Actress-singer Dorothy Dandridge was best known for her portrayal of the title role in the 1954 movie "Carmen Jones."
Although Dandridge was a contemporary of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, at the time of her death in 1965 her name was virtually unknown to movie audiences. Her professional achievements easily could have been overshadowed by the prejudice and self-destructiveness that were the locomotives of her downfall.
"Carmen Jones," a retelling of the Bizet opera with an all-black cast and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, brought Dandridge a nomination for the 1954 Oscars and a portrait on the cover of Life magazine, where no black woman had yet appeared.
Her Carmen was the classic femme fatale transplanted to a Florida factory during World War II. After "Carmen Jones" became a hit, she was offered a three-picture deal at 20th Century Fox. With the coaching of her director and lover, Otto Preminger, she negotiated a salary that matched Ava Gardner's.
She went on to appear in "Island in the Sun" (1957), "Tamango" (1958), "The Decks Ran Red" (1958) and "Porgy and Bess" (1959).
Before her death Dandridge had confined her activities to performances at supper clubs — though she had appeared in about a dozen Hollywood films beginning in the 1950s.
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