Dorothy Lamour was a sultry, dark-haired Louisiana beauty known in the 1930s and 1940s for her portrayals of exotic South Sea heroines wrapped in a silk sarong.
Lamour, the quintessential island girl courtesy of Hollywood image-makers, didn't see the South Seas until she was nearly 70. But in the minds of moviegoers she was the island princess. "I made 60 motion pictures and only wore the sarong in about six pictures, but it did become a kind of trademark." Designed by Edith Head, the sarong is now in the Smithsonian Institution's costume collection.
A classic product of Hollywood's star system and studio publicity buildup, she spent years under contract to Paramount Pictures, which promised in ads to show "as much of Lamour as the censors will permit — with or without the sarong." As Lamour herself would good-humoredly say: "I thank God for that little strip of cloth."
In addition to her early "sarong" pictures, she was also the love interest and straight-faced foil to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their seven "road" comedies — among them the "Road to Morocco," to "Zanzibar" and to "Singapore."
The swift-quipping "road" movies were, Hope once said, "like a tennis game with Dottie in the middle watching." Lamour told People magazine in 1982, "Mostly they would ad-lib, playing with the lines I'd worked so hard to memorize. The night before 'Road to Singapore' I naively studied my script like crazy. When it came time, the ad-libs started flying every which way. I kept waiting for a cue which never came. In exasperation I said, 'Please, guys, when can I get my line in?' They stopped dead and laughed for 10 minutes."
She once said of those films, "I was the happiest and highest-paid straight woman in the business."