Dorothy Lamour, circa 1940
|Born||Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton|
December 10 1914
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||September 22 1996 (aged 81)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park,|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1935; div. 1939)
William Ross Howard III
(m. 1943; died 1978)
Dorothy Lamour (born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton; December 10, 1914 – September 22, 1996) was an American actress and singer. Lamour began her career in the 1930s as a big band singer. In 1936, she moved to Hollywood, where she signed with Paramount Pictures. Her appearance as Ulah in The Jungle Princess (1936) brought her fame and marked the beginning of her image as the "Sarong Queen."
She is best remembered for having appeared in the Road to... movies, a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Her role began in 1940 with the Road to Singapore and ended with the sixth film in the series, Road to Bali, which was released in 1952. She continued working, appearing on stage, on television, and in films almost until her death in 1996; her last appearances being interviews.
Although the sarong made her famous, Lamour always played the role of an attractive girl, not a sexual temptress. She did not approve of nudity on the screen, portraying her characters in ways that delighted and entertained audiences of all ages.
Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton was born on December 10, 1914, in New Orleans, the daughter of Carmen Louise (née LaPorte; 1892–1930) and John Watson Slaton (1895–1963), both of whom were waiters. Her parents' marriage lasted only a few years. Her mother married for the second time to Clarence Lambour, whose surname Dorothy later adopted and modified as her stage name. That marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager.
Dorothy quit school at age 14. After taking a business course, she worked as a secretary to support herself and her mother. She began entering beauty pageants, was crowned Miss New Orleans in 1931, and went on to compete in Galveston's Pageant of Pulchritude. She used the prize money to support herself while she worked in a stock theatre company. She and her mother later moved to Chicago, where she found a job working at Marshall Field's department store, working as an elevator operator at the age of 16.
She was discovered by orchestra leader Herbie Kay when he spotted her in performance at a Chicago talent show held at the Hotel Morrison. She had an audition the next day; Kay hired her as a singer for his orchestra and, in 1935, Lamour went on tour with him. The two married in 1935 and divorced in 1939.
For several years beginning in the late 1930s, Harriet Lee was Lamour's voice teacher. Lamour later starred in a number of movie musicals and sang in many of her comedies and dramatic films as well, introducing a number of standards, including "The Moon of Manakoora", "I Remember You", "It Could Happen to You", "Personality", and "But Beautiful".
Early in her career, Lamour met J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to Hoover's biographer Richard Hack, Hoover pursued a romantic relationship with Lamour, and the two spent a night together at a Washington, DC hotel. In her autobiography My Side of the Road (1980), Lamour does not discuss Hoover in detail; she refers to him only as "a lifelong friend."
On April 7, 1943, Lamour married Air Force captain and advertising executive William Ross Howard III in Beverly Hills.The couple had two sons: John Ridgely (1946–2018) and Richard Thomson Howard (born 1949).
In 1957, Lamour and Howard moved to the Baltimore, Maryland, suburb of Sudbrook Park. In 1962, the couple and their two sons moved to Hampton, another Baltimore suburb in Dulaney Valley, with their oldest son, John, attending Towson High School. She also owned a home in Palm Springs, California. Howard died in 1978.
Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood on September 22, 1996, at the age of 81. Her funeral was held at St. Charles Catholic Church in North Hollywood, California, where she was a member. She was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
In 1936, Lamour moved to Hollywood. That same year, she did a screen test for Paramount Pictures and signed a contract with them.
Lamour made her first film for Paramount, College Holiday (1936), in which she has a bit part as an uncredited dancer.
The Jungle Princess and "sarong" roles
Her second film for Paramount, The Jungle Princess (1936) with Ray Milland, solidified her fame. In the film, Lamour plays the role of "Ulah," a jungle native who wore an Edith Head-designed sarong throughout the film. The Jungle Princess was a big hit for the studio and marked the beginning of Lamour's image as the "Sarong Queen." It also gave her a hit song "Moonlight and Shadows."
She followed it with a support role in a Carole Lombard–Fred MacMurray musical Swing High, Swing Low (1937) where she sang "Panamania." She was then top billed in The Last Train from Madrid (1937).
Lamour supported Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott in High, Wide and Handsome (1937), singing "The Things I Want." Samuel Goldwyn borrowed her for John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), where she was back in a sarong playing an island princess alongside Jon Hall. Her swimming and diving scenes were handled by stunt double Lila Finn, who at one point dropped the sarong and was filmed diving into a lagoon in the nude. The film was a massive success and gave Lamour another hit song with "The Moon of Manakoora."
Lamour had a cameo in Thrill of a Lifetime (1937) and was third billed in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) after W.C. Fields and Martha Raye; the cast also included Bob Hope in an early appearance.
