Filled Under: Dorothy Lamour
Dorothy Lamour was an American actress, singer, and entertainer. She is probably best remembered for appearing in the “Road to…” movies, a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. “I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham.” said Lamour of working with Hope and Crosby, “I was the happiest and highest-paid straight woman in the business.”
Dorothy Lamour was born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton on December 10, 1914 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the daughter of Carmen Louise and John Watson Slaton, both of whom were waiters. Lamour was of French Louisianan, Spanish and Irish descent. Her parents’ marriage lasted only a few years, with her mother re-marrying Clarence Lambour, and Dorothy took his last name. Lamour was a beautiful child who turned heads as a teenager with her long dark hair and great looks, but her dream was to become a professional singer not actress. After she won a beauty contest as Miss New Orleans in 1931, she headed to Chicago to find her work as a singer. By 1935, Lamour had her own fifteen-minute weekly musical program on NBC Radio and 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 Lamour a star was as Ulah in “The Jungle Princess” (1936) opposite Ray Milland. The movie was a tremendous moneymaker as Lamour stole the show in her wrap-around sarong. Dorothy became an instant star as the child of nature, a female version of Tarzan, raised with a pet tiger among the tropical natives. The sarong she wore in “The Jungle Princess” would become her trademark and she went on to play similar parts in the sarong in productions including “The Hurricane” (1937), “Typhoon” (1940), “Beyond the Blue Horizon” (1942) and her final big-screen sarong feature, “Donovan’s Reef” (1963). Although Lamour actually only wore a sarong in six of her 59 pictures, it defined her career.
The sarong stayed with her in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” pictures for Paramount. The three starred in five “Road to…” films; “Road to Singapore” (1940), “Road to Zanzibar” (1941), “Road to Morocco” (1942), “Road to Utopia” (1946) and “Road to Bali” (1952). The movies were enormously popular and they regularly placed among the top moneymaking films each year. While the films centered more on Hope and Crosby, Lamour held her own as their ‘straight man’ and sang some of her most popular songs of her career. Her contribution to the films was considered by the public and theater owners of equal importance to that of Crosby and Hope. A final “Road” picture, “Road to the Fountain of Youth” was in the works in 1977, until Bing Crosby’s sudden death ended the movie plans. The final completed “Road” picture, “The Road to Hong Kong” in 1962 had Hope and Crosby in their usual roles, but Joan Collins had the female lead, not Lamour.
While Lamour first achieved stardom in her sarong as a sex symbol, she also showed great talent as both a comic and dramatic actress and was among the most popular actresses in motion pictures from 1936 to 1952. Lamour starred in a number of movie musicals and sang in many of her comedies and dramatic films as well. She introduced a number of standards, including “The Moon of Manakoora”, “I Remember You”, “It Could Happen to You”, “Personality”, and “But Beautiful”. 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 a supporting role in the best picture Oscar-winner “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952). Her other leading men during her career also included William Holden, Ray Milland, James Stewart, Jack Benny, and Fred MacMurray among others.
During the World War II years, Lamour was among the most popular pinup girls among American servicemen, along with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also largely responsible for starting up the war bond tours in which movie stars would travel the country selling U.S. government bonds to the public. Lamour alone promoted the sale of over $21 million dollars’ worth of war bonds, and other stars promoted the sale of a billion more.
Lamour’s film career slowed down 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, including John Ford’s “Donovan’s Reef” (1963) with John Wayne and Lee Marvin, 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 down to earth personalty allowed her to have a remarkably long career in show business for someone best known as a glamour girl. She became a popular draw on the dinner theatre circuit of the 1970s. 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”, “Remington Steele” and “Murder, She Wrote” among others.
During the 1990s, Lamour made only a handful of professional appearances but remained a popular interview subject for publications and TV talk and news programs. In 1995, the musical “Swinging on a Star”, a revue of songs written by Johnny Burke opened on Broadway and ran for three months with Lamour being credited as a “special advisor”. Burke wrote many of the most famous “Road to…” movie songs as well as the score to Lamour’s “And the Angels Sing”. The musical was nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award, and the actress playing Lamour in the Road movie segment, Kathy Fitzgerald, was also nominated.
Dorothy Lamour was married twice. The first marriage was to Herbie Kay in 1935. The marriage ended in divorced in 1939.
Her second marriage was to William Ross Howard III in 1943. The couple remained married until his death in 1978.
Dorothy Lamour died in her sleep from a heart attack at her home in North Hollywood on September 22, 1996 at the age of 81. She was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Ready For Fun, Fight, or a South Seas Romance!!
“Road to Singapore” is a 1940 Paramount Pictures film starring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope, and was the first of the seven successful “Road” movies starring the three actors. The movie also stars Judith Garrett, Charles Coburn, Anthony Quinn, and Jerry Colonna. Josh Mallon (Bing Crosby) and Ace Lannigan (Bob Hope) are sailors and best friends who are always together. As their ship returns to the U.S. they see all the trouble their fellow sailors have with their wives and girlfriends and the two friends make a pact to never get involved with women again. That pact is soon put to the test after they return home when Josh’s father, a very rich shipping magnate, tires of Josh’s ways and commits Josh to an office job and a marriage to socialite Gloria Wycott (Judith Garrett). On the night before the wedding Josh and Ace get in a brawl with Josh’s future brother-in-law which causes a scandal, so Josh and Ace decide to skip town. The two buddies head to Singapore, but wind up in Kaigoon, poor yet happy, and resolve to remain bachelors forever. Their resolution is short-lived when they meet Mima (Dorothy Lamour), a dancer in a local bar. Of course the meeting ends in a fight with Mima’s jealous dancing partner, Caesar (Anthony Quinn). That night, Mima leaves Caeser to move in with Josh and Ace, and promptly begins to domesticate the boys, who both fall in love with her, although neither will admit it.
Then Josh’s father and Gloria show up, Ceasar causes all the trouble he can, Mima has to decide between the two friends, the local law gets involved, and Josh and Ace are caught up in the middle of everything. Which leads to a funny, song filled, fist fighting adventure for all. Songs include: ‘Captain Custard’ sung by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, ‘The Moon And The Willow Tree’ sung by Dorothy Lamour, ‘Sweet Potato Piper’ sung by Hope, Lamour, and Crosby, ‘Too Romantic’ sung by Crosby and Lamour, and ‘Kaigoon’ sung by chorus with the words in Esperanto. The movie was a huge success and Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour went on to make seven of these so called “Road” movies.
Hope, Crosby, and Lamour were always clowning around together. During one lunch break from filming, Bob Hope threw a handful of soap suds (that were being used in a scene from the movie) at Dorothy Lamour and soon Bing Crosby became involved. The fight ended when Lamour cornered Hope and Crosby and threw all she had at them. The director was not very happy with the trio as it would take hours to repair their hair, makeup, and clean their clothing.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby perform Captain Custard
In the climactic dance number, the natives of Kaigoon sing in Esperanto: “Behold, the new moon shines only love. A woman delights a man according to nature. So choose someone now and dance with him. A true heart beats indeed in each of us, ready and able and willing for you. Don’t just stand there, come here.”