Dorothy Lamour was born with the birth name of Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton on December 10, 1914, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was a beautiful child who turned heads as a teenager with her long dark hair. However, her dream was to become a professional singer not actress. After she won a beauty contest as Miss New Orleans in 1931, she headed to Chicago to find her work as a singer. For a time, Dorothy worked as an elevator operator in a department store before going on to become a vocalist in the Herbie Kay band. Kay became her first husband in 1935, but the marriage only lasted four years. In addition to the band, Dorothy also sang on a Chicago radio program. Besides Kay, she performed with Rudy Vallee and 'Eddie Duchin (I)'. 1933 found Dorothy in Hollywood where she landed an uncredited bit part as a chorus girl in the musical Footlight Parade (1933). She didn't appear in films again until 1936 when she landed a part as a coed in College Holiday (1936). Later in 1936, Dorothy got the part of Ulah in The Jungle Princess (1936) produced by E. Lloyd Sheldon and filmed at Paramount. This film was a tremendous moneymaker as Dorothy stole the show in her wrap-around sarong. Dorothy became an instant star as the child of nature / female Tarzan, raised with a pet tiger among the tropical natives. Ray Milland starred opposite her as the man from civilization who woos and wins her. The scene where Milland is trying to teach her the word kiss is touching yet humorous. When he kisses her and tells her that is a kiss she runs away.
She went on to play similar parts in the sarong in productions including The Hurricane (1937), Typhoon (1940), Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942) and her final big-screen sarong feature, Donovan's Reef (1963). Although Dorothy actually only wore a sarong in six of her 59 pictures, it defined her career. The sarong stayed with her in the Bob Hope / Bing Crosby "Road" pictures for Paramount. The trio starred in Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1945) and Road to Bali (1952). A final "Road" picture, "Road to the Fountain of Youth" was in the works in 1977, until Bing Crosby's sudden death. The final completed "Road" picture, The Road to Hong Kong (1962), had Hope and Crosby in their usual roles, but no Dorothy this time - Joan Collins had the female lead in it.
Dorothy was a great actress with roles in Disputed Passage (1939), Dixie (1943) and On Our Merry Way (1948) _. She could show great range in both comic and dramatic roles. After making three films in 1949, her career began to trail off. She only made ten films between 1951 and 1987. That last one was Creepshow 2 (1987) where she played a housewife who gets murdered, a long way from the "Road" pictures and movies such as Johnny Apollo (1940) and A Medal for Benny (1945).
Dorothy died at 81 of an undisclosed ailment on September 22, 1996 in Los Angeles, California.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson
Trade Mark (1)
Often wore a floral print wrap-around sarong
Interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Enduring Faith section, lot 387, space 2.
Derived her acting name name "Dorothy Lamour" from her stepfather, whose surname was "Lambour".
Host of NBC Radio's "Sealtest Variety Theater" (aka The Dorothy Lamour Show) (1948-1949).
"The Moon of Manakoora" from The Hurricane (1937), which was her signature song.
During World War II, she toured the country, selling in excess of $ 300 million worth of war bonds.
In 1946 (with the full assistance of Paramount's publicity department), she staged a memorable stunt by publicly burning a sarong, the garment with which she had been associated since her first starring role.
Went to secretarial school where she became an excellent typist. Even as a star, she typed her own letters.
Her stepson gave her a dog, CoCo, when her husband died. She did not want it at first, but he insisted. She soon learned to love the dog and referred to him as her boyfriend.
Her stepson William Ross "Bill, Jr." Howard IV was born in 1933. Her son John Ridgely "Ridge" Howard was born January 8, 1946. Her son Richard Thomson "Tommy" Howard was born on October 20, 1949.
She was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Radio at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Biography in: "American National Biography." Supplement 1, pp. 338-339. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
She had French, Irish and Spanish ancestry.
Sang the show-stopping "Broadway Baby" in a 1990 Long Beach, California revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies".
John Ford began filming his classic The Hurricane (1937) with Margo in the leading female role, but Samuel Goldwyn halted production and replaced her with Lamour because of the success of The Jungle Princess (1936).
Lamour is named in the film J. Edgar (2011) as having had an early affair with J. Edgar Hoover. Books on Hoover also report that she was his great love, something she never confirmed or denied.
What scheduled to make her Broadway debut in the 1957 musical "Oh, Captain!" as a replacement for Abbe Lane. She played a few previews, but the show closed before her official opening night.
Had co-starred as a featured regular with Don Ameche, W.C. Fields and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the popular "Chase and Sanborn Radio Hour".
Toured successfully for a year in the musical "Hello, Dolly!" including a lengthy run at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, where she alternated performances with Ginger Rogers because of the 14 show-a-week schedule. Lamour was the first to play Dolly Levi as a brunette.
She first met Bob Hope while working as a singer at the popular nightclub 1 Fifth Avenue in New York's Greenwich Village, where she was accompanied on twin pianos by Julius Monk and Cy Feuer. She had top billing over him in several of their first pictures together at Paramount.
