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DANDRIDGE, DOROTHY

DANDRIDGE, DOROTHY (9 Nov. 1923-8 Sept. 1965), Cleveland-born black nightclub entertainer and movie actress, who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1954, was influenced by her mother, Ruby, a screen and radio actress. Dorothy entered show business at 5 as part of a singing trio with her mother and sister, Vivian. She also performed acrobatic ballet at Cleveland churches and schools, becoming known, with her sisters, as the Wonder Children. The family moved to Los Angeles when Dorothy was 9. Dorothy dropped out of high school and formed a trio with her sister Vivian and friend Etta Jones, singing with Big Band leader Jimmy Lunceford, winning small parts in movies, and in 1940 opening at the Cotton Club in New York City, where Dandridge met dancer Harold Nicholas. They married in 1941; had a daughter, Harolyn, in 1944; and divorced in 1951.

After singing with the Desi Arnaz band at Hollywood Mocambo, and successes on the supper-show circuit, she starred opposite Harry Belafonte in Carmen Jones, a black Broadway musical based on Bizet's opera, which appeared in Cleveland at the Palace in 1954. In 1959, she costarred with Sidney Poitier in Porgy and Bess. On 30 June 1959, Dandridge married Jack Dennison, a Las Vegas nightclub owner. They had no children and divorced in 1962. In 1963, Dandridge filed for bankruptcy, with debts over $100,000. In 1965 she collapsed in her West Hollywood apartment from a rare complication resulting from a fractured foot.