Death in Hollywood: Dandridge Dorothy, Oscar Nominee (Carmen Jones), Dead at 42

Dorothy Dandridge married dancer Harold Nicholas on September 6, 1942, and gave birth to Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas, on September 2, 1943.

Harolyn was born brain-damaged, requiring care. By 1948, their marriage deteriorated and Nicholas abandoned his family. Due to his adultery and abandonment, the couple divorced in October 1951.

Carmen Jones

While shooting Carmen Jones (1954), for which Dandridge earned her first and only Best Actress Oscar nomination, she had an affair with her director, Otto Preminger.  The affair lasted four years, during which period he advised her on career matters.

She became pregnant in 1955, but the studio forced her to have an abortion. She ended the affair when she realized that Preminger had no plans to leave his wife.

Dandridge married Jack Denison on June 22, 1959; they divorced in 1962 amid financial setbacks and allegations of domestic violence. Dandridge discovered that her managers had swindled her out of $150,000 and that she was $139,000 in debt for taxes.

Forced to sell her Hollywood home and to place her daughter in a mental institution in Camarillo, California. Dandridge moved into a small apartment at 8495 Fountain Avenue in West Hollywood.

Dandridge became involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The racism she encountered in the industry motivated her to become politically active.

On September 7, 1965, Dandridge was scheduled to begin an engagement “this Friday” at the nightclub, Basin Street East.

On September 8, 1965, Dandridge spoke by phone with friend and former sister-in-law Geraldine “Geri” Branton. Dandridge was scheduled to fly to N.Y. the next day. Banton recalled that during a long conversation, Dandridge had veered from expressing hope for the future to singing Streisand‘s popular tune, “People,” to making cryptic remark moments before hanging up on her: “Whatever happens, I know you will understand.”

Several hours after her conversation with Branton, Dandridge was found dead and naked by her manager, Earl Mills. Two months later, a Los Angeles pathology reported the cause to be an accidental overdose of imipramine, an anti-depressant. 

But the L.A. County Coroner’s Office concluded: “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 had sustained in a Hollywood gym five days before she died.”

She was only 42.