The first African American actress to gain a main part, Dorothy Dandridge was one of the most startlingly attractive and magnetic stars to ever grace Hollywood. Over her brief but notable career, Dorothy Dandridge broke numerous important ground.
The scars of a horrible childhood, a string of failed romances, countless job losses, and persistent battles with drug and alcohol misuse were all part of her extremely disturbed existence. She also had to battle racism because Dandridge grew up at a time when derogatory racial stereotypes were prevalent in the entertainment industry.
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1922 to Ruby Dandridge and her divorced husband, Cyril. When they were little, Dorothy and her elder sister Vivian performed in song-and-dance skits at churches and schools around the nation. Their mother, who yearned for a career in show business, wrote the skits.
Ruby Dandridge left Cleveland in 1930 with her daughters in order to make it big in Hollywood. There, the family made due with what Ruby could make from little parts in movies or on radio, generally in the capacity of a domestic servant—a character role that was frequently given to black actors and actresses at the time. As a result of her mother’s female companion, Dorothy endured years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Dandridge’s film career soon started to take off, though. In addition to a few supporting roles, she portrayed an African princess in Tarzan’s Peril from 1951 and a teacher in Bright Road from 1953. She was given the main part in Carmen Jones, a sumptuous musical adaptation of Georges Bizet’s 18th-century French opera Carmen, which would make her a famous.
Carmen Jones is the tale of a charming but unstable gypsy girl whose seductive methods end in tragedy. The gypsy girl from Bizet’s modified version, which is directed by Otto Preminger and is set in Florida during World War II, is changed into a seductive black factory worker who corrupts a young black person.