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Dorothy Sebastian Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (3)  | Trivia (5)

Overview (5)

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (aftermath of cancer)
Birth NameDorothy Sabiston
Nicknames Slam
Little Alabam
Dottie
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The daughter of a clergyman and a mother, who was an accomplished painter of portraits and landscapes, Stella Dorothy Sabiston spent her formative years in her home state of Alabama. She had three siblings, all of whom died relatively young. She attended the University of Alabama, but always harbored ambitions of becoming an actress. In the early 1920s, the curly-haired brunette abandoned her studies and ran away to New York (as Dorothy Sebastian), where she took up acrobatic dancing at the prestigious Ned Wayburn academy. By the time she took elocution lessons to get rid of her noticeable southern drawl, Dorothy had her first failed marriage (1920-24) behind her. Living in a cheap apartment, and after several rejections, she landed her first job in show business as a chorus girl in "George White's Scandals" in June 1924. The show opened at the Apollo Theatre and ran for 198 performances, closing in December. Sometime prior to that, according to recollections of fellow cast member and friend Louise Brooks, Dorothy struck up a somewhat personal connection with then-British cabinet minister Lord Beaverbrook. Their meeting took place during a party at the Ritz Hotel in an apartment owned by producer Otto Kahn, at which several Scandals girls and Hollywood producers were present. The end result was an MGM contract for Dorothy.

She showed promise in her first film, Sackcloth and Scarlet (1925), starring Alice Terry. Much to her chagrin, as her career went on she was often cast as vamps or, at least, disreputable or hard-boiled "other women" in films like Hell's Island (1930). On occasion she played nice girls, for instance in A Woman of Affairs (1928), with Greta Garbo. Then there were 'friends of the heroine' roles, which included her major successes, Our Dancing Daughters (1928) with Joan Crawford, and Spite Marriage (1929) with Buster Keaton(to whom she was romantically linked at the time). At the end of her five-year contract with MGM she asked for a raise (her weekly salary amounted to $1,000 per week), but was refused. Out of a contract, her film career faltered after several "Poverty Row" productions at Tiffany and, finally, a leading role in the (for her) ironically titled They Never Come Back (1932). Thereafter, like so many other actors who bucked the studio system or simply failed to make the grade as major stars, she was relegated to minor supporting roles (though some of them were in A-grade pictures like The Women (1939) and Reap the Wild Wind (1942), which starred Ray Milland and John Wayne).

Sadly, Dorothy Sebastian grabbed the headlines not always as a result of her profession: the three-times-married actress was involved in several well-publicized court cases over tax evasion (1929), acrimonious divorce proceedings from ex-husband William Boyd (of 'Hopalong Cassidy' fame) (1936), a drunk driving charge after a party at Keaton's house in November 1938 (naively suggesting that a meal of spaghetti and garlic had been responsible for "retaining the intoxicating odor of the wine") and a charge by a San Diego hotel of not paying a $100 account, which was later dismissed (she eventually countersued the hotel for defamation of character and was awarded $10,000). During the war years Dorothy worked as an X-ray technician at a defense plant, Bohn Aluminium & Brass, but continued to act in small parts. She met her third husband at this time, the aircraft technician Herman Shapiro. Dorothy had a brief scene with Gloria Grahame in It's a Wonderful Life (1946), but it ended up on the cutting room floor. After being ill for some time, Dorothy died of cancer in August 1957 at the Motion Picture Country House, Woodland Hills. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (3)

Herman Shapiro (27 August 1946 - 8 April 1957) ( her death)
William Boyd (19 December 1930 - 29 May 1936) ( divorced)
Allen Driver Stafford (9 November 1920 - ?) ( divorced)

Trivia (5)

Former Ziegfeld girl.
Mistress of Buster Keaton, 1929-1935.
Sebastian was nicknamed "Slam" because she would suddenly pass out cold after a few drinks. Buster Keaton, her lover in the late 1920s, turned this disconcerting habit into a classic gag routine in his film "Spite Marriage" (1929), in which Keaton tries to put his very drunk newlywed wife (a game Sebastian) to bed. It was a career highlight for the actress, and Keaton revived the gag as part of his stage show in the 1940s.
Father: Lycurgus R. Sabiston; Mother: Stella Armstrong.

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