Known for movies

Short Info

DiedSeptember 8, 1965, West Hollywood, California, United States
SpouseJack Denison, Harold Nicholas
MarkHot cool singing style
FactShe was the first African-American actress to be Oscar-nominated for "Best Actress in a Leading Role".
PaymentsEarned $1,800 /week from Carmen Jones (1954)

Dorothy Dandridge was an American actress and singer, who became the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones. She is also remembered for her roles in such films as Porgy and Bess (1959) and Island in the Sun (1957).

Dandridge was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 9, 1922, to Cyril Dandridge, a cabinetmaker and minister, and Ruby Dandridge, an entertainer and actress. She had two sisters, Vivian and Etta, and a brother, Harold. Dandridge’s parents divorced when she was three, and she and her siblings were raised by their mother.

Dandridge began her career as a child performer, appearing in vaudeville and on the radio. She made her film debut in the short film Four Shall Die (1940), and went on to appear in a number of small roles in films such as Sundown (1941) and Something to Sing About (1937). In 1943, she had a supporting role in the all-black musical film Cabin in the Sky.

Dandridge’s breakout role came in the 1954 film Carmen Jones, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She continued to appear in films throughout the 1950s, including The Decks Ran Red (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), and Tamango (1959). In 1957, she starred in the first interracial romantic drama film, Island in the Sun.

In the 1960s, Dandridge’s career began to decline, and she appeared in fewer films. She made a comeback in 1965 with the film A Man Called Adam, but her career was again cut short by her untimely death at the age of 42.

Dandridge was married twice, first to Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers dancing team, and then to Jack Denison. She had one daughter, Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas, with Harold Nicholas.

Dorothy Dandridge died of heart failure on September 8, 1965, at the age of 42.

General Info

Full NameDorothy Dandridge
DiedSeptember 8, 1965, West Hollywood, California, United States
Height1.65 m
ProfessionActor, Pin-up model, Singer


SpouseJack Denison, Harold Nicholas
ChildrenHarolyn Suzanne Nicholas
ParentsRuby Dandridge, Cyril Dandridge
SiblingsVivian Dandridge


AwardsPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie, Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie,...
Music GroupsDandridge Sisters
NominationsAcademy Award for Best Actress, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress

Social profile links


#Marks / Signs
1Hot cool singing style
2Beauty mark on chin
3Her beautiful dark eyes


Cain's Hundred (1961)$3,500 (duplicated each rerun)
Moment of Danger (1960)$75,000
Porgy and Bess (1959)$75,000
The Decks Ran Red (1958)$75,000
Tamango (1958)$100,000
Island in the Sun (1957)$75,000
Carmen Jones (1954)$1,800 /week
Remains to Be Seen (1953)$3,000
Bright Road (1953)$1,500 /week


1Carmen Jones (1954) was the best break I've ever had. But no producer ever knocked on my door. There just aren't that many parts for a black actress.
2If I were white, I could capture the world.
3It [prejudice] is such a waste. It makes you logy and half-alive. It gives you nothing. It takes away.


