People tend to say the same two things about Dorothy Dandridge (“She was so beautiful!” “Her life was so tragic!”) Well, she was definitely beautiful (by most counts on the inside and out) and she did endure tough challenges in her life, but she was also a relentless hard worker. When she was not rehearsing for one of her nightclub performances, she was studying acting and dance and constantly working to create more opportunities for herself in Hollywood. At one point in the 1950s, she teamed up with Nat “King” Cole to pitch a television series where they would play a married couple (“small time” entertainers trying to catch a break in show business). It is our loss that they were turned down all over town (can you imagine watching clips of that today?!) In this photo, Ms. Dandridge is rehearsing with the great composer, arranger and vocal coach Phil Moore in March 1951. Mr. Moore also coached, arranged and/or wrote songs for Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Pearl Bailey, Ava Gardner, Diahann Carroll, Johnny Mathis and The Supremes.
The brilliant dancer, choreographer and activist, Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), performing her work, “Afrique,” circa 1962. Ms. Dunham formed Ballet Nègre, one of the first black ballet companies in the United States in 1930 and, along with African dance, studied dances from Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti as a part of her anthropological fieldwork. She studied at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1936. Photo: Roger Wood, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
I’m very sorry to hear that Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell, the pioneering businesswoman, model and early advocate for Black models, died on Friday, February 28, 2014, at the age of 93. Ms. DeVore-Mitchell was born in 1922 in Edgefield, South Carolina. She went on to open a legendary modeling agency and a school for people of color in New York City. Models and actors who came through her school include Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Richard Roundtree. In this photo, Ms. DeVore-Mitchell (in pearls) is shown with her husband, Vernon Mitchell, and two models at the ODV Cosmetic Beauty Bar in the 1960s.
I’ve always thought this photo of Smokey Robinson, lookin’ all smooth in a satin shirt and medallion in L.A. in the 1960s, was very cool. I’ve got my eye on it for the men’s edition of Vintage Black Glamour but in the meantime, the ladies are just about ready for you (June 2014!) You can pre-order right here! http://www.vintageblackglamourbook.com Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty.
Dorothy Dandridge presenting the Oscar for Film Editing for “On the Waterfront” at the 27th Academy Awards at New York’s Century Theater on March 30, 1955. She was nominated for Best Actress that year for her role in “Carmen Jones”.
Billy Dee Williams arrives at the Academy Awards on March 28, 1973. Mr. Williams, a presenter that night, appeared as Louis McKay in “Lady Sings the Blues” which was nominated for five Oscars. Photo: Corbis.