“I did whatever I was told to do in Hollywood, but I never really enjoyed making movies like I did being in a show” ~ Dixie Dunbar
“I enjoyed my career but it was my mother who had all the ambition.” ~ Dixie Dunbar
Dixie Dunbar, at four feet eleven and one half inches tall was a beautiful, vivacious dancer, entertainer, and actress of 1930s Broadway and Hollywood musicals. Dunbar was born Christine Elizabeth Dunbar on January 18, 1918, in Montgomery, Alabama and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Nicknamed “Tootsie” by her mother, she took dancing lessions at an early age. Her mom took her to New York where her heavy Southern drawl had her quickly renamed “Dixie”. In New York Dunbar danced in big band orchestras, nightclubs and classy restaurants. She made her film debut at age 16 in George White’s “Scandals” in 1934. Also in 1934, Dunbar starred in the Broadway musical “Life Begins at 8:40” which also starred “Wizard of Oz” legends Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr. Twentieth Century-Fox signed her to a film contract where she appeared in both dancing and non-dancing roles such as: “Pigskin Parade” (1936), “Girls’ Dormitory” (1936), “Sing, Baby, Sing” (1936), “Life Begins in College” (1937), “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1937), “One in a Million” (1937), “Walking Down Broadway” (1938), and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1938). Unhappy with movie making and the direction her career was heading, Dunbar retired from films and left Hollywood in 1939. She returned to New York and Broadway, appearing with Buddy Ebsen, Phil Silvers and Judy Canova in “Yokel Boy”. In the early forties she toured with a nightclub act but her career quickly fade. From 1949 to 1951 she was “seen” dancing in the now-famous television commercials ads that featured her totally covered head to hips by a giant Old Gold cigarette box only showing her dancing legs. After some brief TV work Dunbar retired from show business altogether.
Dixie Dunbar was married three times. The first time was to the co-director of the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall, Gene Snyder, in 1940. They divorced in 1953. Her second marriage was in 1954 to Robert M. Herndon, an executive of Cinerama Corp. whom she met while appearing on TV. They remained married until his death a few years later. Dunbar then married Robert M. Herndon, a millionaire from Miami Beach. That marriage also ended in divorce. She had no children.
Dixie Dunbar died of heart failure on August 29, 1991, in Miami, Florida.