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|Born||Margaret Louise Comingore
August 24, 1913
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||December 30, 1971
Stonington, Connecticut, U.S.
|Other names||Kay Winters
|Spouse(s)||Richard J. Collins (1939–1945)
Theodore Strauss (1945–1952)
John Crowe (1958–1971)
Dorothy Comingore (August 24, 1913 – December 30, 1971) was an American film actress, best known for her portrayal of Susan Alexander in Orson Welles's critically acclaimed movie Citizen Kane (1941). From 1934 to 1940, Comingore was billed in her stage appearances as Kay Winters and then Linda Winters as a film actress.
Life and career
Comingore played bit parts in Hollywood movies until Orson Welles cast her as Susan Alexander, the fragile but fiery second wife of press tycoon Charles Foster Kane who was modeled on the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Her performance in Citizen Kane garnered rave reviews: “(She) is put through a range of emotions that would try any actress one could name,” said the Hollywood Reporter.
- "After seeing Dorothy on the big screen, every studio in town wanted to borrow her. But RKO refused. She then fell so ill a doctor ordered bed rest. But when she didn’t show up for work, the studio suspended her. Dorothy had hoped to star in Sister Carrie, Jane Eyre, or some other classy production, but upon returning to work found nothing to do. 'I must have said the wrong thing at the right time,' she told friends, 'and I’d like to know what it is.'
- "Hearst’s yellow ink had stained her reputation. According to documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dorothy had landed on a government watch list for the crime of 'distributing Communist literature to negroes.' It’s true that Dorothy had canvassed Watts, stumping door-to-door for actor Albert Dekker, a state Assembly candidate. (He won.) And yes, she had worked with musician Lead Belly and singer Paul Robeson to try and desegregate whites-only USO clubs. (They succeeded.) And she had indeed urged voters, soldiers, and Baptist teetotalers to support 'union solidarity' whenever possible. At a time when Hollywood workers were organizing themselves, she became a marked woman. A few years later, the US House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) became a permanent fixture, and Dorothy’s FBI file had grown thick. HUAC’s stated mission was to investigate 'subversive activities in the entertainment industry,' but Richard, Dorothy, and thousands of others believed it was out to strangle free speech and organized labor.
- "The star also had acquired a powerful enemy - the 78-year-old Hearst. The media mogul so hated Dorothy's portrayal of his mistress, 44-year-old Marion Davies, that he used his chain of newspapers and radio stations to smear the young woman. Hearst's columnists Hedda Hopper and Walter Winchell publicly accused Dorothy of belonging to the "Party," in this case the Communist Party, and borrowed Orwellian 'newspeak' to malign her. As it was, Dorothy never was a dues-paying 'commie'."
According to Peter Bogdanovich in his DVD commentary on Citizen Kane, she impaired her subsequent career by turning down too many roles that she felt were uninteresting.
Comingore's last movie appearance was in a supporting role in The Big Night (1951) starring John Drew Barrymore. Her career ended in 1951, when she was caught up in the Hollywood blacklist. The following year she was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee about her alleged Communist connections, and she declined to answer on constitutional grounds. Soon after she was accused of heavy drinking in custody hearings for her children, and on March 19, 1953, she was arrested for prostitution in West Hollywood. The arrest is believed by many to have been part of a revenge scheme by police offended by her mocking the H.U.A.C.
Comingore struggled with alcoholism during her later life, and died from a pulmonary disease in Stonington, Connecticut, at the age of 58. She had also broken her back years prior and subsequently restricted her movements, mostly confined to her seaside apartment.
- L.A. Review of Books: Destroyed by HUAC: The Dorothy Comingore Story by Kathleen Sharp
- David Bromwich, "My son has been poisoned!". London Review of Books. Issue 34:2 (January 26, 2012). pp. 11-13.
- [L.A. Review of Books: Destroyed by HUAC, the Dorothy Comingore Story]
- Dorothy Comingore at the Internet Movie Database
- Dorothy Comingore at AllMovie
- Dorothy Comingore at Find A Grave