1Although her death was originally attributed to an embolism, the L.A. medical examiner attributed it to an overdose of the anti-depression medication Tofranil.
2Delivered her daughter Harolynn via forceps.
3Became pregnant by her then-lover Otto Preminger but underwent an abortion in March 1957.
4Gave birth to her only child at age 20, a daughter named Harolynn Suzanne Nicholas on September 2, 1943. The father was her first husband, Harold Nicholas. Harolynn was born with a brain injury and reportedly died in 2003.
5She was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6719 Hollywood Boulevard on January 18, 1983.
6Following her untimely death, she was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
7Is one of 26 actresses to have received an Academy Award nomination for their performance in a musical; hers being Carmen Jones (1954). The others, in chronological order, are: Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody (1929)), Grace Moore (One Night of Love (1934)), Jean Hagen (Singin' in the Rain (1952)), Marjorie Rambeau (Torch Song (1953)), Deborah Kerr (The King and I (1956)), Rita Moreno (West Side Story (1961)), Gladys Cooper (My Fair Lady (1964)), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and Victor Victoria (1982)), Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)), Peggy Wood (The Sound of Music (1965)), Carol Channing (Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)), Kay Medford (Funny Girl (1968)), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl (1968)), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret (1972)), Ronee Blakley (Nashville (1975)), Lily Tomlin (Nashville (1975)), Ann-Margret (Tommy (1975)), Lesley Ann Warren (Victor Victoria (1982)), Amy Irving (Yentl (1983)), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge! (2001)), Queen Latifah (Chicago (2002)), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago (2002)), Renée Zellweger (Chicago (2002)), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls (2006)), Penelope Cruz (Nine (2009)), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables (2012)), and Meryl Streep (Into the Woods (2014)).
8Had appeared on the cover of the June 2, 1952 issue of Quick magazine.
9Great aunt of Nayo Wallace.
10Madame Sul-Te-Wan was not her real0life grandmother, as is often rumored. In the definitive biography on Dandridge, by Donald Bogle, it is suggested that this rumor started because she played Dandridge's grandmother in Carmen Jones (1954).
11Referred to by Lena Horne as " . . . our Marilyn Monroe.".
12Had been involved with Rat Packer and actor Peter Lawford, who attended her funeral.
13Is one of 10 African-American actresses to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. The others in chronological order are: Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gabourey Sidibe, Viola Davis and Quvenzhané Wallis.
14Died broke and deeply in debt in her apartment at 8495 Fountain Avenue, West Hollywood.
15She was the first African-American to be nominated for a "Best Actress" Oscar. Halle Berry, who portrayed Dorothy in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), became the first African-American to win "Best Actress" at the Academy Awards.
16She was first choice for the role of Cleopatra but ultimately the role went to Elizabeth Taylor.
17She was the first African-American actress to be Oscar-nominated for "Best Actress in a Leading Role".
18Was considered for the role of Billie Holiday in a movie; however, the project did not materialize in her lifetime. When the movie did come to pass, the role was portrayed by Diana Ross.
19Dated music composer Phil Moore, who was instrumental in launching her career as a nightclub singer in the 1940s.
20Her best friend was Geraldine Pate Nicholas Branton, former wife of Fayard Nicholas, of the tap dancing duo The Nicholas Brothers, who was her ex-brother-in-law.
21She loved soul food. Her favorite was chitterlings and greens, which she ate only once a week.
22Suffered from near paralyzing stage fright whenever she had to perform.
23Although she was a top-notch nightclub/cabaret singer, she despised that.
24She was the first African-American woman to grace the cover of Life magazine.
25In September 1965 The New York Times reported that her death was caused by bone marrow particles from a fractured metatarsal bone in her right foot that entered her bloodstream and reached her brain and lungs.
26She was pursued for the role of Tuptim in The King and I (1956), but turned it down on the advice of Otto Preminger, who advised her not to accept a role in which she was not the star (the biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) also implies that it was because the character was a slave). Rita Moreno was subsequently cast in the role.
27Now thought to have suffered from manic-depression, also referred to as bi-polar disorder.
28At the time of her death, there was $2.14 in her bank account. She left a handwritten letter: "In case of my death - whoever discovers it - Don't remove anything I have on - scarf, gown, or underwear. Cremate me right away - if I have any money, furniture, give it to my mother, Ruby Dandridge - She will know what to do.".
29Younger sister of Vivian Dandridge.
30Daughter of Ruby Dandridge.




The Night Before the Divorce1942Party Maid (uncredited)
Ride 'Em Cowboy1942Dancer (uncredited)
Bahama Passage1941Thalia
Sundown1941Kipsang's Wife
Sun Valley Serenade1941Specialty
Lady from Louisiana1941Felice
Four Shall Die1940Helen Fielding
Irene1940One of the Dandridge Sisters (uncredited)
Going Places1938Member of The Dandridge Sisters (uncredited)
Snow Gets in Your Eyes1938ShortOne of the Dandridge Sisters (uncredited)
It Can't Last Forever1937Dandridge Sisters Act (uncredited)
A Day at the Races1937Black Singer (uncredited)
Easy to Take1936Member of the Dandridge Sisters (uncredited)
The Big Broadcast of 19361935Member of the Dandridge Sisters (as The Dandridge Sisters)
Teacher's Beau1935ShortCabin Kid
Marco Polo1962/IIEmpress Zaire
Cain's Hundred1962TV SeriesNorma Sherman
Porgy and Bess1959Bess
The Decks Ran Red1958Mahia
Tamango1958Aiché, Reiker's mistress
Island in the Sun1957Margot Seaton
Carmen Jones1954Carmen Jones
Remains to Be Seen1953Dorothy Dandridge
Bright Road1953Jane Richards
The Harlem Globetrotters1951Ann Carpenter
Tarzan's Peril1951Melmendi, Queen of the Ashuba
Atlantic City1944Singer
Since You Went Away1944Black Officer's Wife in Train Station (uncredited)
Hit Parade of 19431943Count Basie Band Singer
Happy Go Lucky1943Showgirl (uncredited)
Lucky Jordan1942Hollyhock School Maid (uncredited)
Drums of the Congo1942Princess Malimi
Night in New Orleans1942Sal, Shadrach's Girl (uncredited)


