Dorothy Dandridge Unisex T-Shirt
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Dorothy Dandridge Documentary (1998)
Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922 – September 8, 1965) was an American actress, singer, and dancer. She is the first African-American film star to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, which was for her performance in Carmen Jones (1954). Dandridge performed as a vocalist in venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. During her early career, she performed as a part of The Wonder Children, later The Dandridge Sisters, and appeared in a succession of films, usually in uncredited roles.
In 1959, Dandridge was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Porgy and Bess. She is the subject of the 1999 HBO biographical film, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. She has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Dandridge was married and divorced twice, first to dancer Harold Nicholas (the father of her daughter, Harolyn Suzanne) and then to hotel owner Jack Denison. Dandridge died under mysterious circumstances at age 42.
The Nicholas Brothers and Dorothy Dandridge – “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1941)
The Dandridge Sisters continued strong for several years, and were booked in several high-profile nightclubs, including the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. Dandridge’s first on-screen appearance was a small part in an Our Gang comedy short, Teacher’s Beau in 1935. As a part of The Dandridge Sisters, she also appeared in The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1936) with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, A Day at the Races with the Marx Brothers, and It Can’t Last Forever (both 1937) with the Jackson Brothers. Although these appearances were relatively minor, Dandridge continued to earn recognition through continuing her nightclub performances nationwide.
Dandridge’s first credited film role was in Four Shall Die (1940). The race film cast her as a murderer and did little for her film career. Because of her rejection of stereotypical black roles, she had limited options for film roles. She had small roles in Lady from Louisiana with John Wayne and Sundown with Gene Tierney (both in 1941). Dandridge appeared as part of a Specialty Number, “Chattanooga Choo Choo“, in the hit 1941 musical Sun Valley Serenade for 20th Century Fox. The film marked the first time she performed with the Nicholas Brothers. Aside from her film appearances, Dandridge appeared in a succession of “soundies” – film clips that were displayed on jukeboxes, including “Paper Doll” by the Mills Brothers, “Cow, Cow Boogie”, “Jig in the Jungle”, and “Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter’s Rent Party” also called “Swing for my Supper”, among others. These films were noted not only for showcasing Dandridge as singer and dancer and her acting abilities, but also for featuring a strong emphasis on her physical attributes.
She continued to appear occasionally in films and on the stage throughout the rest of the 1940s, and though performing as a band singer in some good company, Count Basie in Hit Parade of 1943 and Louis Armstrong, Atlantic City 1944 and Pillow to Post 1945. In 1951, Dandridge appeared as Melmendi, Queen of the Ashuba in Tarzan’s Peril, starring Lex Barker and Virginia Huston. When the Motion Picture Production Code tut-tutted about the film’s “blunt sexuality”, Dandridge received considerable attention for wearing what was considered “provocatively revealing” clothing. The continuing publicity buzz surrounding Dandridge’s wardrobe got her pictured on the April 1951 cover of Ebony. That same year, she had a supporting role in The Harlem Globetrotters (1951).
In May 1951, Dandridge spectacularly opened at the Mocambo nightclub in West Hollywood after assiduous coaching and decisions on style with pianist Phil Moore. This success seemed a new turn to her career and she appeared in New York and at Café de Paris in London with equal success. In a return engagement at the Mocambo in December 1952, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio agent saw Dandridge and recommended to production chief Dore Schary that she might make an appearance as a club singer, in her own name, in Remains to Be Seen, already in production. Her acquaintance with Dore Schary resulted in his casting Dandridge as Jane Richards in Bright Road—her first starring role, projecting herself as a “wonderful, emotional actress”—which the trailer was to later promote. The film, which centered on a teacher’s struggles to reach out to a troubled student, marked the first time Dandridge appeared in a film opposite Harry Belafonte. She continued her performances in nightclubs thereafter and appeared on multiple early television variety shows, including Ed Sullivan‘s Toast of the Town.
Carmen Jones and 20th Century-Fox
In 1953, a nationwide talent search arose as 20th Century Fox began the process of casting the all-black musical film adaptation of Oscar Hammerstein II‘s 1943 Broadway musical Carmen Jones, conceptually Georges Bizet‘s opera Carmen updated to a World War II-era African-American setting. Under consideration, but available to director and writer Otto Preminger to view for suitability was Dandridge’s starring role from the previous year, Bright Road. This performance, and the general audience’s acquaintance with it, did not find Preminger considering Dandridge for Carmen, feeling her presentation in ‘Bright Road’ would be better suited for the smaller role of the quiet Cindy Lou. Dandridge, recalling her experiences of having to dress down to the demure school teacher for the screen tests of ‘Bright Road’, outrageously worked on and created a look with the aid of Max Factor make-up artists, to obtain the appearance and character of the earthy title role Carmen, and confronted Preminger in his executive office. With this meeting, and a subsequent viewing of her freer, looser appearances in the ‘soundies’ material, Preminger gave her the role. The remainder of the cast was completed with Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters, Diahann Carroll, Madame Sul-Te-Wan (uncredited), Olga James, and Joe Adams.