She opened the first of what was meant to be a chain of "Dorothy Lamour" beauty salons in New York's Greenwich Village in 1960, not far from where she had begun her nightclub career in the 1930s.
She was one of the few film stars who was allowed to make records throughout her career. She rivaled Alice Faye for the number of songs she introduced on screen, including "Moon of Manakoora", "Moonlight and Shadows", "Moonlight Becomes You", "I Remember You", "Personality" and "It Could Happen to You" .
Her famous "Road" co-stars Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are seen watching her from the audience as she performs in Cecil B. DeMille's circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).
Her original sarong for The Jungle Princess (1936) was designed by Edith Head. She also wore special sandals to cover her feet.
Turned down the role of Crystal Allen in The Women (1939) for she considered the character to be "less than desirable".
At the start of her career, she was in a romantic relationship with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
In the 1940s, she was the celebrity spokeswoman for Chesterfield Cigarettes.
Appeared as herself on the Jack Benny Program on the radio December 10, 1944.
Personal Quotes (24)
I made 60 motion pictures and only wore the sarong in about six pictures, but it did become a kind of trademark. And it did hinder me. They expect you to always be the young girl leaning against the palm tree. Why should you want to act?
[on working with Hope and Crosby] I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham.
I was the happiest and highest-paid straight woman in the business.
[on Bing Crosby] As I look back, I think he was a very shy, insecure man. The world looked upon him as one of the great talents, he just never saw himself in that light.
I'm no prude. I know you have to come up a little bit modern. But all this filth and homosexuality and sex and nudity today are ruining any hope of our young people having the beautiful life.
Glamor is just sex that got civilized. A pretty girl, tastefully posed in a scant costume, is even a sort of cultural achievement.
After the first "Road" film, I never studied dialogue. Never. I'd wait to get on the set to see what they were planning. I was the happiest and highest paid straight woman in the business.
Some day I hope the critics will say of me, not only that I wear a sarong becomingly, but also that I gave a good performance. I've never had any real theatrical training you know.
My first sarong was blue. I asked for it because that's my lucky color. We made the picture [The Jungle Princess (1936)] on some hard-to-reach mountain crags in California. While we were there they remembered I could sing, so they wrote "Moonlight and Shadows" and sent the guy on a donkey with it through the passes.
[on the sarong] I thank God for that little strip of cloth.
Mostly [Crosby and Hope] would ad lib, playing with the lines I'd worked so hard to memorize. The night before Road to Singapore (1940) 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.
[on her role in Creepshow 2 (1987)] Well, at my age you can't lean against a palm tree and sing "Moon of Monakoora." People would look at that and say, "What is she trying to do?"
I actually had only one possible shot at an Academy Award in Johnny Apollo (1940). . . . But I just didn't understand what I was doing. Now, I wish I had done summer stock for acting experience. Or didn't they have it in those days?
[on her "sarong queen" roles] I never lead white men astray improperly. Never wreck their lives or anything like that. I'm always a nice native girl. They can remember their warm tropical romances with me with refined wistful sighs.
They changed the script hourly. I just sat around and waited until Bob and Bing came up with some new lines for me. It was all rather chaotic, but it worked.
[on Bing Crosby] He was very introverted off the set and it was difficult to maintain a close relationship with him.
Making those sarong movies killed off any hopes I nurtured about being a great dramatic actress. Once I donned that flimsy piece of cloth, any hopes of carrying off an Oscar vanished.
Let me say first that I am not a prude. But I don't approve of the nudity on the screen today. I think a woman is far more attractive in an evening dress, low cut in front so the cleavage shows, low cut in back, fit to her figure but leaving something to the imagination. I've been to colleges and asked young guys about this, and they say the same thing. The imagination is greater than the reality, I think.
[when asked if the sarong prevented her from getting better roles] I'm sure it did as I look back. But it didn't get in the way that much.
People think I wore a sarong in the 'Road' pictures. I didn't except as a joke I came up with for Road to Utopia (1945). We were out in the Yukon, and I was dressed in a heavy parka. In one scene South Sea island music suddenly plays, and I fade from a parka into a sarong. Bob and Bing stare at this and say, 'Haven't we seen her somewhere before?'
The sarong I wore in pictures was like long underwear. In one picture Edith Head said to me, 'Let's do something different with your sarong.' So I said OK. She made it into two pieces - a bra and a skirt that covered the navel and went to mid-thigh. We shot with it that way for two days. Then the censors in the Hays office saw the rushes. We had to reshoot everything. I was showing too much skin!
 I never thought I was a great dramatic actress. I liked to do drama, but I was no Bette Davis or Joan Crawford. And now I do what I want to do.
[on The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)] I thought it terrible hokum when I watched the first assembled print. Boy what I wrong! It cost $ 4 million, made $ 14 million, and certainly showed C.B. Cecil B. DeMille was the master showman of the movies.