Dorothy Dandridge

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Cleveland, Ohio
Birth Sign
Cleveland, Ohio

Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an American actress, dancer, and singer who was best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her exceptional performance in the all-black film ‘Carmen Jones’ (1954). It was difficult for her to gain lead or important roles that were readily accessible for white-skinned divas as a black woman living in a racist society, and many of her early films went uncredited. However, her extraordinary beauty and charm, as well as her acting and singing abilities, helped her become the first African-American actress to gain prominent roles in Hollywood, in a career that was brief but notable. ‘Island in the Sun,’ ‘The Murder Men,’ and ‘Porgy and Bess’ were among her significant flicks. However, this dazzling and incredibly brilliant actress had a tumultuous past that included a dismal upbringing, overcoming racism, coming to terms with a number of failed relationships, professional losses, financial difficulties, and a never-ending struggle with alcohol and drug misuse. ‘Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,’ a 1999 biopic, was based on her. This former diva passed away in unexplained circumstances.

Childhood and Adolescence

Preston Martin and Juanita Presley had Mary Virginia Martin on December 1, 1913 in Weatherford, Texas. She had a nice and comfortable childhood with her parents, who were devoted to her. Martin had a natural flair for imitating others from a young age and grew up to be a tomboy. To keep themselves engaged, she and her older sister Geraldine would climb trees or ride ponies.

Her first public engagement was at a pavilion, when she performed with two other females disguised as bellhops. She was born with a photographic memory and could learn music, mimics, and even acting as a toddler.
She opted to marry while she was a youngster and was obliged to drop out of Ward-Belmont finishing school when she became pregnant.

Fearful that she had made the wrong decision by marrying so young, she sought out a method to express herself, which she discovered in dance. Her sister is said to have been the first to teach her how to dance the waltz clog.
She soon launched her own dance studio, where she created her own moves or imitated the moves of other great dancers she had seen in movies.

Her dance studio was burned down by a man who believed ‘dancing was a sin’ in a weird occurrence. She sought guidance from her father, who advised her to get a divorce, after which she fled for Hollywood, leaving her son behind.

Career of Dorothy Dandridge

Her career in Hollywood began with her attending a number of auditions, earning her the moniker ‘Audition Mary.’ Oscar Hammerstein II spotted her vocal talent at one of the auditions and became the driving force behind her Broadway debut. Her first employment was singing on Dallas radio and in Los Angeles nightclubs.

In 1938, she made her Broadway debut in Cole Porter’s “Leave It to Me!” She sang ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ in the production, which catapulted her to stardom overnight. In the same year, she made her film debut in ‘The Rage of Paris.’

She appeared in a number of films between 1940 and 1943, including ‘Love Thy Neighbor,’ ‘Kiss the Boys Goodbye,’ ‘New York Town,’ ‘Birth of the Blues,’ ‘Star Spangles Rhythm,’ and ‘Happy Go Lucky.’ She appeared in a variety of theatre performances between 1943 and 1948, including ‘One Touch of Venus,’ ‘Pacific 1860,’ ‘Lute Song,’ and ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’

She won a special prize for her performance as Nellie Forbush in the Broadway version of ‘South Pacific’ in 1949. Two years later, on November 1st, she starred in the West End play. ‘Main Street to Broadway,’ her final picture, was released in 1953. In 1954, she was cast as the titular role in the Broadway production of ‘Peter Pan,’ which was arguably one of her greatest achievements. She had to undertake some of the feats herself to give her role credit, including soaring on suspended ropes.

In 1955, Martin starred in ‘The Skin of Our Teeth,’ which was followed by another 10 week run in Los Angeles for ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’ She appeared in the television series ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ two years later.
She made her television debut in 1960 in a television adaptation of ‘Peter Pan,’ followed by a two-year stint on ‘The Bing Crosby Show for Clairol.’

She and Robert Preston co-starred in the two-person musical ‘I Do! I Do!’ on Broadway in 1966. She was nominated for a major prize once again for her performance. She was set to embark on a nationwide tour two years later, but it was canceled owing to sickness. She featured in the shows ‘A Celebration of Richard Rodgers’ and ‘Do You Turn Somersaults?’ from 1972 to 1978.

She had an appearance on the television show ‘Valentine’ the following year. In 1985, she was seen in her final public theater performance, ‘Legends.’ She appeared in the television series ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music’ at the same time.

Major Projects of Dorothy Dandridge

In 1954, she played the title role in the theatre performance ‘Peter Pan,’ which was one of her biggest accomplishments. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of ‘Peter Pan’. In 1960, she even repeated her part in a televised remake of the film.

Achievements & Awards

In 1943, she received the Donaldson Award for ‘One Touch of Venus.’ In 1943, she received a New York Film Critics Circle Award for ‘One Touch of Venus.’ She received a Tony Award in 1948 for “expanding theatre around the country while the originals play in New York.” She won a Tony Award for her performance as ‘Peter Pan’ in the theatre play of the same name in 1955. She won an Emmy Award for the television adaption of ‘Peter Pan’ in 1956. In 1959, she won a Tony Award for her performance in ‘The Sound of Music.’ In 1989, she was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for her contributions to the arts.

Personal History and Legacy

She married Benjamin Hagman when she was 17 years old in 1930, and the couple had a son named Larry Hagman. She didn’t fully comprehend and enjoy the obligations of being a wife because she was young and naive. In 1936, the couple divorced. In 1940, she married Richard Halliday, and they were married until his death in 1973.

She was involved in a tragic accident in 1982, which resulted in the fracture of two of her ribs, a punctured lung, and a damaged pelvis. One of their companions died on the scene, while the other died two years later as a result of the accident’s repercussions. She died of colon cancer and is buried in Weatherford, Texas’ Greenwood Cemetery.

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This well-known Broadway actress and singer from the musical “Peter Pan” had a reputation for never missing a performance or expressing vulgarities on or off stage.