Black History Month Woman of the Day: Dorothy Dandridge

Every few decades there’s an individual who changes the way society functions. In the mid 1900’s Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) was that lady.

The actress/singer debuted with her sister Vivian in what was called “The Wonder Children” later renamed “The Dandridge Sisters.” Dorothy’s mother Ruby made sure her girls were always in the limelight. Her first screen performance was a small part in Teacher’s Beau. In the following years she starred in Hit Parade of 1943, Tarzan’s Peril and The Harlem Globetrotters.

In 1952 the beauty got her first starring role as Jane Richards in Bright Road. Determined to make a big name for herself, she landed a three movie deal with 20th Century Fox. There she played her most famous role of Carmen in Carmen Jones. The film did so well that it landed Dorothy an Academy Award nomination. From that moment on she became the first African American to be nominated for Best Actress.

After the success of Carmen Jones, Dandridge’s career began to slowly decline. She began turning down roles because she felt they weren’t the right ones. Dorothy played a few more roles, her last being Malaga. In 1965, after her career had deteriorated, Dandridge overdosed on antidepressants and died. Although drugs played a part, the coroner’s office concluded that she had a rare embolism in her foot.

Almost 20 years after her death, Dorothy’s legacy began to be remembered by members of Hollywood. The leading lady has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a statue at Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard and was payed homage to by Halle Berry in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Even though she lived a roller coaster life, Dorothy will always be remembered as the first African American to break barriers into white Hollywood and receive a Best Actress nomination.

Photo Credit: Everett