Dorothy Dandridge

(1922 - 1965)

A photo of Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge
1922 - 1965
November 9, 1922
September 8, 1965
Other Names
Dorothy Jean Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922. She died on September 8, 1965 at age 42.
Updated: January 07, 2020
Dorothy Dandridge
Born November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died September 8, 1965 in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA
(accidental barbiturate overdose)
Birth Name Dorothy Jean Dandridge
Nicknames Dottie Dottie Mae Miss D Bessie Mae The Black Bombshell
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Ruby Dandridge (née Ruby Jean Butler), an entertainer, and Cyril H. Dandridge, a cabinet maker and minister. Under the prodding of her mother, Dorothy and her sister Vivian Dandridge began performing publicly, usually in black Baptist churches throughout the country. Her mother would often join her daughters on stage. As the depression worsened, Dorothy and her family picked up and moved to Los Angeles where they had hopes of finding better work, perhaps in film. Her first film was in the Marx Brothers comedy, A Day at the Races (1937). It was only a bit part but Dorothy had hopes that it would blossom into something better. But because she was a black woman in a very prejudiced society, she didn't land the roles that were readily available to her white counterparts. She did not appear in another film until 1940 in Four Shall Die (1940). The role was nothing great other than to establish the fact that she was very beautiful and talented. Her next few roles in the early forties included films such as Bahama Passage (1941), Drums of the Congo (1942) and Hit Parade of 1943 (1943). There were others in between, of course, but they were the usual black stereotypical films for women such as Dorothy. Not only was she a talented actress but she could also sing which was evident in films such as Atlantic City (1944) and Pillow to Post (1945). This helped to showcase her talents as a singer and brought her headline acts in the nation's finest hotel nightclubs in New York, Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas. She may have been allowed to sing in these fine hotels but, because of racism, she couldn't stay there. It was reported that one hotel drained its swimming pool to keep her from enjoying that little amenity. In 1954, Dorothy appeared in the all-black production of Carmen Jones (1954) in the title role. She was so superb in that picture that she garnered an Academy Award nomination but lost out to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl (1954). Despite the nomination for her performance, Dorothy did not get another movie until she appeared in Tamango (1958), which was an Italian film. She was to make six more motion pictures, of which Island in the Sun (1957) and Porgy and Bess (1959) were worthy of mention. Once again, she was a standout. The last movie she would ever play would be in 1961's The Murder Men (1961). Dorothy faded quickly after that with a poor second marriage to Jack Denison (her first was to Harold Nicholas), poor investments, other financial woes, and a problem with alcohol. She was found dead in her West Hollywood apartment on September 8, 1965, the victim of a barbiturate poisoning. She was only 42. Had she been born 20 years later, Dorothy Dandridge would no doubt be one of the most well-known actresses in film history.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (2)
Jack Denison (22 June 1959 - 20 December 1962) ( divorced)
Harold Nicholas (6 September 1942 - 22 September 1950) ( divorced) ( 1 child)
Trade Mark (3)
Her beautiful dark eyes
Beauty mark on chin
Hot cool singing style
Trivia (29)
Daughter of Ruby Dandridge.
Younger sister of Vivian Dandridge.
At the time of her death, there was $2.14 in her bank account. She left a handwritten letter: "In case of my death - whoever discovers it - Don't remove anything I have on - scarf, gown, or underwear. Cremate me right away - if I have any money, furniture, give it to my mother, Ruby Dandridge - She will know what to do.".
Now thought to have suffered from manic-depression, also referred to as bi-polar disorder.
She was pursued for the role of Tuptim in The King and I (1956), but turned it down on the advice of Otto Preminger, who advised her not to accept a role in which she was not the star (the biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) also implies that it was because the character was a slave). Rita Moreno was subsequently cast in the role.
In September 1965 The New York Times reported that her death was caused by bone marrow particles from a fractured metatarsal bone in her right foot that entered her bloodstream and reached her brain and lungs.
She was the first African-American woman to grace the cover of Life magazine.
Although she was a top-notch nightclub/cabaret singer, she despised that.
Suffered from near paralyzing stage fright whenever she had to perform.
She loved soul food. Her favorite was chitterlings and greens, which she ate only once a week.
Her best friend was Geraldine Pate Nicholas Branton, former wife of Fayard Nicholas, of the tap dancing duo The Nicholas Brothers, who was her ex-brother-in-law.
Dated music composer Phil Moore, who was instrumental in launching her career as a nightclub singer in the 1940s.
Was considered for the role of Billie Holiday in a movie; however, the project did not materialize in her lifetime. When the movie did come to pass, the role was portrayed by Diana Ross.
She was the first African-American actress to be Oscar-nominated for "Best Actress in a Leading Role".
She was first choice for the role of Cleopatra but ultimately the role went to Elizabeth Taylor.
She was the first African-American to be nominated for a "Best Actress" Oscar. Halle Berry, who portrayed Dorothy in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), became the first African-American to win "Best Actress" at the Academy Awards.
Died broke and deeply in debt in her apartment at 8495 Fountain Avenue, West Hollywood.
Is one of 11 African-American actresses to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. The others in chronological order are: Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gabourey Sidibe, Viola Davis, Quvenzhané Wallis and Ruth Negga.
Had been involved with Rat Packer and actor Peter Lawford, who attended her funeral.
Referred to by Lena Horne as " . . . our Marilyn Monroe.".
Madame Sul-Te-Wan was not her real-life grandmother, as is often rumored. In the definitive biography on Dandridge, by Donald Bogle, it is suggested that this rumor started because she played Dandridge's grandmother in Carmen Jones (1954).
Great aunt of Nayo Wallace.
Is one of 27 actresses to have received an Academy Award nomination for their performance in a musical; hers being Carmen Jones (1954). The others, in chronological order, are: Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody (1929)), Grace Moore (One Night of Love (1934)), Jean Hagen (Singin' in the Rain (1952)), Marjorie Rambeau (Torch Song (1953)), Deborah Kerr (The King and I (1956)), Rita Moreno (West Side Story (1961)), Gladys Cooper (My Fair Lady (1964)), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and Victor Victoria (1982)), Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)), Peggy Wood (The Sound of Music (1965)), Carol Channing (Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)), Kay Medford (Funny Girl (1968)), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl (1968)), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret (1972)), Ronee Blakley (Nashville (1975)), Lily Tomlin (Nashville (1975)), Ann-Margret (Tommy (1975)), Lesley Ann Warren (Victor Victoria (1982)), Amy Irving (Yentl (1983)), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge! (2001)), Queen Latifah (Chicago (2002)), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago (2002)), Renée Zellweger (Chicago (2002)), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls (2006)), Penélope Cruz (Nine (2009)), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables (2012)), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods (2014)), and Emma Stone (La La Land (2016)).
Following her untimely death, she was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
She was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6719 Hollywood Blvd. on January 18, 1983.
Gave birth to her only child at age 20, a daughter named Harolynn Suzanne Nicholas on September 2, 1943. The father was her first husband, Harold Nicholas. Harolynn was born with a brain injury and reportedly died in 2003.
Became pregnant by her then-lover Otto Preminger but underwent an abortion in March 1957.
Delivered her daughter Harolynn via forceps.
Although her death was originally attributed to an embolism, the L.A. medical examiner attributed it to an overdose of the anti-depression medication Tofranil.
Personal Quotes (3)
It [prejudice] is such a waste. It makes you logy and half-alive. It gives you nothing. It takes away.
If I were white, I could capture the world.
Carmen Jones (1954) was the best break I've ever had. But no producer ever knocked on my door. There just aren't that many parts for a black actress.
Salary (9)
Bright Road (1953) $1,500 /week
Remains to Be Seen (1953) $3,000
Carmen Jones (1954) $1,800 /week
Island in the Sun (1957) $75,000
Tamango (1958) $100,000
The Decks Ran Red (1958) $75,000
Porgy and Bess (1959) $75,000
Moment of Danger (1960) $75,000
Cain's Hundred (1961) $3,500 (duplicated each rerun)
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Dorothy Dandridge
Most commonly known name
Dorothy Dandridge
Full name
Dorothy Jean Dandridge
Nickname(s) or aliases
Dorothy Dandridge was born on
Dorothy Dandridge died on
Dorothy Dandridge was born on
Dorothy Dandridge died on

