(Page 2)

Dorothy Dandridge (cont.)

in Oscar Hammerstein and Otto Premingers's "Carmen Jones" in 1954.
   Her portrayal of Carmen was magnificent and in 1954 she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of "Life" magazine and in 1955, she was the first black woman nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. Her running mates included Audrey Hepburn, Jane Wyman, Judy Garland and Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly won the award for her role in "The Country Girl."
   During the growth of her new film career, Dorothy had several love affairs that included a millionaire from Rio de Janeiro, Gerald Mayer the director of Bright Road, actor Peter Lawford, Fredric March, and even director Preminger. Her relationship with Preminger was to be a long and troubled affair. He was married and they could never be together in public. He also treated her miserably both on and off the set, yet she continued to date him. In addition to Lawford and Preminger, Dorothy had romantic offers from many other white men and seemed to constantly move in white company. She became fascinated by interracial relationships and she began reading book after book on the subject.
   By now, Ruby Dandridge had made her career as a character actress and had dropped her former love Geneva for another woman. Geneva, broke and desperate, went to Dorothy to ask for money but Dorothy refused to help the woman who had been so cruel to her in the past.
   It was a good time for Dorothy. Movie offers poured in and Dorothy turned down many, including the role of Tuptim in "The King and I." But she would later say that turning down that very successful picture and giving the role over to Rita Moreno was probably the

(cont. next column) >


Dorothy Dandridge (cont.)

start of her downfall in Hollywood.
   It was almost two years before Dorothy made her next film, "Island In The Sun" directed by Darryl Zanuck. The film tried to deal with interracial themes and Dorothy was the first black actress romantically involved with a white actor in a motion picture.
   Her next film "Tamango" with Curt Jurgens dealt much deeper into the interracial theme and was first released overseas. It took four years before American audiences saw the film. When they did, they saw scenes previously banned from American cinema. But Dorothy's on screen scenes were mild compared to her off screen affair with Jurgens. Today, "Tamango" is considered a classic.
   Dorothy was next approached to star in the George Gershwin musical "Porgy and Bess." Harry Belafonte was offered the lead opposite Dorothy, but the picture was held in contempt by blacks and he turned the role down. Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis, Jr. were to be her co-stars in the film.
   Despite the controversy surrounding the film, Dorothy won the Golden Globe Award for her performance. But this was to be the last highlight in her career. Inexplicably, life began a downward spiral for Dorothy after "Porgy and Bess."
   In 1958 she met and then married Jack Denison, a white restaurant owner who showered her with attention when they first met but then began abusing her, including beatings, after they were married.
   Compounding her marital problems, Dorothy lost a small fortune in an oil investment scam and with tax problems compounding her troubles, her money problems only got worse. It was during

(cont. next column) >


Dorothy Dandridge (cont.)

these hard financial and emotional times that Dorothy began to drink. And she drank heavily. She was also put on Tofranil, a barbituate antidepressant.
   After two years with Denison, Dorothy finally had enough and filed for divorced. But even though Denison was gone, her financial affairs continued their downward spiral. She eventually lost her house and when she could no longer afford to pay someone to watch after her daughter, Harolyn was committed to a state hospital, where she still resides to this day. Dorothy finally declared bankruptcy in 1963.
   She continued to land a few small parts after the bankruptcy, but nothing of box office or personal financial significance.
   In late 1965 Dorothy sprained her ankle and fractured her foot. She was scheduled to have a cast put on her foot, but she never made her appointment. Instead, she was found dead on the floor of her bathroom on September 8, 1965. She was only 42 years old. She was found nude, wearing only a blue scarf wrapped around her head. She left a note to a friend some months earlier. It read, "In case of my death - to whomever discovers it - don't remove anything I have on - scarf, gown or underwear. Cremate me right away. If I have anything, money, furniture, give it to my mother Ruby Dandridge. She will know what to do. Dorothy Dandridge."
   Her last wishes were carried out just as she asked. She was cremated and buried. Her remains are at the Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn.
   No one knows if her death was accidental or intentional, but Dorothy Dandridge died of an overdose of Tofranil, the barbituate antidepressant she had been prescribed.

--- ---