Despite Dandridge’s recognition as a singer, the studio wanted an operatic voice, so Dandridge’s voice was dubbed by operatic vocalist Marilyn Horne for the film. Carmen Jones opened to favorable reviews and strong box-office returns on October 28, 1954, earning $70,000 during its first week and $50,000 during its second. Dandridge’s performance as the seductive leading actress made her one of Hollywood’s first African-American sex symbols and earned her positive reviews. On November 1, 1954, Dorothy Dandridge became the first black woman featured on the cover of Life. As Walter Winchell recalled, her performance was “bewitching” and Variety said her “performance maintains the right hedonistic note throughout”.
Carmen Jones became a worldwide success, eventually earning over $10 million at the box office and becoming one of the year’s highest-earning films. Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming the first African-American nominated for a leading role. At the 27th Academy Awards held on March 30, 1955, Dandridge shared her Oscar nomination with Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, and Jane Wyman. Although Kelly won the award for her performance in The Country Girl, Dandridge became an overnight sensation. At the 1955 Oscar ceremony, Dandridge presented the Academy Award for Film Editing to On the Waterfront editor Gene Milford.
On February 15, 1955, Dandridge signed a three-movie deal with 20th Century Fox starting at $75,000 a film. Darryl F. Zanuck, the studio head, had personally suggested the studio sign Dandridge to a contract. Zanuck had big plans for her, hoping she would evolve into the first African-American screen icon. He purchased the film rights to The Blue Angel and intended to cast her as saloon singer Lola-Lola in an all-black remake of the original 1930 film. She was also scheduled to star as Cigarette in a remake of Under Two Flags. Meanwhile, Dandridge agreed to play the role of Tuptim in a film version of The King and I and a sultry upstairs neighbor in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts. However, her former director and now-lover Otto Preminger, suggested she accept only leading roles. As an international star, Dorothy Dandridge rejected the two lesser roles and they were eventually given to Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno.
On April 11, 1955, Dandridge became the first black performer to open at the Empire Room inside New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Her success as a headliner led to the hotel booking other black performers such as the Count Basie Orchestra with vocalist Joe Williams, Pearl Bailey, and Lena Horne.
Hollywood Research, Inc. trial
In 1957, Dandridge sued Confidential for libel over its article that described a scandalous incident, fictitious as it turned out, that it claimed occurred in 1950. In May 1957, she accepted an out-of-court settlement of $10,000.
Dandridge was one of the few Hollywood stars who testified at the 1957 criminal libel trial of Hollywood Research, Inc., the company that published Confidential and other tabloid magazines from that era. Four months after her out-of-court settlement for $10,000, she and actress Maureen O’Hara, the only other star who testified at the criminal trial, were photographed shaking hands outside the downtown-Los Angeles courtroom where the highly publicized trial was held. Testimony from O’Hara, as well as from a disgruntled former magazine editor named Howard Rushmore, revealed that the magazines published false information provided by hotel maids, clerks, and movie-theater ushers who were paid for their tips. The stories with questionable veracity most often centered around alleged incidents of casual sex. When the jury and press visited Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to determine whether O’Hara could have performed various sexual acts while seated in the balcony, as reported by a magazine published by Hollywood Research, Inc., this was discovered to have been impossible.
Dandridge had not testified during her civil lawsuit earlier in 1957, but in September she gave testimony in the criminal trial that further strengthened the prosecution’s case. Alleged by Confidential to have fornicated with a white bandleader in the woods of Lake Tahoe in 1950, she testified that racial segregation had confined her to her hotel during her nightclub engagement in the Nevada resort city. When she was not in the hotel lounge rehearsing or performing her singing, according to her testimony, she was required to stay inside her room where she slept alone. Dandridge’s testimony along with O’Hara’s testimony proved beyond any doubt that Hollywood Research had committed libel at least twice. The judge ordered Hollywood Research to stop publishing questionable stories based on paid tips, and this curtailed invasive tabloid journalism until 1971, when Generoso Pope, Jr. moved the National Enquirer, which he owned, from New York to Lantana, Florida.
Dorothy Dandridge Rare Interview
A Jig In The Jungle (1941) – Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge (1962) – The Man I Love
A Zoot Suit (with a A Reet Pleat)  | Dorothy Dandridge & Paul White
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