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Dorothy Dandridge was an American actress and popular singer, and was the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress.
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A short biography of Dorothy Dandridge, who started out in the familial duo The Dandridge Sisters. Her breakthrough role in "Carmen Jones" led to her becoming the first African-American woman nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.
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After her divorce in 1951, Dandridge returned to the nightclub circuit, this time as a successful solo singer. After a stint at the Mocambo club in Hollywood with Desi Arnaz's band and a sell-out 14-week engagement at La Vie en Rose, she became an international star, performing at glamorous venues in London, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, and New York. She won her first starring film role in 1953’s Bright Road,
playing an earnest and dedicated young schoolteacher opposite Harry Belafonte.
Her next role, as the eponymous lead in Carmen Jones (1954),a film adaptation of Bizet's opera Carmen that also costarred Belafonte, catapulted her to the heights of stardom. With her sultry looks and flirtatious style, Dandridge became the first African-American to earn an Academy Award nomination for best actress. Though many believed she deserved to win, Dandridge eventually lost the award to Grace Kelly (The Country Girl). Still, after the phenomenal success of Carmen Jones, Dandridge seemed well on her way to becoming the first non-white actress to achieve the kind of superstardom that had accrued to contemporaries like Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner. In 1955, she was featured on the cover of Life magazine, and was treated like visiting royalty at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In the years that followed her success with Carmen Jones, however, Dandridge had trouble finding film roles that suited her talents. She wanted strong leading roles, but she found her opportunities limited because of her race. According to The New York Times, Dandridge once said, "If I were Betty Grable, I could capture the world." Her Carmen Jones co-star also addressed this issue, saying that Dandridge "was the right person in the right place at the wrong time," according to the Boston Globe.
Besides Carmen Jones, Dandridge's only other great film was 1959's Porgy and Bess, in which she played Bess opposite Sidney Poitier. She turned down the supporting role of Tuptim in The King and I because she refused to play a slave. It was rumored that she would play Billie Holliday in a film version of Lady Sings the Blues directed by Orson Welles, but it never panned out.
In the racially disharmonious 1950s, Hollywood filmmakers could not seem to create a suitable role for the light-skinned Dandridge, and they soon reverted to subtly prejudiced visions of interracial romance. She appeared in several poorly received racially and sexually charged dramas, including Island in the Sun (1957), also starring Belafonte and Joan Fontaine; Tamango (1959), in which Dandridge plays the mistress of the captain of a slave ship; and Malaga (1960).
While making Carmen Jones, Dandridge became involved in a heated, secretive affair with the film's director, Otto Preminger, who also directed Porgy and Bess. Their interracial romance, as well as Dandridge's relationships with other white lovers, was frowned upon, not in the least by other African-American members of the Hollywood filmmaking community.
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