For my Mass Communication History class, I had to write a 20 page paper about a subject of my choice. I chose to compare 1950's actresses Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Dandridge. As a practitioner of film, I found it interesting that cinema portrayed the two equally talented women very differently during the height of the conservative, religious, anti-communist, and segregated 50's. I had become interested in this subject because I noticed how Marilyn Monroe has transcended the limits of her time and become a billion dollar image that is plastered on wallpapers, posters, fashion, etc. I especially noticed it in the black community that young girls idolize this woman who didn't even look like them.
I learned about Dorothy Dandridge after watching Introducing Dorothy Dandridge starring Halle Berry, a couple of years ago. Halle Berry did a phenomenuel job portraying the 1950's actress who got her big break in the all black opera Carmen Jones. During an era that was starting to embrace sexuality in its cultural and vaguely accepting black people as human beings, the high-spirited, pretty and sensual Dandridge had found success as a black woman in Hollywood. Though her roles were stereotypical and strategically executed to give her sex appeal, Dorothy was a beautiful black face on a big screen when African Americans were subject to roles as slaves or servants.
While we idolize Marilyn Monroe, who in her own respect was stereotyped as a sexy dumb blonde in the 50's, I think we should also include a place for Dorothy. She paved the way for black actresses and black filmmakers in general because she, against all odds, endured a generation who wasn't ready for her (as seen in the TAN movie posters with Harry Belafonte) and reached a stardom that few people like her did.