Dorothy Dandridge as Gianna in the 1960 film, Malaga.
A Hollywood journalist wrote: “Forget Carmen Jones! This is a master actress giving everything she has to a role, this is Dorothy Dandridge’s greatest performance on film, bar none. Her disillusioned, world-weary, but still hopeful Gianna is the essence of film noir.”
Dorothy Dandridge, Sweet ‘N Hot (March 1944).
Young Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge and The King and I
"There are not too many opportunities for you in films. You let these opportunities go by and all of a sudden there will be another beautiful Black woman, singer-actress who comes down the pike and you’re passé. You’ve got to take every opportunity. Do it. You need it. You have to have it. You have to have that credit. You have to have that exposure. There’s no limit to what you can play. Right now you’re on the top of the heap. You turn this down and nothing is going to be coming for you in the next two years. You’ve got to keep Dorothy Dandridge above the title." Dorothy Dandridge’s publicist Orin Borsten plead for her to accept the role of Tuptim.
Otto Preminger pressured Dottie not to take the role, because he saw her as a leading lady in the same league as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Otto, rightfully felt that Dottie should only play leading roles. After all, Carmen Jones was a huge success and she had just made history by becoming the first black woman nominated for an Academy Award in a Leading Role.
Dorothy ultimately listened to Otto and turned down the role. Many felt that this decision is what caused her career to falter. What do you think? Should Dorothy have taken the role? Or was Otto right? Was the role of Tuptim a step down for someone who had just received a historic Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards?
Dorothy Dandridge was viewed as one of Black Hollywood’s greatest hope for the future. Dottie, along with Sammy Davis Jr and Nat “King” Cole, helped create a far more integrated movie capital — not only at the studios, but also in the way that black stars lived and capitalized.
Dorothy Dandridge in the 1942 soundie, Zoot Suit. Between 1941 and 1943, Dottie starred in a number of soundies. She was paid $25 for one day’s work. Many legendary state began their work in Hollywood through these soundies. As Dottie’s career flourished, she rarely spoke about her early work. However, these short musical films allowed Dottie to hone her talents and develop the discipline, style, and technique that would become so valuable to her career.
"So many of you probably think that the life of show business people is all fun and glitter but we are human beings, too. What happens to us is very much the same as what happens to you." - Dorothy Dandridge
(Dorothy Dandridge as Melmendi, Queen of Ashuba in the 1951 film, Tarzan’s Peril.)Dorothy played this role like the beautiful, all-American Black girl next door. When she uttered dialogue like “Stay, Tarzan,” she gave an enticingly playful Hollywood-style performance, knowing precisely how to send a signal underneath a line.
Dorothy Dandridge photographed at Lindsay’s Sky Bar in Cleveland, Ohio by Frank Kuchirchuk.
"A woman like this, her great strength is in preserving herself day by day. That’s what she did. She preserved herself everyday. All these things were troubling her. Her child and the background she’d come from. Being Black and being a woman and being in a White world and to always be reminded she was an outsider." - Publicist Orin Borsten on his client, Dorothy Dandridge
The Porgy and Bess rape sequence with Brock Peters as Crown and Dorothy Dandridge as Bess. The rape scene occurs when Bess, returning from a church picnic, is accosted by Crown. She attempted to flee his embrace, but he pursued her relentlessly. When he catches Bess, he pins her arms behind her back and proceeds to kiss her. Initially she succumbs to the kiss, which “implies” that she consents to intercourse. HOWEVER, Bess struggles to free herself and cries out “Take your hands off me!” Although the rape is not actually seen in the film, it is signified in the violent act inflicted by Crown onto Bess.
Prior to filming this scene, Dorothy expressed to director Otto Preminger that she was uncomfortable and didn’t want to do it. She also expressed concerns that she had working with Brock Peters in the scene. According to Otto, Dorothy asked him to recast Brock because she "couldn’t stand that man.” Otto refused and iterated that Brock was doing very well in the part. Otto said that Dorothy got even more upset and kept insisting that she couldn’t work with him. "When he puts his hands on me, I can’t bear it. And…and…and he’s so black!”
Now before anyone goes accusing Dottie of hating black men or dark skin black men, let me just say this. I think that it was all psychological. Her father was a black man who was not part of her life. Her first husband was a philandering black man who was never there for her nor their child. I think that there was a lot of hurt in her life that caused her to have deep rooted issues regarding black men.