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Dorothy Dandridge died on September 8, 1965 at 42 years old. She was born on November 9, 1922. We have no information about Dorothy's surviving family.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Dorothy's lifetime.

In 1922, in the year that Dorothy Dandridge was born, on December 6th, the Irish Free State, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, was officially proclaimed. While establishing some independence for the people of Ireland, it did not create a fully independent Ireland and the fighting continued.

In 1931, by the time she was merely 9 years old, on May 1st, the Empire State Building opened in New York City. At 1,454 feet (including the roof and antenna), it was the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center's North Tower was built in 1970. (It is now the 34th tallest.) Opening at the beginning of the Great Depression, most of the offices in the Empire State Building remained unoccupied for years and the observation deck was an equal source of revenue and kept the building profitable.

In 1942, by the time she was 20 years old, on November 28th at 10:15p, a nightclub in Boston, the Cocoanut Grove, caught fire. The origins of the fire are unknown but it killed 492 people - the deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. Hundreds more were injured. The disaster was so shocking that it replaced World War II in the headlines and lead to reforms in safety standards and codes.

In 1954, Dorothy was 32 years old when from April 22 through June 17th, the Army v. McCarthy hearings were held. The U.S. Army accused Roy Cohn (chief counsel to Senator McCarthy and later trusted mentor of Donald Trump) of blackmail. McCarthy and Cohn accused the U.S. Army of harboring communists. The Army allegations were found to be true. The U.S. Senate later censured McCarthy.

In 1965, in the year of Dorothy Dandridge's passing, on March 8th, the first US combat troops arrived in Vietnam. The 3500 Marines joined 23,000 "advisors" already in South Vietnam. By the end of the year, 190,000 American soldiers were in the country.

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