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Dorothy Jean Dandridge an Enterprising Trailblazer
WeatherViolet1 June 2010
Peter Graves narrates this account of the life and career of actress and singer Dorothy Jean Dandridge, from her 1922 birth, in Cleveland, Ohio, to the mild-mannered Cyril Dandridge and aggressive stage mother, Ruby Butler Dandridge, who soon leaves Cyril and forbids him to see daughters, Vivian and Dorothy, for whom she creates a singing act, "The Wonder Children," to tour churches and clubs alike.

Ruby joins forces with her female partner, Neva, and launches a tour of her daughters and their young neighbor Etta Jones, billing the trio as "The Dandridge Sisters," as they tour the country, including venues as Harlem's "Cotton Club" and Hollywood's motion picture industry after the Depression causes a decline in theatre patronage.

But when the aggressive Neva torments and molests the child, young Dorothy decides to leave the act, with Ruby's blessing provided that Dorothy still earn her fees.

From here, this discusses the stage and film career of Dorothy Dandridge and some of the many other obstacles which she faces and challenges along the way, to pioneer the trail for headlining female African-American entertainers to follow.

This episode cites Dorothy as one to challenge Hollywood and Las Vegas, where she draws in the crowds with her performance but isn't permitted to stay at the hotel.

Along the way, the lovely Dorothy Dandridge becomes the first African-American female to grace the cover of "Life Magazine," and also the first African-American to be nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a lead acting Oscar.

This also discusses Dorothy's marriages, with Harold Nicholas (1942-51) and Jack Denison (1959-62), and the many men in her life through the difficult times which she endures, as well as her only daughter, who is born handicapped.

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Geraldine Branton (Friend/former sister-in-law), Fayard Nicholas (Dancer/former brother-in-law), Harold Nicholas (Dancer/former husband), Diahann Carroll (Actress/Singer), Halle Berry (Actress), Nichelle Nichols (Actress/Singer), Bobby Short (Singer/Pianist), Abby Mann (Producer), Gerald Mayer (Producer/Director), and Donald Bogle (Biographer).

Archive footage includes scenes with Dorothy Dandridge, Jackson Brothers, Nicholas Brothers, Sonja Henie, Milton Berle, Lex Barker, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, John Justin and Jack Denison.

Film and Television Clips include a screen glimpse of Dorothy Dandridge through the years, in scenes from "Hearts in Dixie," "It Can't Last Forever" (1937), "Sun Valley Serenade" (1941), "Cow-Cow Boogie" (1942), "Tarzan's Peril" (1951), "Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town" (1952), "Bright Road" (1953), "Carmen Jones" (1954), "Island in the Sun" (1957), "Tamango" (1958), and "Porgy and Bess" (1959).
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"Dorothy Dandridge: Little Girl Lost" is an excellent episode of "Biography"
tavm29 May 2010
Just watched this "Biography" episode on the DVD of the movie Island in the Sun. It showcases Ms. Dandridge's rise and fall in the movies from her '30s and '40s musical performances in various feature films and performance shorts called "Soundies" to her Oscar-nominated role in Carmen Jones to more limited roles later on. We also are treated to her tumultuous life off-screen with wayward husband Harold Nicholas, second husband Jack Denison who abused her, and her forbidden affair with Jones director Otto Preminger. Of course, there are wonderful clips of her highlights from Sun Valley Serenade with Harold and his brother Fayard and the "Dat's Love" number from Carmen Jones. And good interviews with Harold and Fayard, good friend Geraldine Branton, director Gerald Mayer who was the first to team Dorothy with Harry Belafonte on Bright Road, Donald Bogle who wrote an excellent book on Ms. Dandridge, and actresses Diahann Caroll-Dorothy's CJ co-star-and Halle Berry-who would win an Emmy playing her on HBO a couple of years after this. So on that note, "Dorothy Dandridge: Little Girl Lost" is well worth seeing.
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