Dorothy Comingore

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Dorothy Comingore
Citizen Kane-Dorothy Comingore2.JPG
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander
in Citizen Kane (1941)
Born Margaret Louise Comingore
(1913-08-24)August 24, 1913
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died December 30, 1971(1971-12-30) (aged 58)
Stonington, Connecticut, U.S.
Other names Kay Winters
Linda Winters
Occupation Actress
Years active 1934–1952
Spouse(s) Richard Meltzer (? – ?)
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.[1]

Early years[edit]

Margaret Louise Comingore was born in Los Angeles, California and was described as "a one-time Oakland school girl."[2] She attended the University of California, Berkeley.[3]

Her father was an electrotyper. She had a sister, Lucille, who operated a night club in San Francisco.[4]

Film[edit]

Dorothy Comingore was discovered by Charles Chaplin when she was acting in a small playhouse in Carmel. Whether Chaplin played any role in her career is questionable. In 1938, Comingore denied being Chaplin's protege and indicated that press reports had exaggerated the limited contact that she had with Chaplin and one of his assistants.[2]

Dorothy Comingore on the set of Citizen Kane (1941)
Ray Collins, Dorothy Comingore, Orson Welles and Ruth Warrick in Citizen Kane

Comingore played bit parts in Hollywood movies until Orson Welles cast her as Susan Alexander, the second wife of press tycoon Charles Foster Kane, in his debut feature film Citizen Kane (1941). Her performance garnered rave reviews: “(She) is put through a range of emotions that would try any actress one could name,” wrote 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 [Collins, her husband], 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" (the Communist Party), and borrowed Orwellian 'newspeak' to malign her. As it was, Dorothy never was a dues-paying 'commie'."[5]

Comingore's supposed Communist connections played a role in a legal battle for custody of her two children with Richard J. Collins.[6] She also said that her 1953 arrest on a prostitution charge was "all a part of my being an 'unfriendly witness.'"[7]

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.

She appeared in the film version of the Eugene O'Neill play The Hairy Ape (1944) with William Bendix, Susan Hayward and John Loder.

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.[8] 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.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Comingore was married to Richard Meltzer.[9] She also married screenwriter Richard J. Collins (with whom she had a daughter, Judith, and a son, Michael). They were divorced in 1946.[6] Her other husbands were screenwriter Theodore Strauss[10] and John Crowe (another source says "Crowne"),[11] who was not in the entertainment business, from 1958 until her death in 1971.

Comingore struggled with alcoholism during her later life, to the extent that it caused her to lose custody of her two children with Richard J. Collins.[10]

Death[edit]

Comingore died December 30, 1971, 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. She was survived by her husband, a son, and a daughter.[11]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lowrance, Dee (July 19, 1942). "Lady Luck: Movieland's Best Talent Scout". The San Bernardino County Sun. The San Bernardino County Sun. p. 24. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  2. ^ a b Othman, Frederick C. (April 29, 1938). "Ex-Oakland Girl Denies She's Chaplin Protege". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. p. 36. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  3. ^ Coons, Robbin (June 26, 1938). "Acting Once Cantalouped as Kay Winters Received Prize". California, San Bernardino. The San Bernardino County Sun. p. 7. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  4. ^ "The Knave". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. May 12, 1938. p. 9. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  5. ^ a b L.A. Review of Books: Destroyed by HUAC: The Dorothy Comingore Story by Kathleen Sharp
  6. ^ a b "Actress Balks on Red Party Question". Oklahoma, Ada. The Ada Weekly News. October 23, 1952. p. 3. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  7. ^ "Actress Dorothy Comingore Held". Pennsylvania, Chester. Chester Times. March 20, 1953. p. 14. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com.  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ David Bromwich, "My son has been poisoned!". London Review of Books. Issue 34:2 (January 26, 2012). pp. 11-13.
  9. ^ "How Linda Winters, Former Oakland Girl, Became Movie Queen". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. August 16, 1938. p. 21. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  10. ^ a b "Dorothy Comingore Held as Alcoholic". California, San Mateo. The Times. May 27, 1953. p. 22. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  11. ^ a b "Actress Dorothy Comingore Dies". Texas, Lubbock. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. January 2, 1972. p. 100. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read

External links[edit]