathroom floor.
Dorothy Dandridge had passed away to an overdose of Tofranil, an antidepressant drug. She was cremated and buried at the Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn. She was outlived by her sister and mother and her daughter whom still lives in a California institution.
1935 Teacher's Beau
1936 Easy to Take
1936 The Big Broadcast of 1936
1937 A Day At The Races
1937 It Can't Last Forever
1937 Going Places
1938 Going Places
1938 Snow Gets in Your Eyes
1940 Four Shall Die
1941 Bahama Passage
1941 Lady From Louisiana
1941 Sun Valley Serenade
1942 Lucky Jordan
1942 Drums of the Congo
1942 Night in New Orleans
1942 The Night Before the Divorce
1942 Ride 'Em Cowboy
1943 Hit Parade of 1943
1943 Happy Go Lucky
1944 Since You Went Away
1944 Atlantic City
1945 Pillow To Post
1947 Ebony Parade
1951 The Harlem Globetrotters
1952 Cavalcade of Stars
1962 Cain's Hundred
1953 Bright Road
1953 Remains To Be Seen
1954 Carmen Jones
1957 Island In The Sun
1958 The Decks Ran Red
1959 Porgy And Bess
1961 The Murder Men