Everything And Nothing The Dorothy Dandridge Tragedy
Written by Dorothy Dandridge and Earl Conrad
Published 1970 By Abelard-Schuman Limited
Dorothy Dandridge’s life story is the stuff Hollywood dreams–and nightmares. Completed shortly before her tragic death in 1965, Everything and Nothing recounts her rags-to-riches-to-rags story from her personal point of view. Dandridge recalls her humble beginnings in Depression-era Cleveland, Ohio, her rise to fame and success as the first African-American to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination (for her role in Carmen Jones), the disappointments and pain of her childhood and family life, and her downward spiral into alcoholism and financial troubles, Everything and Nothing is a mesmerizing and harrowing journey through the life and times of one of Hollywood’s most unforgettable stars. Synopsis from Goodreads
Ever since I saw the movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge starring Halle Berry I have been interested in the life of Dorothy. She is basically left out of the conversation about Hollywood starlets. We all know the usual ones so I don’t have to mention them but, I would wager that the average person doesn’t know Dorothy. Dorothy was born in Ohio the youngest of two girls to Ruby Dandridge a singer and performer. When Dorothy was three she began to sing and entertain with her sister. Eventually the girls would travel to churches and events all around and perform songs and skits that their mother wrote for them. Dorothy’s father was not in the picture when she was a little girl and, she only had a few encounters with her father as an adult. While she was a young girl a woman who in the book is described as first a stranger to and, then a friend of her mothers entered their lives. This woman they called Auntie-Ma-ma would shape Dorothy’s life even after she left it. Dorothy married twice and had one child a daughter who was mentally handicapped. Dorothy was incredibly beautiful and incredibly talented and despite that she as never really happy. She spent the first part of her career singing in night clubs, saloons, and on television shows, later doing small roles in movies. Eventually she would land the movie Carmen Jones in 1954 for which she would receive an Oscar nomination for best actress. She was the first black woman to be nominated, but it would be 47 years before a Black woman would actually win that award. After Carmen Jones Dorothy’s career would flounder largely due to a man she was involved with, and poor decisions. It would be only 11 years later when she would die of a prescription pill overdose. It is still in dispute whether it was accidental or suicide. At the very end of the book Dorothy says the theme of her life was “the man who wasn’t there” and that really sums it up. Despite her looks and her talent she was never happy. She was pursued by numerous men usually white, but they never gave her what she really wanted which was marriage and respectability. She made terrible financial decisions and trusted the wrong people with her money. She would die broke and nearly alone. At times I just wanted to shake her and say stop being so self-destructive but I realize she was a product of her circumstances. I imagine it was incredibly hard to be an actress in the 40’s and 50’s, but how much more so for a black woman? This was a sad book and made even sadder by the fact that Dorothy doesn’t know the role she played in the history of black women actors. Overall it was fascinating and made me want to know even more about her.
Until Next Time.