Dorthy Dandridge: Lady Sings the Blues

In my view Dorthy Dandridge is equally as talented, beautiful and important as Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Tayor. The shadow that continues to obscure the great legacy of Dorthy Dandridge is
still largely due to her race, her blackness, her skin color.

“If I were white, I could capture the world.”
–Dorthy Dandridge

Dorthy Dandridge born on November 9th 1922 was the first black American actress to be nominated
for Academy Award for Best Actress, 1954. Hattie McDaniel was the first black actor (Female) to win an Academy Award/ 1940 for Gone With The Wind; Hattie McDaniel won for Best Supporting Actress.

Today, so many decades since Dorthy Dandridge’s death she has still not found her proper place in American cinema history. First off, and this is very important; Dorthy Dandridge was Hollywood’s
first full-fledged black American movie star. At the height of her career (Carmen Jones)
Dorhty Dandridge was on the cusp of becoming an international movie star. The same year (1955)
Darryl Zanuck head of 20th Century-Fox Pictures saw Dorthy Dandridge in ‘Carmen Jones’ and quickly signed Dorthy Dandridge to an exclusive $ 75,000 per picture deal.

Darryl Zanuck was so appreciative of his new star that he purchased film rights for at least four stories in which Dorthy Dandridge would be the star. There were many good roles offered to her, however Dorthy Dandridge rejected some; this was largely because Otto Preminger convinced her to accept certain roles and reject many good roles to move her to international status.
There was a period of five years where she did not work as an actress; it is worth mentioning that during this time Otto Preminger was her lover. It is quite clear to me this absence from the public eye took the wind out of her sail in Hollywood and killed her international rising.

Dorthy Dandridge most important role was in the movie Carmen Jones; an adaptation of
George Bizet’s opera, the other great role of her career was from another opera,
Porgy & Bess. Dorthy Dandridge’s body of work is considerable; her career spans from 1935-1962
and during this period she appeared in 37 films.
Dorthy Dandridge was offered the role of Tubtim in the movie ‘The King and I’ which she turned down;
a blockbuster film which starred Yul Brynner.

In the early sixties there was talk about a movie about the life of Billie Holiday to which
Dorthy Dandridge was to star and the movie would be called, Lady Sings the Blues.

A la prochaine!
Charles Micheaux
You can watch Oscar Micheaux Films @ YouTube.


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