Dorothy Dandridge is an American icon. She was a darling of film and sparkled on stage as one of the most beautiful singers of her time. However, she is best known for being the first African American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her stellar performance in the 1954 film, Carmen Jones. Dorothy Dandridge is responsible for paving the way for so many African American actresses and her contributions to the motion picture industry are monumental in shaping the way society views black beauty.
Let’s take a look at some of the lesser known facts about the woman who paved the way for women of color in the industry to honor her on what would’ve been her 94th birthday.
- She was pursued for a role in The King and I (1956), but turned it down due to the advice of Otto Preminger–a film director who would later become her lover–that she never take a role that wasn’t the lead. In her late biopic, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) it also suggests that she turned down the role because the character was a slave.
- Dandridge was the first African American woman to adorn the cover of Life magazine paving the way for other women of color after her.
- She hated nightclub and cabaret singing even though she was an A-rated club performer.
- Believe it or not, Dandridge suffered from almost paralyzing stage fright whenever she would perform.
- She was considered for the role of another famous African American performer, Billie Holiday, in a movie; however, ironically she passed away before the movie was made. Diana Ross played Holiday in the role years later.
- This may come as a shock to some of you (I know it was for me), but Dandridge was the first choice for the role of Cleopatra! However, as history would show, Elizabeth Taylor starred in the role instead.
- Halle Berry, who portrayed Dandridge in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, became the first African American woman to win “Best Actress” at the Oscars.
- Though undiagnosed at the time, Dandridge most likely suffered from manic depression or bi-polar disorder.
- She was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983, almost 20 years after her death.
- At the time of her passing in 1965, Dandridge was cremated, according to her wishes, and her ashes placed in the Freedom Mausoleum in Glendale, California.