Respect to our ancestors who paved way for this moment!
Sultry looks, impressive vocals, magnetic performances each time.
Dubbed Hollywood’s first sex symbol and screen legend, actress, singer, and dancer, the legendary Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922 – September 8, 1965) was the first Black woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performance in Carmen Jones as well as the first Black woman on the cover of Life magazine.
Dandridge performed as a vocalist in venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.
But make no mistake, the multitalented veteran who could do it all, going ahead to achieve the highest of global fame, had a life far from perfect.
Together with personal tragedies; birthing daughter Harolyn Suzanne “Lynn” Nicholas, in 1943 who was severely intellectually disabled, certified brain dead, during her first marriage to dancing legend Harold Nicholas, the union was fraught with domestic violence. She also encountered segregation and racism in the entertainment industry because of the color of her skin.
The actress gave her all in ensuring her daughter Lynn got the best of private care until she could no longer afford it. She was also married to Las Vegas hotel owner Jack Denison.
Born November 9, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio, to her mother, cook turned successful actress in her own right, Ruby Dandridge, who left her husband while pregnant, Dorothy never got to know her father.
Driven by her mum and partner by Eloise Matthews into show business at a young age, Dandridge together with her sister, Vivian, began performing as the Wonder Children, singing and dancing in churches. Matthews, a piano teacher meted serious physical and mental abuse on Dandridge.
At about 1930, Dandridge together with her family moved to Los Angeles, California. In 1934, light had begun to show with her new musical group, the Dandridge Sisters, which included sister Vivian and their friend Etta Jones. They began performing in choice places such as the famous Cotton Club in Harlem and with top acts such as the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra and Cab Calloway.
As a teenager, Dandridge began earning small roles in several films such as Marx Brothers’ classic A Day at the Races (1937), as well as Going Places (1938), with Louis Armstrong.
After her divorce in 1951, Dandridge returned to showbiz and established herself as a solo singer. Many thanks to a stint at the Mocambo club in Hollywood with Desi Arnaz’s band and a sellout 14-week engagement at La Vie en Rose, she became a staple name among the superstars.
As an actress, Dorothy Dandridge bagged her first starring film role in 1953’s Bright Road. Her next role as the lead in Carmen Jones (1954), would go down history lane, forever cementing her place in the spotlight Dandridge became the first African American to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She lost out to Grace Kelly (The Country Girl).
In 1955, she was featured on the cover of Life magazine. In later years however, her success with Carmen Jones, couldn’t be replicated because Dandridge wanted to take on strong leading roles but opportunities were limited because of her race.
Sadly, overcome with personal battles and problems in Hollywood, leading to major financial struggles, at just age 42 on September 8, 1965, Dandridge was found dead in her Hollywood home. Findings pinpoint an overdose of an antidepressant.
Gone but never forgotten. Her legacy leaves on.