Sunday, 19 February 2017

#badgirlcrush – Dorothy Dandridge

#badgirlcrush – Dorothy Dandridge

This month’s #badgirlcrush is the beautiful and talented actress, singer, dancer and all-round glamour siren, Dorothy Jean Dandridge.

From her early beginnings as a vaudevillian child performer, Dorothy rose through the club circuits of New York and LA to become a box office star of Beyonce proportions during the mid 1950s.

The first American woman of African descent to be nominated for an Oscar, Dorothy carved out a successful – yet ultimately short-lived - movie career against many odds, making her a true Hollywood trailblazer and bad girl to the core.

Born in 1922 in Cleveland, USA, Dorothy Daindridge and her sister Vivian started singing and dancing from a young age, encouraged by their aspiring-performer mother Ruby who dubbed them, ‘The Wonder Children’.

The two young Dandridge sisters travelled their song-and-dance-act in churches throughout southern American for five years, before the family moved to Los Angeles in 1929 in search of stable work and stardom during the Great Depression.

Following the success of ‘The Wonder Children’ in 1934, Ruby Daindridge renamed her daughters’ act ‘The Dandridge Sisters’, including a third member into the group named Etta James (not to be confused with legendary jazz singer, Etta James).

Steadily growing in popularity, the trio began touring across high profile nightclubs, such as the Apollo Theatre and Cotton Club, where they were given a regular show thanks to their steady fan base.

The Dandridge Sisters regularly drew comparisons with another famous all-girl singing trio - The Andrew Sisters - but after rigorously performing in clubs across the country, the group disbanded in 1940.

Living and working in LA, Dorothy naturally found her way into the motion picture business. The roles she was offered over the next 13 years were stock-standard racial stereotypes that did little to showcase her extraordinary singing and dancing ability.

Dorothy continued to perform in clubs and was famously ‘discovered’ by an MGM producer whilst singing at legendary Hollywood hotspot, the Mocambo, who promptly invited her to audition for the supporting female lead in a musical called Carmen Jones.

Not only did she land the leading role by storming the office of director Otto Preminger, Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for the 1954 Best Actress Oscar alongside Grace Kelly, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Jane Wyman.

The golden statue went to Grace Kelly, but Dorothy’s star status was cemented as a bonafide motion picture sex symbol. The hard-working girl from Cleveland with stars in her eyes finally became a star at 32 years old.

Here are some publicity photos and clips from Carmen Jones. Babetown!

'Carmen Jones was the best break I’ve ever had. But no producer ever knocked on my door, there just aren’t that many parts for a black actress' - Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy’s journey to stardom was fraught with obstacles, thanks to the racism and racial segregation rife in America at the time.

After her star turn in Carmen Jones, a leading tabloid published an article stating that Dorothy had casual sex with a white bandleader in Nevada back in 1950. Back then, it was common for gossip publications to pay off hotel staff for seemingly juicy information that could become a trusted ‘source’ of their mostly untrue articles.

Dorothy fought the magazine in a much-publicised court hearing, sued and won a large settlement; however, the salubrious publicity from the fall out did nothing but amplify her public persona as a seductress.

Her personal life was equally as trying. After an unsuccessful first marriage to entertainer Harold Nicholas in 1942, Dorothy gave birth to her only daughter Harolyn in 1943, who was born with brain damage and required around-the-clock care. When the medical care bills for Harolyn started to mount, Dorothy was forced to accept bit parts in movies and tour the nightclub circuit, in addition to caring for her daughter.

Dorothy and Harold Nicholas divorced in 1951 and in 1959, she married Jack Denison, a man disposed to domestic violence. They divorced in 1962 at a time when Dorothy was broke and forced to sell her Hollywood apartment – and perhaps most tragically - give up Harolyn to the authorities at a mental institution in Ventura, California. At the age of 42 years old, Dorothy Dandridge died of an overdose of anti-depressants in highly mysterious surroundings.

Although Dorothy Dandridge acted in a slew of movies, from the highs of her star turn in Carmen Jones to the low-budget thriller Malaga in 1962 that was to be her final film, she struggled to shrug off the ‘exotic temptress’ stereotype that had plagued the majority of her career. 

Character roles that didn’t rely on ethnic clichés for Americans of African Descent - especially women - were few and far between. Dorothy actively challenged directors on movie roles and ultimately chose to retire from the film industry, in face of the lack of work and insulting roles she was offered. Dorothy went on to resume her night club career as she was left in debt from her previous marriage and continuous medical bills for her daughter. 

Since her untimely death, the life, work and legacy of Dorothy Dandridge has found a new audience in celebrities like Halle Berry, who played her in the 1999 biopic, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.

Below you will find our most favourite DD outfits, Dorothy's style was very modern, elegant and classic for the time, you could even say that most of her outfits are the 'trends' of today's generation. From her stunning one of a kinda stage gowns, to her everyday classic wear, Dorothy certainly knew how to wear outfits that exuded a confident, lady-like, with a hint of bad girl quality that accentuated her knock out curves! Some of Dorothy's favourite methods and finishing touches, were to use scarves and wide belts to show off her hourglass shape, she was also a fan of adding bold gold jewellery to dress up a casual out fit and sparkling diamond pieces for her stage performances to add an extra Va va voom!

 We salute Dorothy for being an original bad girl of talent, integrity, style and substance. 

Patsy @patsypbl

(Columnist for The Original Bad Girl Blog)


  1. Thanks for sharing the story of Dorothy Dandridge, a great actress, model, and entertainer. She looks so charming and glamorous even in the old age. I am amazed how she maintains her figure. you posted some of her best clicks. Good work!

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