Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922 - September 8, 1965) was an American actress and popular singer, and was the first African American to be
nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
She performed as a vocalist in venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. In 1954, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress
and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Carmen Jones, and, in 1959, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a
Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Porgy and Bess. In 1999, she was the subject of the HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. She has been
recognized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Dandridge was married and divorced twice, first to dancer and entertainer Harold Nicholas (the father of her daughter, Harolyn Suzanne) and then to
Jack Denison. Dandridge died of an accidental drug overdose, at the age of 42.
Early life and careerDorothy Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Cyril Dandridge (October 25, 1895 - July 9, 1989), a
cabinetmaker and minister, and to Ruby Dandridge (nee Butler), an aspiring entertainer. Dandridge's parents separated shortly before her birth. Ruby
Dandridge soon created an act for her two young daughters, Vivian and Dorothy, under the name of "The Wonder Children." The daughters toured the
Southern United States for five years while Ruby worked and performed in Cleveland. During this time, they toured almost non-stop and rarely attended
At the onset of the Great Depression, work virtually dried up for the Dandridges, as it did for many of the Chitlin' circuit performers. Ruby
Dandridge moved to Hollywood, California, where she found steady work on radio and film in small parts as a domestic servant. "The Wonder Kids" were
renamed "The Dandridge Sisters" and booked into such venues as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City.
Dorothy Dandridge's first screen appearance was a bit part in a 1935 Our Gang short. In 1937, she appeared in the Marx Brothers feature film, A Day at
the Races. In 1940, Dandridge played a murderer in the race film, Four Shall Die. All of her early parts were stereotypical African-American roles,
but her singing ability and presence brought her popularity in nightclubs nationwide. During this period, she starred in several "soundies" film
clips designed to be displayed on juke boxes including "Paper Doll" by the Mills Brothers, "Cow Cow Boogie", "Jig in the Jungle", "Mr. & Mrs.
Carpenter's Rent Party."
Carmen JonesIn 1954, director and writer Otto Preminger cast Dandridge, along with Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters, Diahann Carroll,
Madame Sul-Te-Wan (uncredited), and Joe Adams, in his all-black production of Carmen Jones. However, Dandridge's singing voice was dubbed by opera
singer Marilyn Horne.
Upon release in 1955, Carmen Jones grossed $60,000 during its first week and $47,000 in its second week. The film received favorable reviews, and
Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming only the third African American to receive a nomination in any Academy Award
category (after Hattie McDaniel and Ethel Waters)but the first African American to be nominated for best actress. Grace Kelly won the award for her
performance in The Country Girl. At the awards ceremony, Dandridge presented the Academy Award for Film Editing to Gene Milford for On the
Dandridge first gained fame as a solo artist from her performances in nightclubs, usually accompanied by Phil Moore on piano. As well-known as she
became from renditions of songs such as "Blow Out the Candle", "You Do Something To Me", and "Talk Sweet Talk To Me", she recorded very little on
vinyl. Whether it was because of personal choice or lack of opportunity is unknown.
