Dorothy Dandridge was a woman of magnificent beauty and extraordinary talent, who dreamed of one day reaching the upper echelon of Hollywood as an dramatic actress. In 1954, that dream came true when she was cast as the lead in Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, the first all-black musical filmed in Technicolor. Not only was the movie a success, but Dorothy received acclaim for her portrayal of Carmen Jones, becoming Hollywood’s first African American dramatic female movie star. She was also the first African American woman to grace the cover of Life magazine.
On February 12, 1954 Dorothy received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, making her the first African American actress to receive such an honor. On March 30, 1955 Dorothy attended the 27th Annual Academy Awards with her sister Vivian. The night was a historic one for many reasons. Dorothy was not only the first African American woman nominated for Best Actress, but also the first African American actress to present an award.
Though she did not win the Oscar, Dorothy captivated the hearts of the country, and symbolized the hopes and dreams of African Americans everywhere. With the tremendous success of Carmen Jones, one would assume Dorothy Dandridge would remain one the top actresses in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Hollywood was too focused on her skin color instead of her talent. Three years pasted before Dorothy starred in another film. In 1957, she appeared apart of an ensemble cast in the movie Island in the Sun. She starred in other movies including The Decks Ran Red (1958), Tamango (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959) and Malaga (1960), but none received the acclaim and garnered the popularity of Carmen Jones.
As Diahann Carroll said, “Dorothy Dandridge should be the most successful movie star in the world, but she was a black woman at the wrong time.” She captivated the world with her beauty, and amazed audiences everywhere with her undeniable talent . Most importantly she inspired and blazed the trail for generations of actors and entertainers. Though her influence doesn’t end there. It’s broad enough to reach just about any and everyone including me. Dorothy dared to dream big, and accomplished what seemed virtually impossible during the 1950s. Her dreams our now our realities, and I am forever grateful.
M. Williams is a guest contributor and curator behind the @DandridgeLove Blog.
Williams has always had a great love and admiration for Dorothy. When she realized that so many in this generation didn’t know who she was, or the rich legacy she left behind. She started an Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr in hopes of increasing awareness about her life and legacy. Williams’s goal has always been to uplift the legacy of Dorothy Dandridge, by acknowledging her triumphs as well as her trials. Dorothy has opened the door for so many women especially of color. Williams believes it is our duty to celebrate her because not only did Dandridge break down countless barriers but she has inspired others to do the same. M. Williams hopes in time Dorothy’s legacy will not only be more widely known, but truly appreciated.