Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday, Dorothy Dandridge!







I am excited and overjoyed to celebrate the 90th birthday of a woman that I have loved and admired since I was eight years old--Ms. Dorothy Jean Dandridge!

Dorothy Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio to Ruby and Cyril Dandridge. Her parents were separated before she was even born.



Dorothy and her older sister, Vivian first entered the world of show business when they were 3 and 4 years old. They were known as "The Wonder Kids" (or Wonder Children) and traveled throughout the Midwest and South singing, dancing, acting, and performing acrobatics in churches, small theaters (or "halls"), and other social functions.


Ruby Dandridge with her daughters, Vivian on left, Dorothy on right.

When they were a little older, they were joined by a school friend--Etta Jones (not to be confused with Etta James or "Don't Go to Strangers" singer) and became known as "The Dandridge Sisters", performing mainly at The Cotton Club. They also recorded with Jimmy Lunceford and even toured England and Hawaii. In 1940, Dorothy broke away from The Dandridge Sisters to start a solo acting career.




Jimmy Lunceford (and his band) ft. The Dandridge Sisters--"Minnie the Moocher is Dead"

Throughout the early 1940s, Dorothy did a lot of small roles in movies and appeared in a number of "Soundies". In 1941, she appeared in the film Sun Valley Serenade with The Nicholas Brothers. She married Harold Nicholas in 1942 and gave birth to her daughter Harolyn ("Lynn") in September of 1943.


Dorothy with her daughter, Harolyn aka "Lynn". 


After her divorce from Harold in 1951, Dorothy began to throw herself back into her dream of becoming an actress. When her career began to stall, her manager Earl Mills arranged for her to appear at the popular Sunset Strip nightclub, the Mocambo. Dorothy was a hit at the Mocambo and would be a successful performer at numerous nightclubs throughout 1952. She was also the first black American to perform at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel some years later.


Dorothy making a grand entrance! (I'm not certain, but I believe at the Waldorf-Astoria-1955)

Dorothy's first big role came in 1953, when she played the lead role of Jane Richards--a teacher in MGM's Bright Road. However, 1954 would be the year where Dorothy would skyrocket to fame.




Dorothy made the smooth transition of playing the caring teacher in Bright Road, to playing the sultry, fiery role of Carmen in--what else--Carmen Jones.

Dorothy's performance in Carmen Jones got her a Best Actress nomination--making her the first black person (man or woman) to be nominated for a Leading Role. This role also got her on the cover of Life Magazine--making her the first black American woman to do so!




Even through personal turmoil and career disappointment, Dorothy continued her work in nightclubs and worked in a few more films (including Porgy and Bess in 1959) until her death at the age of 42 in 1965. 




****

Happy 90th Birthday Ms. Dottie. You have been such a HUGE influence on my life for such a long time. Your story has touched me, your ending will forever burden my heart--but your legacy will continue to inspire me. I am indebted to you. Even though I didn't know you, even though I wasn't even a thought when you passed, I love you very much and I hope to meet you one sweet day.

--Aige <3


2 comments:

  1. Edward Pierre Bridges12/13/12, 1:37 PM

    One of God's masterful creations, Ms.Dorothy Jean Dandridge.I sure hope I go to heaven so I can thank God for creating you.You will never be forgotten as long as people respect authentic realism,the name Dorothy Jean Dandridge will forever register throughout mankind.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i love this lady she is so pretty

    ReplyDelete

Rude comments will be deleted. Irrelevant comments will be ignored.