In 1940, as part of the Dandridge Sisters singing group, Dandridge recorded four songs with the Jimmy Lunceford band:
"You Ain't Nowhere" (Columbia #28007)
"That's Your Red Wagon" (Columbia #28006)
"Ain't Going To Go To Study War No More" (Columbia #26938)
"Minnie The Moocher is Dead" (Columbia #26937A)
In 1944, she recorded a duet with Louis Armstrong from the film Pillow To Post:
"Watcha Say" (Decca L-3502)
In 1951, she recorded a single for Columbia Records:
"Blow Out the Candle/Talk Sweet Talk To Me" (catalogue # unknown)
In 1953, she recorded a song for the film Remains To Be Seen:
"Taking a Chance On Love" (MGM Records, catalogue # unknown)
In 1958, she recorded a full length album for Verve Records featuring Oscar Peterson with Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, and Alvin Stoller (Catalogue #314
547-514 2) that remained unreleased in the vaults until a cd release in 1999. This cd also included 4 tracks from 1961 (with an unknown orchestra)
that included one 45 rpm record single and another aborted single:
"It's Easy To Remember" (21942-3)
"What Is There To Say" (21943-6)
"That Old Feeling" (21944-4)
"The Touch Of Your Lips" (21945-12)
"When Your Lover Has Gone" (21946-1)
"The Nearness Of You" (21947-7)
"(In This World) I'm Glad There Is You" (21948-10)
"I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face" (21949-4)
"Body And Soul" (21950-2)
"How Long Has This Been Going On?" (21951-6)
"I've Got A Crush On You" (21952-3)
"I Didn't Know What Time It Was" (21953-3)
"Somebody" (recorded in 1961) (23459-2)
"Stay with It" (recorded in 1961) (23460-4)
(above two tracks released on Verve Records single #Verve V 10231)
"It's a Beautiful Evening" (recorded in 1961) (23461-5)
"Smooth Operator" (recorded in 1961) (23462-2)
(above two tracks were aborted for release as a single and remained unreleased until the "Smooth Operator" cd release in 1999). These represent the
only known songs Dandridge recorded on vinyl. Several songs she sang were recorded on Soundies. These songs, which include her version of "Cow Cow
Boogie", are not included on this list.
Personal lifeDandridge married dancer and entertainer Harold Nicholas on September 6, 1942, and gave birth to her only child, Harolyn Suzanne
Nicholas, on September 2, 1943. Harolyn was born brain-damaged, and the couple divorced in October 1951.
Dandridge married Jack Denison on June 22, 1959, although the pair divorced amid allegations of domestic violence and financial setbacks. At this
time, Dandridge discovered that the people who were handling her finances had swindled her out of $150,000, and that she was $139,000 in debt for back
taxes. Forced to sell her Hollywood home and to place her daughter in a state mental institution in Camarillo, California, Dandridge moved into a
small apartment at 8495 Fountain Avenue in West Hollywood, California. Alone and without any acting roles or singing engagements on the horizon,
Dandridge suffered a nervous breakdown. Shortly thereafter, Earl Mills started arranging her comeback.
DeathOn September 8, 1965, Dandridge spoke by telephone with friend Geri Branton. Dandridge was scheduled to fly to New York the next day to prepare
for her nightclub engagement at Basin Street East. Several hours after her conversation with Branton ended, Dandridge was found dead by her manager,
Earl Mills. Two months later a Los Angeles pathology institute determined the cause to be an accidental overdose of Imipramine, a tricyclic
antidepressant. However, an alternative source reported that the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office came to a different conclusion, that: Miss Dandridge died of a rare embolism blockage of the blood passages at the lungs and brain by tiny pieces of fat flaking off from bone marrow in a
fractured right foot she sustained in a Hollywood film five days before she died. She was 42 years old.
On September 12, 1965, a private funeral service was held for Dandridge at the Little Chapel of the Flowers; she was then cremated and her ashes
entombed in the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.
LegacyMany years passed before the entertainment industry acknowledged Dandridge's legacy. Starting in the 1980s, stars such as Cicely Tyson, Jada
Pinkett Smith, Halle Berry, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett (who are all African-American women) acknowledged Dandridge's
contributions to the role of blacks in film.
In 1999, Halle Berry took the lead role of Dandridge in the HBO Movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, for which she won an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe
Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. When Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Monster's Ball, she dedicated the "moment to
Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll."
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Dorothy Dandridge has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 671 Hollywood Boulevard.
Harold George "Harry" Belafonte, Jr. (originally "Belafonete"; born March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing "The Banana Boat Song," with its signature lyric "Day-O." Throughout his career he has been an advocate for civil rights and humanitarian causes and was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.
Born Harold George Belafonte, Jr., at Lying-in Hospital, New York City, New York, Belafonte was the son of Melvine (née Love) – a housekeeper (of Jamaican descent) – and Harold George Belafonete, Sr., a Martiniquan who worked as chef in the Royal Navy. From 1932 to 1940, he lived with his grandmother in her native country of Jamaica. When he returned to New York City he attended George Washington High School after which he joined the Navy and served during World War II. At the end of the 1940s he took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator alongside Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur and Sidney Poitier, while performing with the American Negro Theatre. He subsequently received a Tony Award for his participation in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac.
Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes. The first time he appeared in front of an audience he was backed by the Charlie Parker band, which included Charlie Parker himself, Max Roach and Miles Davis, among others. At first he was a pop singer, launching his recording career on the Roost label in 1949, but later he developed a keen interest in folk music, learning material through the Library of Congress' American folk songs archives. With guitarist and friend Millard Thomas, Belafonte soon made his debut at the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard. In 1952 he received a contract with RCA Victor.
His first widely–released single, which went on to become his "signature" song with audience participation in virtually all his live performances, was "Matilda," recorded April 27, 1953. His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) became the first LP to sell over 1 million copies (Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons," both singles, had previously surpassed that mark). The album is number four on Billboard's "Top 100 Album" list for having spent 31 weeks at number 1, 58 weeks in the top ten, and 99 weeks on the U.S. charts. The album introduced American audiences to Calypso music (which had originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 20th century) and Belafonte was dubbed the "King of Calypso," a title he wore with reservations, since he had no claims to any Calypso Monarch titles.
One of the songs included in the album is the now famous "Banana Boat Song" (listed as "Day O" on the original release), which reached number five on the pop charts, and featured its signature lyric "Day–O." Belafonte based his version on a 1954 recording by Jamaican folk singer Louise Bennett. His other smash hit was "Jump in the Line."
Many of the compositions recorded for Calypso, including "Banana Boat Song" and "Jamaica Farewell," gave songwriting credit to Irving Burgie, Belafonte and his team but were really previously recorded Jamaican mento songs sold as calypso. The original Jamaican versions can now be heard on the "Jamaica—Mento1951–1958" CD released in 2010.
While primarily known for Calypso, Belafonte has recorded in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. His second–most popular hit, which came immediately after "The Banana Boat Song," was the novelty tune "Mama Look at Bubu," also known as "Mama Look a Boo–Boo" (originally recorded by Lord Melody in 1956), in which he sings humorously about misbehaving and disrespectful children. It reached number eleven on the pop chart.
In 1959 he starred in Tonight With Belafonte, a nationally televised special that featured Odetta, who sang Water Boy and who performed a duet with Belafonte of There's a Hole in My Bucket that hit the national charts in 1961. Belafonte continued to record for RCA through the 1950s to the 1970s. Two live albums, both recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1959 and 1960, enjoyed critical and commercial success. From his 1959 album, Hava Nagila became part of his regular routine and one of his signature songs. He was one of many entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at the inaugural gala of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. That same year he released his second calypso album, Jump Up Calypso, which went on to become another million seller. During the 1960s he introduced several artists to American audiences, most notably South African singer Miriam Makeba and Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. His album Midnight Special (1962) featured the first–ever record appearance by a then young harmonica player named Bob Dylan.
As The Beatles and other stars from Britain began to dominate the U.S. pop charts, Belafonte's commercial success diminished; 1964's Belafonte at The Greek Theatre was his last album to appear in Billboard's Top 40. His last hit single, A Strange Song, was released in 1967 and peaked at number 5 on the Adult contemporary music charts. Belafonte has received Grammy Awards for the albums Swing Dat Hammer (1960) and An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba (1965). The latter album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under Apartheid. He earned six Gold Records.
Later recordings and other activities
Belafonte's recording activity slowed after leaving RCA in the 1970s. From the mid–1970s to early 1980s he spent the greater part of his time touring Japan, Europe, Cuba and elsewhere. His involvement in USA for Africa during the mid–1980s resulted in renewed interest in his music, culminating in a record deal with EMI. He subsequently released his first album of original material in over a decade, Paradise in Gazankulu, in 1988. The album contains ten protest songs against the South African former Apartheid policy and as of 2011 was his last studio album. In the same year Belafonte, as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, attended a symposium in Harare, Zimbabwe to focus attention on child survival and development in Southern African countries. As part of the symposium, he performed a concert for UNICEF. A Kodak video crew filmed the concert, which was released as a 60-minute concert video entitled "Global Carnival." It features many of the songs from the album Paradise in Gazankulu and some of his classic hits. Also in 1988, Tim Burton used "The Banana Boat Song" and "Jump in the Line" in his movie Beetlejuice."
