Dorothy Dandridge biography 2022

Actress Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge biography


Dorothy Dandridge (Dorothy Jean Dandrige) was born November 9, 1922, and was an American film actress. As a child, Dorothy Dandridge performed with her sister Vivian (1921-91) in song and dance. An ambitious, profit-oriented mother pulled the strings and cut the daughters off from regular schooling. Later, the trio The Dandridge Sisters, which also featured the later jazz singer Etta Jones (1928-2001), became one of many famous acts at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Alone and with the other two, Dorothy is seen in minor roles as a nimble and cute dancing girl in musicals on films that were primarily intended for a black audience. Some tracks with Jimmie Lunceford and Louis Armstrong were released on record.

After several alternative candidates and many misgivings, Otto Preminger chose to cast Dorothy Dandridge in the title role of Carmen Jones (1954), originally a 1943 theater musical by Oscar Hammerstein II, updating the Spanish setting of Bizet's opera Carmen to an American air base during World War II. Dandridge was adapted to the femme fatale cliché that applied in Hollywood, but since she only had black co-stars, i.a. Harry Belafonte, she could retain elements of African-American sexuality without offending. Dandridge, a swing singer of modest talent, was dubbed by the white mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne in the songs that adhered to Bizet's score. Dandridge's beauty seemed new and transgressive; she was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress but did not receive it.

With her sudden world fame, the previously almost anonymous showgirl found herself in a hopeless situation in Hollywood. Realistic contemporary stories involving blacks and whites on an equal footing had even poorer prospects in the United States. Robert Rossen's Island in the Sun (1957), involving both Belafonte and Dandridge, was a cautious, fumbling attempt in that direction. After this, Preminger's Porgy and Bess (1959) with Sidney Poitier and Dandridge was a blatant but weaker bid for a repeat of the success of Carmen Jones. With that, Dandridge's actual career was almost over. The rest of her life was de route and tragedy.

In 1999, Halle Berry starred as Dandridge in an award-winning TV movie launched under the catchy tagline: "The right woman. The right place. The wrong time."


Died on September 8, 1965.



last updated October 2022

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