Paramount reunited her with Milland and a sarong for Her Jungle Love (1938). Tropic Holiday (1938) cast her as a Mexican alongside Bob Burns, Raye, and Milland; then she supported George Raft and Henry Fonda in the adventure film Spawn of the North (1938). Raft was meant to be Lamour's leading man in St. Louis Blues (1939) but he turned down the part and was replaced by Lloyd Nolan.
Lamour was Jack Benny's leading lady in the musical Man About Town (1939); then played a Chinese girl in a melodrama, Disputed Passage (1939).
The "Road" movies
In 1940, Lamour starred in Road to Singapore, a spoof of Lamour's "sarong" films. It was originally meant to co-star Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie, then George Burns and Gracie Allen, before Paramount decided to use Bob Hope and Bing Crosby; Lamour was billed after Crosby and above Hope. The two male stars began ad-libbing during filming. She said later that she realized that following the script did not work, and she should just get the general idea of a scene and go along with Hope and Crosby. Said Hope, "Dottie is one of the bravest gals in pictures. She stands there before the camera and ad-libs with Crosby and me knowing that the way the script is written she'll come second or third best, but she fears nothing." The movie was a solid hit and response to the team was enthusiastic.
20th Century Fox borrowed her to play Tyrone Power's leading lady in the gangster film Johnny Apollo (1940), where sang "This is the Beginning of the End" and "Dancing for Nickels and Dimes."
It was back to sarongs for Typhoon (1940). Her male co-star in the latter was Robert Preston who was also with Lamour in Moon Over Burma (1940). Fox borrowed her again for Chad Hanna (1941) with Henry Fonda.
Response to Road to Singapore had been such that Paramount reunited Lamour, Hope, and Crosby in Road to Zanzibar (1941) which was even more successful and eventually led to a series of pictures (although from this point on Lamour was billed beneath Hope). She and Hope then did Caught in the Draft (1941) which was one of the biggest hits of the year.
Lamour was reunited with her old Hurricane star, Jon Hall, in Aloma of the South Seas (1941). She did a popular musical with Eddie Bracken, William Holden and Betty Hutton, The Fleet's In (1942), which gave her a hit song, "I Remember You."
There was another sarong movie, Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942). Both were well liked by the public but neither was as popular as her third "Road" movie, Road to Morocco (1942).
Lamour was one of many Paramount stars who did guest shots in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). She and Hope were borrowed by Sam Goldwyn for a comedy They Got Me Covered (1943), and then she did one with Crosby without Hope, Dixie (1943), a popular biopic of Dan Emmett.
During World War II, Lamour was among the more popular pin-up girls among American servicemen, along with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also known for her volunteer work, selling war bonds during tours in which movie stars would travel the country selling U.S. government bonds to the public. Lamour reportedly sold $300 million worth of bonds earning her the nickname "The Bond Bombshell." She also volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen where she would dance and talk to soldiers. In 1965, Lamour was awarded a belated citation from the United States Department of the Treasury for her war bond sales.
Lamour made Melody Inn (1943) with Dick Powell, then And the Angels Sing (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Hutton, where she sang "It Should Happen to You". She made one last sarong movie, Rainbow Island (1944), co-starring Bracken.
Lamour played a Mexican in A Medal for Benny (1945), based on a story by John Steinbeck, co-starring Arturo de Córdova. She was one of many Paramount stars to cameo in Duffy's Tavern (1945), then did a fourth "Road," Road to Utopia (1945), and then Masquerade in Mexico (1945) with de Cordova.
She was in three big hits in a row: My Favorite Brunette (1947), a comedy with Hope; Wild Harvest (1947), a melodrama with Alan Ladd and Preston; and Road to Rio (1947). She also sang a duet with Ladd in Variety Girl (1947). Lamour emceed Front and Center, a 1947 variety comedy show, as a summer replacement for The Fred Allen Show, with the Army Air Force recruiting as sponsors. The sixth film in the series with Hope and Crosby, Road to Bali, was released in 1952.
After leaving Paramount, Lamour made a series of films for producer Benedict Bogeaus: the all-star comedy On Our Merry Way (1948); Lulu Belle (1948), a melodrama with George Montgomery; and The Girl from Manhattan (1948), also with Montgomery.
She tried two comedies: The Lucky Stiff (1949), produced by Jack Benny co-starring Brian Donlevy, then Slightly French (1949) with Don Ameche. Manhandled (1950) was a film noir with Dan Duryea for Pine-Thomas. None of these films were particularly popular.
Lamour played a successful season at the London Palladium in 1950 then was in two big hits: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Cecil B. De Mille's circus epic, and Road to Bali (1952). However this did not seem to lead to better film offers, and Lamour began concentrating on being a nightclub entertainer and a stage actress.
