• Publication date: January 25, 2010

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

Academy Award winner Halle Berry stars in 1999’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,” a breathtaking ...

Academy Award winner Halle Berry stars in 1999’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,” a breathtaking biopic of a pioneering, often forgotten African-American actress and singer. Dorothy Dandridge, played by Berry, began her life in show business. From her earliest years her mother forced her to perform alongside her two sisters; the family toured the United States to make cash, and forfeited a great deal of their education to do so. But the cash flow came to an abrupt end when America was struck by the Great Depression and the Dandridge sisters were and forced to search for alternative ways to make money. That did not mean they quit performing, but that they merely changed venues. The small, dingy clubs of the south were replaced with the prestigious stages of the Apollo and the Cotton Club, where Dorothy attracted the attention of not only black audiences and promoters, but also white America – who many believed were not ready for a leading, black actress similar to Marylyn Monroe. Yet the transitional period between struggle and stardom would not be easy. Home life was less than ideal, and a traumatic episode of sexual abuse scarred, and quite possibly ruined many relationships to come. Already an accomplished singer, Dandridge’s breakout film role was in 1955’s “Carmen Jones.” Her performance in the picture skyrocketed her to stardom, and earned her an Oscar for Best Actress, a feat never before reached for an African-American actor. Unfortunately the sweetness of success was soon accompanied by bitterness. While her face graced the cover of Time magazine, Dandridge could not escape America’s predominately racist society: she was forced to enter through backdoors and was not allowed the luxuries her fame should have afforded her. One of the most horrific instances was during a hotel stay; after merely dipping her foot into its swimming pool management ordered it to be drained and scrubbed, believing that black skin contained some kind of impurity. Prior to Dandridge’s fame black actors were relegated to roles as maids, janitors or other menial tasks. While she inevitably had to take some of those roles herself, she never stopped pushing for something greater. Still, mismanagement of her money, an abusive husband, psychological problems and drug addiction would contribute to a devastating downfall. If she had been born just 10 years later would she have been amongst Hollywood’s biggest female names? No one can, or will ever know for sure. Introducing Dorothy Dandridge won 5 Emmys and was nominated for 6 more. The picture’s soundtrack features musical selections that appropriately accompany its eras. It is rated R for language and sexual content.