Filled Under: Dorothy Sebastian
Stella Dorothy Sebastian was born on April 26, 1903 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her father was a preacher and her mother a painter. As a child she wanted to be a dancer and an actress, but her parents looked down upon both professions. So at age 15, shortening her name to Dorothy Sebastian, she ran away to New York City to pursue her goals. She took up acrobatic dancing at the prestigious Ned Wayburn School but was constantly rejected by agents as she tried to land a role as an actress. She finally got her first job in show business as a chorus girl in the revue “George White’s Scandals” in June 1924. The show opened at the Apollo Theatre and ran for 198 performances, closing in December. Then in 1925 she signed a contract with MGM and her first role was in “Sackcloth and Scarlet” (1925) which also starred Alice Terry. She went on to make several movies with MGM in the late 20’s, most notably: “A Woman Of Affairs” (1928) with Greta Garbo, “Our Dancing Daughters” (1929) with Joan Crawford and Anita Page, “Spite Marriage” (1929) with Buster Keaton (with whom she was romantically involved with at the time), and “Our Blushing Brides” (1930) with Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, and Anita Page,. At the end of her five-year contract with MGM, she asked for a raise (her weekly salary came to $1,000), but was refused. Out of a contract, her career faltered. She was relegated to supporting roles although some were in “A” grade movies such as; The Women (1939) and “Reap The Wild Wind” (1942) with John Wayne. All told, Dorothy Sebastian starred in or had minor roles in over sixty movies in her career.
Dorothy Sebastian was involved in several well-publicized court cases: a tax evasion charge (1929), bitter divorce proceedings from ex-husband William Boyd (better known as “Hopalong Cassidy”), a drunk-driving charge after a party at Buster Keaton’s house in November 1938, (naively suggesting that a meal of spaghetti and garlic had been responsible for “retaining the intoxicating odor of the wine”), and a charge by a San Diego hotel of not paying a $100 account, which was later dismissed. She eventually counter-sued the hotel for defamation of character and was awarded $10,000.
Sebastian married Hopalong Cassidy star William Boyd in 1935 in Las Vegas, Nevada following a romance which began on a set at Pathe Pictures. The marriage lasted four years and they were divorced in 1939. In 1947, Sebastian married Miami Beach businessman Harold Shapiro to whom she remained married until her death. Sebastian died of cancer in 1957 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Dorothy Sebastian has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6655 Hollywood Blvd.