Monday, July 11, 2011
SPOTLIGHT ON DOROTHY LAMOUR
Lamour was born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1914, the daughter of Carmen Louise (née LaPorte) and John Watson Slaton, both of whom were waiters. Lamour had French Louisianan, Spanish and Irish descent. Her parents' marriage lasted only a few years, with her mother re-marrying to Clarence Lambour, and Dorothy took his last name. That marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager.
In 1935, she had her own fifteen-minute weekly musical program on NBC Radio. She also sang on the popular Rudy Vallee radio show and the Chase and Sanborn Hour.
In 1936, she moved to Hollywood and began appearing regularly in films for Paramount Pictures. The role that made her a star was Ulah (a sort of female Tarzan) in The Jungle Princess (1936). She wore a sarong, which would become associated with her. While she first achieved stardom as a sex symbol, Lamour also showed talent as both a comic and dramatic actress. She was among the most popular actresses in motion pictures from 1936 to 1952.
Some of Lamour's other notable films include John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), Spawn of the North (1938; with George Raft, Henry Fonda, and John Barrymore), Disputed Passage (1939), Johnny Apollo (1940; with Tyrone Power), Aloma of the South Seas (1941), Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942), Dixie (1943; with Bing Crosby), A Medal for Benny (1945), My Favorite Brunette (1947; with Bob Hope), On Our Merry Way (1948) and the best picture Oscar-winner The Greatest Show on Earth (1952; with Charlton Heston). Her other leading men included William Holden, Ray Milland, James Stewart, Jack Benny, and Fred MacMurray.
Lamour's film career petered out in the early 1950s, and she began a new career as a nightclub entertainer and occasional stage actress. In the 1960s, she returned to the screen for secondary roles in three films and became more active in the legitimate theater, headlining a road company of Hello Dolly! for over a year near the end of the decade.
Lamour's good humor and lack of pretension allowed her to have a remarkably long career in show business for someone best known as a glamour girl. She was a popular draw on the dinner theatre circuit of the 1970s. In the 1960s and 1970s, she lived with her longtime husband William Ross Howard III (whom she married in 1943), in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland. He died in 1978. Lamour published her autobiography My Side of the Road in 1980, revived her nightclub act, and performed in plays and television shows such as Hart to Hart, Crazy Like a Fox, and Murder, She Wrote.