What is Harold Nicholas famous for
Actress Dorothy DandridgeA fighter for self-determination
This is the story of a gifted singer and great actress. Dorothy Dandridge was the first black woman to make a career in the dream factory. Or should one say better: against the dream factory? She was a pioneer. The first black American to appear on the cover of "Life" magazine, the first black woman to get an Oscar nomination in a leading role and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In her most famous role, 1952 as the eponymous heroine in Otto Preminger's film "Carmen Jones", she sets the screen in erotic vibrations. Premingers musical film relocates the plot of the Bizet opera to the time during the Second World War, in a parachute factory in North Carolina. When Carmen appears as a worker in a tight red skirt, the young Sergeant Brown, played by Harry Belafonte, can't help but fall for her.
Driving force behind the career: Dandridge's mother
Success did not fall into Dorothy Dandridge's lap. She was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up without a father. Her mother Ruby works as a housemaid and fights for a stage career for daughters Dorothy and Vivian. She writes skits for her girls, sends them to lessons in piano, speaking, singing, tap dancing, acrobatics.
Ruby Dandridge travels with them through the black communities of the southern states for eight years until the small family ends up in Los Angeles. Dorothy will soon be offered her first film roles. In 1941 she was able to show her musical skills on the screen in the film "Sun Valley Serenade": in an appearance with the entertainment duo Nicholas Brothers.
Dorothy Dandridge becomes engaged to her screen partner, Harold Nicholas. But after the marriage, the womanizer leaves her alone with their mentally handicapped daughter. Dandridge is solely responsible for the care. And she continues to work on herself. She is one of the first black actresses to study at the renowned Actor's Laboratory. When she dances with fellow student Anthony Quinn at a school public celebration, it causes a scandal in Hollywood. Notorious columnist Hedda Hopper wrote about the event in the Los Angeles Times:
"Everyone is as good as they are in their heart, regardless of race, belief, or skin color. But that doesn't mean you have to mix."
Dandridge experiences the deeply ingrained racism of American culture
Dorothy Dandridge resists. In a text in the California Eagle newspaper, she denounced the discrimination. She made contacts with the black civil rights movement, but also felt the consequences: Before she got the role as Carmen Jones, she was summoned to a subcommittee of the notorious Senate committee on un-American activities. Dandridge's pride and confidence can be felt in almost every scene in "Carmen Jones". For example when Carmen defends herself against the claims of her lover, played by Harry Belafonte:
Original sound from "Carmen Jones":
"I don't account for no man."
"You account for me! I love you ..."
"That gives you no right to own me. There's only one who does: that's me. Myself!"
"Carmen Jones" becomes a worldwide success and makes Dorothy Dandridge a superstar. But it is precisely this success that becomes a problem for Dandridge. Her eroticism, her sophistication, her intelligence and presence act like a provocation for the deeply rooted racism of American culture. For three years, Dandridge was not offered any role. And in 1957, in the film "Tamango", she was bitterly reassigned the place that the American entertainment industry intended: the role of a black slave.
In "Porgy and Bess" Dorothy Dandridge can be seen again in a leading role, again directed by Otto Preminger. As Bess, she has to defend herself against the sexual violence of the man she loves and is once again allowed to prove her powerful, lascivious screen presence.
Original sound from "Porgy and Bess":
"Take your hands off me. Take them off! Take your hands off me!"
Dorothy Dandridge died on September 8, 1965 at the age of 42 in Hollywood of an anti-depressant overdose. She may have fought with her very own demons and repeatedly come across the wrong men. But in the end she lacks the strength to start over and over again in a film industry that ultimately prevented the career she deserved.
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