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FunTimes Magazine

Dorothy Dandrige

Dorothy Dandridge was born in Cleveland Ohio on November 9th 1921. Her parents, Ruby and Cyril split before Dorothy was born. She was the youngest of two and grew up to be very close to her sister, Vivian. Vivian and Dorothy showed a love for performing at a young age. By the time Dorothy was 5 years old she was performing in churches and theaters alongside her sister and mother. Determined to make her daughters stars, Ruby insisted that her daughters spent their childhood preparing to be stars.

Things took a turn for the worse for Dorothy and Vivian when their mother's lover moved in. She taught the girls how to play the piano but she was harsh and sometimes abusive. However, the show had to go on. The girls were given the stage name The Wonder Children and for years they had steady work. When work started to slow down for The Wonder Children, Ruby decided to move her family to Hollywood. Shortly after moving Dorothy and Vivian met another young talented lady who could also sing and dance. Together, they formed a girl group called the Dandrigde Sisters. They got their first major role in a musical by Paramount called The Big Broadcast of 1936. In 1938, the group performed with Louis Armstong, singing the song Jeepers Creepers in the film Going Places.

The Dandrigde Sisters broke up shortly after the start of World War II. Dorothy took this opportunity to start her solo career as an actress. For years, Dorothy was only casted for small roles. She refused to take any role that she deemed demeaning to Black people. These roles included, slaves, servants and savages. Despite being desperate for work, she stood her ground.

After taking some time off to be a newlywed and mother, Dorothy went back to work: first, singing in night clubs and fancy hotels but was often not allowed to stay or dine in any of the fancy places she headlined at. In 1954, Dorothy got the biggest role of her career, Carmen Jones. Her performance scored her an Academy Award nomination, making her the first African American to do so. Her role in Carmen Jones also made her the first African American to grace the cover of the Life Magazine. Her next big role was in the hit film, “Porgy and Bess”. She played Bess and won a Golden Globe for her performance.

Despite her great accomplishments, Dorothy passed away in 1965. It believed that her death was caused by an accidental overdose. Her story is filled with unbelievable accomplishments and unbearable tragedy. She was a young girl who had worked hard her whole life to accomplish her goals and live her dreams. She broke barriers for future generations.