Sing Your Song2011Documentary performer: "Dat's Love"
Myra Breckinridge1970performer: "Chattanooga Choo Choo" - uncredited
Cain's Hundred1962TV Series performer - 1 episode
Porgy and Bess1959performer: "Bess, You Is My Woman Now", "What You Want With Bess?", "I Loves You Porgy", "Summertime" reprise
The 29th Annual Academy Awards1957TV Special documentary performer: "Julie"
Remains to Be Seen1953performer: "Taking a Chance on Love" - uncredited
Bright Road1953performer: "Church in the Wildwood", "Sweet and Low" - uncredited
Pillow to Post1945performer: "Whatcha Say?" 1945 - uncredited
Atlantic City1944"RHYTHM FOR SALE" / performer: "HARLEM ON PARADE"
A Zoot Suit with a Reet Pleat1942Short performer: "A Zoot Suit for My Sunday Gal"
Cow-Cow Boogie1942Short performer: "Cow Cow Boogie"
Sun Valley Serenade1941performer: "Chattanooga Choo Choo" 1941 - uncredited


Pretty Dudes2016TV Series in memory of - 1 episode
Dieter & Andreas1989Short grateful acknowledgment


That Regis Philbin Show1965TV SeriesHerself
Juke Box Jury1964TV SeriesHerself - Panellist
Freedom Spectacular1964TV MovieHerself
The Mike Douglas Show1963TV SeriesHerself - Co-Host
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson1962TV SeriesHerself - Guest
The Ed Sullivan Show1952-1961TV SeriesHerself / Singer
The 29th Annual Academy Awards1957TV Special documentaryHerself - Performer & Presenter: Best Special Effects
Ford Star Jubilee1956TV SeriesHerself
Film Fanfare1956TV SeriesHerself
Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium1956TV SeriesHerself
The 27th Annual Academy Awards1955TV SpecialHerself - Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role & Presenter: Best Film Editing (In New York)
Light's Diamond Jubilee1954TV Movie documentaryHerself
The George Jessel Show1954TV SeriesHerself
The Colgate Comedy Hour1951-1953TV SeriesHerself - Singer
Songs for Sale1952TV SeriesHerself
Cavalcade of Stars1952TV SeriesHerself - Guest Vocalist
Pillow to Post1945Herself - Vocalist (uncredited)
A Zoot Suit with a Reet Pleat1942ShortHerself
Cow-Cow Boogie1942ShortHerself
Easy Street1941ShortHerself
Lazybones1941ShortHerself - Dancer
Yes, Indeed!1941ShortHerself

Archive Footage

Harlem Renaissance2004Video documentaryHerself
Dorothy Dandridge: Singing at Her Best2003VideoHerself
Dorothy Dandridge: An American Beauty2003TV Movie documentary
Great Performances2003TV SeriesHerself
It's Black Entertainment2002TV Special documentaryHerself
Redeemer2002TV Movie
American Masters2001TV Series documentaryHerself
Biography1997-1999TV Series documentaryHerself - Subject / Herself
Classified X1998TV Movie documentaryHerself
Small Steps, Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood1998TV Movie documentaryHerself
That's Black Entertainment1990DocumentaryHerself
Brown Sugar1986TV Mini-Series documentaryHerself
Fred Astaire Salutes the Fox Musicals1974TV MovieHerself
The Murder Men1961Norma Sherman
Ebony Parade1947Herself (as Dorothy Daindridge)


Won Awards

1983Star on the Walk of FameWalk of FameMotion PictureOn 18 January 1983. At 6719 Hollywood Blvd.

Nominated Awards

1960Golden GlobeGolden Globes, USABest Actress - Comedy or MusicalPorgy and Bess (1959)
1960Golden LaurelLaurel AwardsTop Female Musical PerformancePorgy and Bess (1959)
1956BAFTA Film AwardBAFTA AwardsBest Foreign ActressCarmen Jones (1954)
1955OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Actress in a Leading RoleCarmen Jones (1954)

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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