Last Updated: October 12, 2023
Richest CelebritiesActors
Net Worth:
$10 Thousand
Date of Birth:
Nov 9, 1922 - Sep 8, 1965 (42 years old)
Place of Birth:
5 ft 4 in (1.65 m)
Singer, Actor, Pin-up girl
United States of America
💰 Compare Dorothy Dandridge's Net Worth

What is Dorothy Dandridge's Net Worth?

Dorothy Dandridge was an actress and singer who had a net worth of $10,000 at the time of her death in 1965. Dorothy Dandridge was the first African-American to receive an Academy Award nomination for a leading role, which she did for the 1954 musical film "Carmen Jones." Her other notable film credits include "Tarzan's Peril," "Bright Road," "Island in the Sun," "Tamango," and "Porgy and Bess." Dandridge also performed extensively in nightclubs, and early in her career was part of the singing trio known as the Dandridge Sisters. Halle Berry portrayed Dorothy in the 1998 HBO TV movie "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge". Halle won an Emmy award for her portrayal.

Financial Problems

Not long after her marriage to Jack Denison ended in 1962, Dorothy discovered that her financial managers had stolen $50,000 from her accounts and left her with $140,000 in debt to the IRS. That's the same as owing $1.1 million today. The crushing debts forced Dorothy to sell her home and place her daughter – who was mentally handicapped – into a state mental institution. Dandridge lived the rest of her life in a modest West Hollywood apartment.

Early Life and Education

Dorothy Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio as the daughter of Ruby, an actress, and Cyril, a Baptist minister and cabinetmaker. Her parents had separated before she was born. Dandridge had an older sister named Vivian, with whom she performed as the Wonder Children. With their act, the sisters toured the Southern United States for five years, rarely going to school. When work dried up during the Great Depression, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where Dandridge's mother found work on radio and film. Meanwhile, Dandridge attended McKinley Junior High School.

The Dandridge Sisters

In 1934, the Wonder Children were renamed the Dandridge Sisters, and Dorothy and Vivian were joined by their schoolmate Etta Jones in what became a singing trio. The group went on to perform extensively over the ensuing years, including at such prominent New York nightclubs as the Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club. Eventually, the Dandridge Sisters began appearing in films, such as "The Big Broadcast of 1936," "A Day at the Races," and "It Can't Last Forever."

First Film Roles

Dandridge made her first film appearance in the 1935 "Our Gang" short comedy film "Teacher's Beau." After appearing in a number of films as part of the Dandridge Sisters in the latter half of the 1930s, she had her first credited role in the 1940 race film "Four Shall Die," playing a murderer. Because of her race, Dandridge had limited options for roles going forward. In 1941, she had small parts in "Bahama Passage," "Sundown," and "Lady from Louisiana," and appeared in the "Chattanooga Choo Choo" number in the musical film "Sun Valley Serenade" alongside the Nicholas Brothers. Dandridge went on to earn recognition for appearing in a succession of soundies, including "Paper Doll" and "Jig in the Jungle," among others. Throughout the remainder of the 1940s, she made uncredited appearances in such films as "Night in New Orleans," "Happy Go Lucky," "Atlantic City," and "Pillow to Post."

Film Career in the 1950s and 60s

In 1951, Dandridge played Melmendi, Queen of the Ashuba in "Tarzan's Peril" and Ann Carpenter in "The Harlem Globetrotters." She went on to have her first starring role in 1953, playing elementary school teacher Jane Richards in "Bright Road," costarring Harry Belafonte. This led to another starring role for Dandridge in Otto Preminger's 1954 all-black adaptation of the Broadway musical "Carmen Jones," also costarring Belafonte. The film was a global success, becoming one of the highest-grossing pictures of the year. For her performance as the titular character, Dandridge earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, making her the first African-American ever to be nominated for a leading role.

After her huge success with "Carmen Jones," Dandridge didn't return to the big screen until 1957 as part of the ensemble cast of "Island in the Sun." She subsequently starred opposite Curd Jürgens in the French/Italian co-production "Tamango," which was withheld from release in the United States until late 1959 due to an interracial kiss between the two stars. Meanwhile, Dandridge starred alongside James Mason and Broderick Crawford in the suspense drama "The Decks Ran Red." She went on to reunite with her "Carmen Jones" director Otto Preminger for an adaptation of the musical "Porgy and Bess," released in 1959. Starring opposite Sidney Poitier, Dandridge earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance as Bess. She appeared in her final two films in the early 1960s: "Malaga" and "The Murder Men."


Stage Career

Dandridge continued performing on stage concurrently with her screen acting career. In the 1940s, she acted in such shows as "Meet the People," "Jump for Joy," and "Sweet 'n' Hot." As a singer, Dandridge recorded the biggest opening in the history of West Hollywood's Mocambo nightclub when she performed there in the spring of 1951. She subsequently performed in New York and London with similar success, and in late 1952 returned to the Mocambo. In 1955, Dandridge became the first black performer to open at the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, leading to the booking of various other black performers.

Dandridge returned to stage acting in 1962 to play Anita in a Highland Park Music Theater production of "West Side Story"; however, she only appeared in two performances before coming down with an illness. By 1963, her popularity had significantly declined, and she was performing in nightclubs to pay off debts from a myriad of lawsuits and financial setbacks. After filing for bankruptcy and briefly going into seclusion, Dandridge became a Las Vegas lounge act in 1964.

Personal Life and Death

In 1942, Dandridge married dancer Harold Nicholas, the younger half of the tap-dancing duo the Nicholas Brothers. The marriage was a bitter one, ultimately falling apart due to Nicholas's philandering ways. He abandoned the family in 1948, and Dandridge filed for divorce in 1950, with the divorce becoming official the next year. With Nicholas, she had her only child, Harolyn, who was born with brain damage and was never able to speak to nor recognize her mother. In 1954, Dandridge began an affair with her "Carmen Jones" director Otto Preminger, who was married. She became pregnant by him in 1955, but was forced by 20th Century Fox to have an abortion to conceal the affair. Dandridge married her second husband, Jack Denison, in 1959; they divorced three years later amid financial struggles and allegations of domestic abuse.

On September 8, 1965, Dandridge was discovered naked and unresponsive in her apartment in West Hollywood by her manager Earl Mills. A pathology institute in Los Angeles determined that the cause of death was an accidental overdose of the antidepressant imipramine, while the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office concluded that Dandridge died from a fat embolism caused by a recent foot fracture. A private funeral service was held, and Dandridge's ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. The actress was posthumously given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in early 1984.

Dorothy was later portrayed by Halle Berry in the 1999 television film "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," which earned Berry Emmy, SAG, and Golden Globe Awards. In a satisfying twist, Halle Berry went on to become the first African-American to win Best Actress for her role in the 2001 film "Monster's Ball."

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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