She also began working on television, guest starring on Damon Runyon Theater and was on Broadway in Oh Captain! (1958).
Lamour returned to movies with a cameo in the final "Road" film, The Road to Hong Kong (1962); she was replaced as a love interest by Joan Collins because Bing Crosby wanted a younger actress. However, Bob Hope would not do the film without Lamour, so she appeared in an extended cameo.
She had a bigger part in John Ford's Donovan's Reef (1963) with John Wayne and Lee Marvin, and made guest appearances on shows like Burke's Law, I Spy and The Name of the Game, and films such as Pajama Party (1964) and The Phynx (1970).
Lamour moved to Baltimore with her family, where she appeared on TV and worked on the city's cultural commission. Then David Merrick offered her the chance to headline a road company of Hello Dolly! which she did for over a year.
In the 1970s, Lamour revived her nightclub act. She was a popular draw at dinner theatres and in shows such as Anything Goes. Her husband died in 1978, but she continued to work for "therapy."
She guest starred on shows such as Marcus Welby, M.D., The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Crazy Like a Fox, Remington Steele, and Murder, She Wrote, as well as films like Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and Death at Love House (1976).
In 1977, she toured in the play Personal Appearance, and in 1984, she toured in a production of Barefoot in the Park.
In 1980, Lamour published her autobiography My Side of the Road.
In 1986 she said:
I'm still as busy at 71 as I was when I was just a slip of a girl. I do concerts, television and a lot of dinner theatre, where I sing old songs and talk about Bob and Bing and starting out at Paramount at $200 a week and working myself up to $450,000 a picture...I feel wonderful. Age is only in the mind and I'm grateful that God has taken care of me. And I'm very grateful for that sarong. It did a lot for me! But to be truthful, the sarong was never my favorite wearing apparel.
In 1987, she made her last big-screen appearance in the movie Creepshow 2, appearing with George Kennedy as an aging couple who are killed during a robbery. The wooden, Native American statue in front of their general store comes to life to avenge their death. The 72-year-old Lamour quipped:
"Well, at my age you can't lean against a palm tree and sing 'Moon of Manakoora'," she said. "People would look at that and say 'What is she trying to do?'"
During the 1990s, she made only a handful of professional appearances but remained a popular interview subject for publications and TV talk and news programs. Lamour's final stage performance was as "Hattie" in the Long Beach Civic Light Opera's 1990 production of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies."
In 1995, the musical Swinging on a Star, a revue of songs written by Johnny Burke (who wrote many of the most famous Road to ... movie songs as well as the score to Lamour's film And the Angels Sing (1944)) opened on Broadway and ran for three months; Lamour was credited as a "special advisor."
Dorothy Lamour's career spanned more than six decades in radio, movies, and the theater, and throughout she demonstrated her ability to succeed in a multitude of roles as both an actor and singer. Far beyond the "Sarong Queen," she is remembered not only for her unique beauty and charm, but also for her talent and versatility.
Although known as the "Sarong Queen," and a popular pin-up girl among American service men, Lamour did not take on roles that required her to wear clothes that revealed all. Rather, she described her roles as a "nice native girl" with whom a delightful and somewhat innocent romance could be enjoyed.
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. ... 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.
For her contribution to the radio and motion picture industry, Lamour has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her star for her radio contributions is located at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard, and her star for her motion picture contributions is located at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.
|1936||College Holiday||Dancer||Film debut; uncredited|
|1936||The Jungle Princess||Ulah|
|1937||Swing High, Swing Low||Anita Alvarez|
|1937||The Last Train from Madrid||Carmelita Castillo|
|1937||High, Wide, and Handsome||Molly Fuller|
|1937||Thrill of a Lifetime||Specialty|
|1938||The Big Broadcast of 1938||Dorothy Wyndham|
|1938||Her Jungle Love||Tura|
|1938||Spawn of the North||Nicky Duval|
|1939||St. Louis Blues||Norma Malone|
|1939||Man About Town||Diana Wilson|
|1939||Disputed Passage||Audrey Hilton|
|1940||Road to Singapore||Mima|
|1940||Johnny Apollo||Lucky Dubarry|
|1940||Moon Over Burma||Arla Dean|
|1940||Chad Hanna||Albany Yates / Lady Lillian|
|1941||Road to Zanzibar||Donna Latour|
|1941||Caught in the Draft||Antoinette "Tony" Fairbanks|
|1941||Aloma of the South Seas||Aloma|
|1942||The Fleet's In||The Countess|
|1942||Star Spangled Rhythm||Herself|
|1942||Beyond the Blue Horizon||Tama|
|1942||Road to Morocco||Princess Shalmar|
|1943||They Got Me Covered||Christina Hill|
|1943||Riding High||Ann Castle|
|1944||And the Angels Sing||Nancy Angel|
