Thursday, February 25, 2016

Remembering Dorothy Lamour -- She loved Palm Springs

Dorothy Lamour was a very famous actress and singer from New Orleans. Born with the name of Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton on December 10, 1914, she came from Spanish, Irish, and French Louisianan descent and was the daughter of two waiters, Carmen Louise and John Watson Slaton.

Her teenage years were not very normal. When she was just fourteen, she quit school. Later she took a course in business and worked as a secretary to help her mother. Her mother, after divorcing Dorothy's father, married Clarence Lambour. And it's from her stepfather that she got her stage name.

Besides working as a secretary to support her mother, she also entered beauty pageants. While working in a stock theatre company, she used the prize money to help her mother. She was actually crowned Miss New Orleans in 1931.

Then she moved with her mother to Chicago, which is where she got discovered. An orchestra leader named Herbie Kay discovered her in a talent show at the Morrison Hotel. Kay later invited her to join the orchestra as a singer. She agreed and went on tour with him and the rest of the orchestra in 1935.

The tour with the orchestra was just her beginning. Working with Kay built her a path to vaudeville and to work in radio. That same year she had her own musical program on NBC Radio –which lasted fifteen minutes– and sang on the The Chase and Sanborn Hour show.

The next year, in 1936, she moved to Hollywood and got a contract after a screen test with Paramount Pictures. After that she appeared in many of their films. Her first film was College Holiday, though she didn't get a role. She was just one of the background dancers.

Then came the role that made her name a very famous one in the ‘30s and ‘40s. She played Ulah in the film The Jungle Princess. Her character, Ulah, was a native of the jungle who wore a sarong –which was designed by Edith Head– throughout the whole film.

After that film, from 1937 to 1939, she appeared in other movies of Paramount Pictures. And all of her roles were main ones. She appeared in John Ford’s The Hurricane in 1937; Spawn of the North in 1938 with Henry Fonda, James Barrymore, and George Raft; and in Disputed Passage in 1939.

Though people remember all of those movies she starred in, if she is recognized for one project, it is for The Road to Singapore and all of the following seven films of the series. This comedy movie enjoyed great success.

The other six movies that followed The Road to Singapore were The Road to Zanzibar in 1941, The Road to Morocco in 1942, The Road to Utopia in 1946, The Road to Rio in 1948, The Road to Bali in 1953, and The Road to Hong Kong in 1962.

People also called the movies just Road movies. All of the movies were a great mix of adventure, comedy, romance, and music. They would always parody and satire the popular genres of that time, like jungle, Arabian nights, high seas, and more.

During and also after her big success as a movie star and becoming a celebrity, she moved to a big 1,861-square-foot house at 1029 E. El Alameda, near Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs. The house was built in 1935 and has four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

Palm Springs has been considered the playground for Hollywood celebrities since the 1920s. It is a place where they can relax and escape from all the hustle of Hollywood and showbiz. And timeless celebrities have stayed there--some of them, Frank Sinatra, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor, among others.

And many A-listers from the present day have stayed there as well, like Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, John Travolta, Dakota Fanning, and more.

There are many things that people don't know about Palm Springs. For example, it has its own Walk of Stars; Elvis and his wife Priscilla honeymooned there; and there are still celebrity golf tournaments taking place there.

So after knowing more about the famous and exclusive Palm Springs, we can say that after becoming a superstar and Hollywood sweetheart, Dorothy was the perfect fit to become one of the residents there.

After her Road movies, her movie career declined. But with her singing skills, she still had a lot of work ahead of her. She appeared in two different Broadway musicals. In 1958, she performed in the Oh, Captain! musical, and many years later in 1995 in Swinging on a Star.

But before her second musical, she released her autobiography called My Side of the Road, where she discussed a lot of things, among them, her rumored relationship with the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Her last appearance as an actress was in 1987 as Mrs. Ellis in the TV show Murder, She Wrote and in the movie Creepshow 2 as Martha Spruce that same year.

Dorothy had two children, John Ridgely and Richard Thomson Howard, both sons of William Ross Howard III. Dorothy married this former Air Force captain and advertising executive in 1943 in Beverly Hills. Then in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they lived in Baltimore until William died in 1978.

Dorothy moved to Hollywood again where she lived for the rest of her life. Dorothy has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, both on Hollywood Boulevard. Dorothy died at her North Hollywood home on the 22nd of September in 1996 when she was 81.

Dorothy Lamour loved, and enjoyed, Palm Springs, the greater Palm Springs area, and the entire Coachella Valley. 

She knew Palm Springs is the perfect place to visit, shop, dine, stay, work, play, relax, refresh, and rejuvenate.

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