Following a lengthy recording hiatus, An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends, a soundtrack and video of a televised concert were released in 1997 by Island Records. The Long Road to Freedom, An Anthology of Black Music, a huge multi–artist project recorded during the 1960s and 1970s with RCA, was finally released by the label in 2001. The album was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Awards for Best Boxed Recording Package, for Best Album Notes and for Best Historical Album.
Belafonte was the first African–American to win an Emmy, with his first solo TV special Tonight with Belafonte (1959). During the 1960s he appeared on TV specials alongside such artists as Julie Andrews, Petula Clark, Lena Horne and Nana Mouskouri. He was also a guest star on a memorable episode of The Muppet Show in 1978, in which he performed his signature song "Day–O" on television for the first time. The episode is best known for Belafonte's rendition of the spiritual song, "Turn the World Around," which he performed with Muppets that resembled African tribal masks. It became one of the series' most famous performances. It was reportedly Jim Henson's favorite episode, and Belafonte reprised the song at Henson's memorial in 1990. "Turn the World Around" was also included in the 2005 official hymnal supplement of the Unitarian Universalist Association, "Singing the Journey."
Belafonte received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1989. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994 and he won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. He performed sell–out concerts globally through the 1950s to the 2000s. Due to illness he was forced to cancel a reunion tour with Nana Mouskouri planned for the spring and summer of 2003 following a tour in Europe. His last concert was a benefit concert for the Atlanta Opera on October 25, 2003. In a 2007 interview he stated that he had since retired from performing.
Belafonte has starred in several films. His first film role was in Bright Road (1953), in which he appeared alongside Dorothy Dandridge. The two subsequently starred in Otto Preminger's hit musical Carmen Jones (1954). Ironically, Belafonte's singing in the film was dubbed by an opera singer, as Belafonte's own singing voice was seen as unsuitable for the role. Using his star clout, Belafonte was subsequently able to realize several then–controversial film roles. In 1957's Island in the Sun, there are hints of an affair between Belafonte's character and the character played by Joan Fontaine. The film also starred James Mason, Dandridge, Joan Collins, Michael Rennie and John Justin. In 1959, he starred in and produced Robert Wise's Odds Against Tomorrow, in which he plays a bank robber uncomfortably teamed with a racist partner (Robert Ryan). He also co–starred with Inger Stevens in The World, the Flesh and the Devil. Belafonte was offered the role of Porgy in Preminger's Porgy and Bess, where he would have once again starred opposite Dandridge, but he refused the role because he objected to its racial stereotyping.
Dissatisfied with the film roles available to him, he returned to music during the 1960s. In the early 1970s Belafonte appeared in more films among which are two with Poitier: Buck and the Preacher (1972) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974). In 1984 Belafonte produced and scored the musical film Beat Street, dealing with the rise of hip-hop culture. Together with Arthur Baker, he produced the gold-certified soundtrack of the same name. Belafonte next starred in a major film again in the mid-1990s, appearing with John Travolta in the race–reverse drama White Man's Burden (1995); and in Robert Altman's jazz age drama Kansas City (1996), the latter of which garnered him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also starred as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in the TV drama Swing Vote (1999). In late 2006, Belafonte appeared in the role of Nelson, a friend of an employee of the Ambassador Hotel played by Anthony Hopkins, in Bobby, Emilio Estevez's ensemble drama about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
Belafonte and Marguerite Byrd were married from 1948 to 1957. They have two daughters: Adrienne and Shari. Shari Belafonte, married to Sam Behrens, is a photographer, model, singer and actor. In 1997 Adrienne Biesemeyer and her daughter Rachel Blue founded the Anir Foundation/Experience. Anir focuses on humanitarian work in southern Africa.
