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The Hollywood Starlet

This Black History Month, we are honoring Dorothy Dandridge. The great actress, singer and dancer who became a national and international star. Dandridge was the first African American to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Carmen Jones. However, that was not her only great accomplishment. She then received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Porgy and Bess. In addition, Dandridge was the first black person to perform at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.

 Dorothy Dandridge, born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio started performing at a young age. First with her older sister Vivian as “The Wonder Children” and later renamed “Dandridge Sisters.” The group eventually broke up, but Dorothy Dandridge continued performing in movies and as a nightclub singer. She went on to perform with the Desi Arnaz Band and appeared in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel's Empire Room in New York as the first African American to perform at that hotel.

 In 1954, she got her big break when she was chosen for the title role, in the all-black musical Carmen Jones. The movie was such a hit that not only did it win for best musical motion picture at the Golden Globes and win an Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival, it made Dandridge the first black women to receive an Oscar nomination for best actress.

Two years after making of Carmen Jones, Dandridge was finally in front of a movie camera again. In 1957, Fox cast her in the film Island in the Sun, alongside previous co-star Harry Bellafonte. The movie was highly controversial as it dealt with multiple interracial relationships. Dandridge protested the dispassionate love scene with her white co-star, but the producers had been afraid to go too far. The film was successful but was deemed nonessential by critics.

Other films from Dorothy Dandridge are Teacher’s Beau (1935), Irene (1940), Hit Parade (1943), The Harlem Globetrotters (1951), and Island in the Sun (1957). Dandridge passed away September 8, 1965, in her West Hollywood apartment. She was 42.

Dorothy Dandridge had everything it took to succeed in 1950s' Hollywood. She could sing, dance and act. During the racially biased era in which she lived, Dandridge rose to stardom to become both the first black woman to grace the cover of Life magazine and to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a major motion picture.

Dandridge was truly an extraordinary woman. As a black woman at this time in American history the roles she was given were highly stereotypical.  Dorothy Dandridge had such a big impact in American history, did you know?