There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise - Dorothy Dandridge (American actress, singer, dancer)

Dorothy Dandridge was the first black actress on the cover of Life magazine

She appeared in many films, and the first African American woman to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, once described as one of the 5 most beautiful women in the world.
If not for her life tragically cut short by suicide or accidental overdose in 1965, and being born black in pre Civil Rights segregated America, she might have become a household name, possessing all the talent of a major star. Dorothy started as a singing act with her sister as 'The Dandridge Sisters' and later as 'The Wonder Children' in the Depression Era 1930's to medium success. 
Her breakout role in 'Carmen Jones', the all black rendition of the opera gave her groundbreaking recognition and nomination of Best Actress for an Academy Award, something never done before. The Oscar, instead, went that year to Grace Kelly. In the film all of her songs were dubbed in spite of Dandridge being an accomplished singer.
She also received a nomination for a Golden Globe in the film 'Porgy and Bess' (also an opera), with co-stars Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr., both major stars of the time. This film stands out for me because I remember watching it on TV with my family. I'd never seen someone that looked like me in such a way. Although the story was based on poverty, addiction, violence, and betrayal, the platform, the staging and music pulled me in and didn't let go. I would love to see it again.

She was also a pioneer, and fought against segregation and racism, but performing (as many other entertainers of color from that era) at hotels and clubs she couldn't patronize. There is a story that the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas drained their pool after Dandridge, who was performing there, but not allowed to stay, dared to dip her toe into it. The story may have been slightly glamorized as her biographies recant that she was allowed to stay in one of the suites but was expressly prohibited from the pool, told to stay away from it or it would be drained. I'm not sure which version is true but, there are documented accounts of other Black stars (Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr,etc.) who did experience this.
She was also married for a short time to Harold Nichols, one half of the famous dancing duo, the Nichols Brothers.
Many have been inspired to pay homage to her iconic Carmen Jones look:
She died suddenly 53 years ago this month at age 42.


  1. Great blog. I'd like to see the Porgy & Bess play sometime.


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