In 1954, Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922 – September 8, 1965) became the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film Carmen Jones. She was also the first black woman to be featured on the cover of LIFE.
Dandridge was born in Cleveland. Her father, Cyril, was a minister, and her mother, Ruby has been referred to as an "aspiring performer". Their relationship was tumultuous, father was abusive and in contradiction with contemporary mores, Ruby didn't put up with it. She left the house when five months pregnant with Dorothy, moving into her own home and making the acquaintance of a women who helped raise the girls. Dorothy lived at one time on 103rd Street, later on Central Avenue. Her childhood in Cleveland was brief, however. Following her parents' legal separation Ruby took she and her older sister Vivian on the road as an act called The Wonder Children, later The Dandridge Sisters.
Early film roles include an uncredited appearance in the Our Gang Short Teacher's Beau and as a singer in the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races. Her career was marked by highs and lows, where she would make up for a dearth of decent film roles with nightclub work. Ironically, for the role which defined the pinnacle of her career, her historic success in Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones, her singing was dubbed by another performer. The next film role offered her was as a slave in The King and I, which she declined.
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Dorothy Dandridge (book) by Donald Bogle