Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
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An acclaimed stage performer, Dorothy struggled with the challenge of her color in Hollywood. She beat out many more famous rivals for the role of ' 'Carmen Jones' ', and became the first black woman ever nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award (R). Seductive and easily seduced, she was born to be a star. Here was a woman who wouldn't wait in the wings.
Dorothy Dandridge was a Hollywood trailblazer. A confident sex symbol in the 1950s, she was the first black woman ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, but the electrifying stage chanteuse and dancer was forbidden to even enter the nightclubs and show rooms she performed in except from the stage. As portrayed by Halle Berry, who shepherded Dandridge's story to the screen, Dandridge is a sure, insistent star who battled racist studios and Jim Crow laws to maintain her dignity in public while stumbling through a private life marked by bad relationships and abusive lovers. Berry gives her best performance to date, brimming with ambition and moxie offstage, charming audiences with the slinky, sure moves of a nightclub veteran onstage, and convincingly "becoming" Dandridge in dramatic re-creations from Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess. Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation) is sweet and sympathetic as her supportive, lovesick manager, and Klaus Maria Brandauer is, in Dandridge's words, a "big old bulldog" as director Otto Preminger. Director Martha Coolidge balances private troubles with professional milestones and setbacks and pulls no punches showing the institutional racism of late 1950s Las Vegas or the brutality of a vicious alcoholic husband. Originally made for HBO, this drama lacks the big-budget spectacle of traditional Hollywood biographies but offers in its place sharp writing, intelligent direction, and strong, sensitive performances. --Sean Axmaker
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Dorothy Dandridge, with style and grace, broke down color barriers in Las Vegas and Hollywood. She was the first African American woman nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, and performed in clubs and hotels that had formerly only been open to whites. Dorothy's story is a sad one, but the courage demonstrated by one woman made a difference. This is the one role I've seen Halle in that I believe she was born to play!
Also of note, Brent Spiner's portrayal of Halle's manager is heart-felt. Brent endows his character with a care for Dorothy that is truly touching, especially when you realize that Dororthy will never return the sentiment.
Overall, this is a fantastic film about a time that Hollywood and America can never forget, and a woman who dared to help move us all forward.
Although a bit soap opera-ish at times, this is a compelling and well-made film. It is full of excellent production values--great sets and costumes really help tell this tale. Musical numbers are skillfully woven into the overall story.
But it's the fine performances that really make this biopic special. Berry is superb in the challenging title role. Fiery and vulnerable, Berry creates a full-bodied cinematic portrait of this compelling woman. She gets solid support from a superb supporting cast that includes the versatile Loretta Devine as Dorothy's mother. Klaus Maria Brandauer brings elegance and gravitas to his role as director Otto Preminger. I was especially impressed by Brent Spiner in the pivotal role of Earl Mills, Dorothy's manager; if you only know Spiner from his role as Mr. Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," you are in for a revelation in this film.
There are some powerful scenes in this film, and it really holds together overall as a unified whole. "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" is a fitting tribute to Dandridge herself, and is a compelling slice of African-American history and Hollywood history.