|1945||A Medal for Benny||Lolita Sierra|
|1945||Road to Utopia||Sal Van Hoyden|
|1945||Masquerade in Mexico||Angel O'Reilly|
|1947||My Favorite Brunette||Carlotta Montay||Alternative title: The Private Eye|
|1947||Wild Harvest||Fay Rankin|
|1947||Road to Rio||Lucia Maria de Andrade|
|1948||On Our Merry Way||Gloria Manners||Alternative title: A Miracle Can Happen|
|1948||Lulu Belle||Lulu Belle|
|1949||The Girl from Manhattan||Carol Maynard|
|1949||The Lucky Stiff||Anna Marie St. Claire|
|1949||Slightly French||Mary O'Leary|
|1951||Here Comes the Groom||Herself||Uncredited|
|1952||The Greatest Show on Earth||Phyllis|
|1952||Road to Bali||Princess Lala|
|1962||The Road to Hong Kong||Herself|
|1963||Donovan's Reef||Miss Laflour|
|1964||Pajama Party||Head Saleslady|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Visiting Film Star|
|1987||Creepshow 2||Martha Spruce||(segment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"), (final film role)|
|1955||Damon Runyon Theater||Sally Bracken||Television debut
Episode: "The Mink Doll"
|1967||I Spy||Halima||Episode: "The Honorable Assassins"|
|1969||The Name of the Game||Stella Fisher||Episode: "Chains of Command"|
|1970||Love, American Style||Holly's Mother||Segment: "Love and the Pick-Up"|
|1971||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Mary DeSocio||Episode: "Echos from Another World"|
|1976||Death at Love House||Denise Christian||Television movie|
Alternative title: The Shrine of Lorna Love
|1980||The Love Boat||Lil Braddock||Episode: "That's My Dad/The Captain's Bird/Captive Audience"|
|1984||Hart to Hart||Katherine Prince||Episode: "Max's Waltz"|
|1984||Remington Steele||Herself||Episode: "Cast in Steele"|
|1986||Crazy like a Fox||Rosie||Episode: "Rosie"|
|1987||Murder, She Wrote||Mrs. Ellis||Episode: "No Accounting for Murder"|
- Dorothy Lamour, My Side of the Road (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980, ISBN 978-0132185943).
- James Parish and Michael Pitts, Hollywood Songsters (Routledge, 2002, ISBN 978-0415937757).
- Biography Dorothy Lamour. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- William F. Lee, American Big Bands (Hal Leonard, 2006, ISBN 978-0634080548).
- Erskine Johnson, In Hollywood Dixon Evening Telegraph, April 4, 1951. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- John Howard Obituary Fresno Bee.
- Eric G. Meeks, The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes (Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe, Publisher, 2014, ISBN 978-0986218903).
- Richard Severo, Dorothy Lamour, 81, Sultry Sidekick in Road Films, Dies The New York Times, September 23, 1996. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Patricia Kasten, Where actors go to pray The Compass, September 19, 2015. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Dorothy Lamour, Sultry Movie Star, Dies Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1996. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Douglas Keister, Forever L.A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents (Gibbs Smith, 2010, ISBN 978-1423605225).
- Jay Jorgensen, Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer (Running Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0762438051).
- Mollie Gregory, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story (University Press of Kentucky, 2015, ISBN 978-0813166223).
- Kami Spangenberg, “Road to” Movie Must-See: Road to Bali (1952) Classic Couple. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Film Money-makers Selected by Variety: 'Sergeant York' Top Picture Gary Cooper Leading Star The New York Times, December 31, 1941. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Smyth Mitchell, Whatever happened to...Dorothy Lamour? 'Sarong Girl' won't stop working Toronto Star, August 31, 1986. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Swinging on a Star IBDb. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Dorothy Lamour: Quotes IMDb. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
- Dorothy Lamour Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved July 31, 2022.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Gregory, Mollie. Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story. University Press of Kentucky, 2015. ISBN 978-0813166223
- Jorgensen, Jay. Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer. Running Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0762438051
- Keister, Douglas. Forever L.A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents. Gibbs Smith, 2010. ISBN 978-1423605225
- Lamour, Dorothy. My Side of the Road. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980. ISBN 978-0132185943
- Lee, William F. American Big Bands. Hal Leonard, 2006. ISBN 978-0634080548
- Meeks, Eric G. The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe, Publisher, 2014. ISBN 978-0986218903
- Parish, James, and Michael Pitts. Hollywood Songsters. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 978-0415937757
All links retrieved August 3, 2022.
- Dorothy Lamour at the Internet Movie Database
- Dorothy Lamour Turner Classic Movies
- Dorothy Lamour Internet Broadway Database
- Dorothy Lamour Find a Grave
- Dorothy Lamour Virtual History
- Dorothy Lamour
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