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Dorothy Dandridge

Discussion in 'Movies' started by ClassyCo, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she's here. Carmen Jones in the flesh. Cinema's first black mainstream film star.

    I present to you the one, the multi-talented Miss Dorothy Dandridge.

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    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
  2. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    Although I'm quite ashamed to admit it, I cannot precisely remember how I first heard of Dorothy Dandridge. My memory seems to feed me that I first heard of her through the film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, the late nineties HBO biopic which I bought in the Walmart bargain bin for one reason: I knew an actress, by name of Kerri Randles, I believe, briefly appeared as Marilyn Monroe.

    Speeding along here, I watched it and I liked it. The film itself is quite a little masterpiece, and Halle Berry does superbly in her turn as Miss Dandridge. Still, it was some time before I got into Dorothy Dandridge herself and decided to do further research into her life and career. Naturally, her being the first leading woman nominated for an American Oscar struck my interest, but for a long time, my interest never went past the initial stages.

    I was very young when I got the hankering to start digging into Dandridge's life and career. I got all these biographies and essays printed off the internet, all feeding my then-current interest in her, which was considerably heavy. I learned she had a long show business career, but suffered typecasting and unfulfilled promises quite simply because the color of her skin. Her talent was immense; she had an excellent singing voice, and for years she toured the States and other parts of the world as a powerful songstress with pianist Phil Moore as her acting svengali.

    Dandridge longed for movie success. True success alluded her until she caught the eye of director Otto Preminger, who, after initial reluctance, gave her the titular role in Carmen Jones, one of Hollywood's first films to feature an all-black cast. It was a runaway hit, and it brought her an Oscar nod (she lost to Grace Kelly) and a three-movie deal with Twentieth Century-Fox. She turned down supporting roles in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts and The King and I, allowing room for Rita Moreno to step in to fulfill those gaps, and her career soon stalled.

    It wasn't until Island in the Sun that she made a comeback, one of my favorite movies ever. It was a popular success, but riddled with controversy because of its interracial on-screen romances. She followed that with a top role in the Italian production of Tamango, and a costarring role as a showy ship bride in The Decks Ran Red. Dandridge seemed to have high hopes for Samuel Goldwyn's film version of Porgy and Bess, but the film suffered from rewrites, production delays, controversy over black stereotyping, and was ultimately as financial failure.

    By the early sixties, Dorothy's career had long hit the skids. She spent the rest of her life touring nightclubs and accepting the occasional stage role. She died poor and mostly forgotten in 1965.

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  3. ClassyCo

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    One of Dorothy Dandridge's first top roles in a motion picture came in the 1951 film Tarzan's Peril. It was a low-budget RKO picture, made in the B-movie tradition of the host of Tarzan films that preceded it. The film starred Lex Barker in the title role, and placed Virginia Houston as his leading lady. Some of the film was shot on location in Kenya, making it the first Tarzan feature film to be shot abroad, but the majority of its outdoor shots were filmed in the United States.

    Dorothy plays Queen Melmendi of Ashuba tribe, and to my understanding she was quite enthusiastic about the part being her first with any significant substance. I believe it was her first role to receive her any on-screen billing, and I know it was her first to generate her controversy. Religious organizations and Hollywood's rather conservative censors were concerned about Dandridge's wardrobe being too revealing, especially for more "racially cautious" audiences in certain sects of the States.

    In the end, her performance itself was more or less overlooked, unless there was mentioning of her outfits being provocative. Tarzan's Peril received minor box office success in 1951, but was actually a step forward for Dorothy whom had spent the previous decade playing bit parts in a host of features, garnering little (if any) significant attention for her work.

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  4. ClassyCo

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    While working on Bright Road for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Dorothy enjoyed rekindling her friendship with actress Ava Gardner, who was a contract star for the studio. The two ladies had been friends for several years, since the late 1940s, and they frequently traveled the town together during their younger days. The two were often seen in the company of Marilyn Monroe during the same time period.

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  5. ClassyCo

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    Dorothy Dandridge and John Justin play interracial lovers in the controversial film adaptation of Island in the Sun (1957), which just happens to be one of my favorite films.

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