On March 8, 1957, Belafonte married second wife Julie Robinson (former dancer with the Katherine Dunham Company). They had two children, David and Gina Belafonte. David Belafonte (a former model and actor) is an Emmy-winning producer and the executive director of the family-held company Belafonte Enterprises Inc. A music producer, he has been involved in most of Belafonte's albums and tours. He married Danish model, singer and TV personality Malena Belafonte, born Mathiesen, who won silver in Dancing with the Stars in Denmark in 2009. Malena Belafonte founded Speyer Legacy School, an award winning private elementary school for gifted and talented children. David and Malena's daughter Sarafina attended this school. Gina Belafonte is a TV and film actress and worked with her father as coach and producer on more than six films. Gina helped found The Gathering For Justice, an intergenerational, intercultural non-profit organization working to reintroduce nonviolence to stop child incarceration. She is married to actor Scott McCray.
In April 2008, Belafonte married Pamela Frank. Belafonte lived in a 17-room apartment at 300 West End Avenue (corner of 74th Street) in New York City for 50 years. In 2007 he sold his fifth-floor apartment to Abigail Disney for 10.8 million dollars. In October 1998 Belafonte contributed a letter to Liv Ullmann's book Letter to My Grandchild.
Political and humanitarian activism
Belafonte's political beliefs were greatly inspired by the singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson, who mentored him. Robeson was a controversial figure who supported the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. Robeson opposed not only racial prejudice in the United States, but also western colonialism in Africa. Belafonte's success did not protect him from racial discrimination, particularly in the American South. Belafonte refused to perform there from 1954 until 1961. In 1960 he appeared in a campaign commercial for Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. Kennedy later named Belafonte cultural advisor to the Peace Corps.
Belafonte gave the keynote address at the ACLU of Northern California's annual Bill of Rights Day Celebration In December 2007 and was awarded the Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. The 2011 Sundance Film Festival featured the documentary film "Sing Your Song," a biographical film focusing on Belafonte's contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and his endeavours to promote social justice globally.
Civil rights activist
Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s confidants. He provided for King's family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Like many other civil rights activists, Belafonte was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He bailed King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other civil rights protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drives, and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963.
During "Freedom Summer" in 1964 Belafonte bankrolled the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, flying to Mississippi that August with $60,000 in cash and entertaining crowds in Greenwood. In 1968 Belafonte appeared on a Petula Clark primetime television special on NBC. In the middle of a song, Clark smiled and briefly touched Belafonte's arm, which made the show's sponsor, Plymouth Motors, nervous. Plymouth wanted to cut the segment, but Clark, who had ownership of the special, told NBC that the performance would be shown intact or she would not allow the special to be aired at all. Newspapers reported the controversy, and when the special aired it grabbed high ratings. Belafonte appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and performed a controversial "Mardi Gras" number with footage intercut from the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots. CBS censors deleted the segment.
In 1985, he helped organize the Grammy Award winning song "We Are the World," a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa. He performed in the Live Aid concert that same year. In 1987 he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador. Following his appointment Belafonte traveled to Dakar, Senegal, where he served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children. He also helped to raise funds—alongside more than 20 other artists—in the largest concert ever held in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1994 he went on a mission to Rwanda and launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the needs of Rwandan children.
In 2001 he went to South Africa to support the campaign against HIV/AIDS. In 2002 Africare awarded him the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his efforts to assist Africa. In 2004 Belafonte went to Kenya to stress the importance of educating children in the region. Belafonte has been involved in prostate cancer advocacy since 1996, when he was diagnosed and successfully treated for the disease. On June 27, 2006, Belafonte was the recipient of the BET Humanitarian Award at the 2006 BET Awards. He was named one of nine 2006 Impact Award recipients by AARP The Magazine.
On October 19, 2007, Belafonte represented UNICEF on Norwegian television to support the annual telethon (TV Aksjonen) in support of that charity and helped raise a world record of $10 per inhabitant of Norway. Belafonte was also an ambassador for the Bahamas. He is on the board of directors of the Advancement Project.
Photograph is from the 1954 movie, Carmen Jones & was Hand Oil Tinted by artist Margaret A. Rogers.