Dorothy Dandridge

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Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922September 8, 1965) was an American actress. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she was the first African American to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Dandridge began singing in her church's choir and, with the prodding of her mother, she and her sister began to perform as "The Wonder Children." After the Depression Ruby, Vivian, Dorothy and Neva (Ruby's friend) moved to Hollywood. Her first on-screen appearance was as an extra in a 1935 Our Gang short, Teacher's Beau. Dorothy first important role was a small part in the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (movie) in 1937 which her sister, Vivian and Etta Jones appear as "The Dandridge Sisters". The Dandridge Sisters traveled all over the world and even perfomed at the world famous Cotton Club with the Nicholas Brothers; Dorothy would later marry Harold Nicholas and have one child, Harolyn, with him before they divorced.

Dorothy Dandridge did not receive another role until 1940, when she appeared in Four Shall Die a so-called "race film" in which she played a murderer at the age of 19. All of her early roles were stereotypical parts for African American actresses, but her singing ability brought her popularity in nightclubs around the country. During this period, she starred in several "soundies", video films designed to be displayed on juke boxes, including Paper Doll by the Mills Brothers Cow Cow Boogie, "Jig In The Jungle," "Mr. & Mrs. Carpenters (Rent Party)".

In 1954, Dandridge was cast in Carmen Jones, the remake of the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. For this performance, she received an Academy Award nomination. The Negro community had high hopes for Dorothy Dandridge at this time because of the Civil Rights Movement. Dorothy worked tirelessly to help the Movement in any way that she could. When Carmen Jones was released it was a financial success but despite the Oscar nomination, she had to go to Italy to make her next movie, Tamango, in 1956. Dorothy agreed to play Tuptim in "The King and I" but later changed her mind; Rita Moreno got the part instead. This may have lead to her lack of work in Hollywood and she was once again forced to go on tour and perform at clubs across the nation.

In 1957 she made Island in the Sun and in 1959 Porgy and Bess.

In 1965, Dandridge was found dead in her home of an overdose of Imipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant. Modern analysts believe that she may have suffered from bipolar disorder, commonly called manic depression. She is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. After her mother Ruby passed away she was placed with Dorothy at Forest Lawn.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6719 Hollywood Blvd.

Halle Berry played Dandridge in the made-for-TV movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999).


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