Who was the first actress
Hollywood: The tragic life of Dorothy Dandridge - the real Camille
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: this article contains spoilers.
Fantasy vs. Facts: Even though you're at Hollywood Can't take everything at face value, the Netflix series was at least inspired by reality. For example, the makers took Dorothy Dandridge as a model for Camille Washington (played by Laura Harrier), the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar in the “Best Actress” category. That's why Harrier watched many interviews and films with the actress in preparation for the role. She told Refinery29 US that she wanted to pay homage to her with the role and give Dandridge the happy ending she deserved. "Unfortunately, Camille's story was more positive than Dorothy's, whose career hasn't turned out the way it should have."
Dandridge died at the age of 42. Most likely it was suicide.
Just like Camille's career, Dorothy's career began in the 1940s - but not in front of the camera, but as a singer in a nightclub, where she often appeared on stage with her sisters. Only later did she work as an actress and at some point actually managed to become the first successful black actress in Hollywood - even though she did not have the same opportunities as Camille.
"She had to fight very hard in her life," says Harrier, alluding to the issue of racism, which in many areas is still not off the table today. A lot has happened, but it's still difficult for black women to land a leading role in Hollywood. However, Dandridge had to face not only the racist behavior of society, but also the laws that kept them from playing a romantic lead role.
Until 1967, the so-called “mixed marriages” existed in many American states, making relationships between people with different ethnic backgrounds illegal. In the 1940s, Hollywood adhered to the Hays Code. These were guidelines that served to regulate the representation of crime, sexuality and politics in feature films and, among other things, prohibited intercultural couples. Because all of the leading male roles were cast by white men, Dandridge had practically no chance to play her partner. And yet Dorothy managed to make a career in the 50s. "I am in love Carmen Jones with her and Harry Belafonte, ”says Harrier about the musical film with a completely black cast, which is now considered a turning point in Dandridge's career. In an interview, Dandridge said she'd never worked harder for a movie and that she was on Carmen Jones had the best time ever.
That same year she gave birth to a child who had a brain injury. Her marriage to her first husband, Harold Nichols, also failed. “That forced me to pursue a career,” said Dandridge. She threw herself into work to distract herself from her problems. "It's wonderful therapy," she said loudly The New York Times. "Then you have no time to dissolve in self-pity". The musical, in which Dandridge played a wayward seductress, was one of the top-earning films of the year and landed her a deal with 20th Century Fox - the studio hoped she would become the first black film icon. Yet despite their roles in Hot earth (1957) and Porgy and Bess (1959) left the big breakthrough in coming. She had written history anyway, because for Carmen Jones she received at least one Oscar nomination in 1955. The first black woman to not only be nominated for an Oscar in the "Best Actress" category, but also to win it, was Halle Berry. In the year 2002.
With that in mind, is the story of the 1948 Academy Awards, as they did in the Netflix series Hollywood is even more exciting. Or more frustrating. Camille wins the Oscar for best actress, beating Loretta Young, who in truth received the award for her performance in this year The Farmer's Daughter and the winner is. Six years before Dandridge's nomination and 54 years before Berry's big appearance.
In Hollywood, Camille's victory changes history. I wonder what the effect would have been if Dorothy had won. Suppose she didn't have to fight the studios and society gave her the chance. Suppose she got a leading role. Could she have achieved the same star status as white actresses had back then?
Unlike Camille, Dandridge never stopped fighting for respect. She has a supporting role inThe King and I rejected, in which she should have played a slave. This "rebellious" act ensured that from now on she was considered "exhausting". And that in turn strained her both emotionally and financially. In 1963 she filed for personal bankruptcy because of ongoing legal proceedings. She died two years later. She still had $ 2.14 in her account.
Unfortunately canHollywood not change the past, no matter how much the makers wanted it to be. We will remember Dandridge not for what she did, but sadly also for what she couldn't do. We should see them as inspiration - for everything that could change in the future. Harrier hopes Hollywoodcan do some of its part to set the much-needed changes in motion so that Dandridge and other black actresses don't fight for free. Even if the Netflix series doesn't tell the full story, it is thought-provoking and reflective. And in the best case scenario, it helps us learn from the past and look forward to a better future.
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