Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge

Source: MGM Television (1962)

movie star & jazz singer

She was the first African-American to be nominated for a leading role by the Academy Awards; the first black woman featured on the cover of Life magazine (1954); was told to stay inside her hotel room when touring, because of racial segregation; and died tragically under mysterious circumstances at a young age. Dorothy Dandridge, actress and singer, first took the world by storm when singing in major nightclubs in the early 1950s, followed by a starring role in the 1954 hit movie "Carmen Jones". In the movie - despite her amazing singing abilities, Dandridge's voice was dubbed over because the role called for an operatic singer (while Dandridge sang jazz). She was a "first" in many areas, including being the first black singer at the famous Empire Room of New York's Waldorf-Astoria (opening the door for many black performers after her, including Count Basie and Lena Horne). Dorothy Dandridge was a fighter, refusing to perform in the nude and rejecting stereotypical roles. In the early 1960s, her career stagnated and she filed for bankruptcy (after learning her financial managers had stolen from her). She could no longer afford to take care of her daughter, who was mentally disabled, forcing her to place her daughter in a mental institution. Then - in the fall of 1965, before a scheduled appearance at a New York nightclub, the normally optimistic Dandridge told a friend on the phone "Whatever happens, I know you'll understand." Hours later, she was found dead in her apartment with the exact cause, to this day, undetermined. One report said she overdosed on an antidepressant. She was only 42 years old. You can hear Dorothy Dandridge and other legendary jazz singers here at Jazz Diva Radio.