Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton
December 10, 1914
|Died||September 22, 1996 (aged 81)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park|
(m. 1935; div. 1939)
William Ross Howard III
(m. 1943; died 1978)
Dorothy Lamour (born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton; December 10, 1914 – September 22, 1996) was an American actress and singer. She is best remembered for having appeared in the Road to... movies, a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
Lamour began her career in the 1930s as a big band singer. In 1936, she moved to Hollywood, where she signed with Paramount Pictures. Her appearance as Ulah in The Jungle Princess (1936) brought her fame and marked the beginning of her image as the "Sarong Queen".
In 1940, Lamour made her first Road series comedy film Road to Singapore. The Road series films were popular during the 1940s. The sixth film in the series, Road to Bali, was released in 1952. By this time, Lamour's screen career began to wane, and she focused on stage and television work. In 1961, Crosby and Hope teamed for The Road to Hong Kong, but actress Joan Collins was cast as the female lead. Lamour made a brief appearance and sang a song near the end of that film.
In the 1970s, Lamour revived her nightclub act, and in 1980, released her autobiography My Side of the Road. She made her final movie appearance in 1987.
Lamour married her second husband, William Ross Howard III, in 1943. They had two sons and remained married until Howard's death in 1978. Lamour died at her home in 1996 at the age of 81.
Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton was born on December 10, 1914, at Charity ward at New Orleans East Hospital in New Orleans, the daughter of Carmen Louise (née LaPorte) and John Watson Slaton[i], both of whom were waiters. Lamour was of Spanish with some English, French and possibly also distant Irish descent. Her parents' marriage lasted only a few years. Her mother married for the second time to Clarence Lambour, whose surname Dorothy later adopted and modified as her stage name. That marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager.
Lamour quit school at age 14. After taking a business course, she worked as a secretary to support herself and her mother. She began entering beauty pageants, was crowned Miss New Orleans in 1931, and went on to compete in Galveston's Pageant of Pulchritude. Miss Lamour was close friends with Dorothy Dell, who was in the Ziegfeld Follies. Lamour used the prize money to support herself while she worked in a stock theatre company. She and her mother later moved to Chicago. Lamour found a job working at Marshall Field's department store, working as an elevator operator at the age of 16. Her boss, Douglas Singleterry, referred to her as 'Dolly Face'; he also recalled that she'd spend a lot of her time auditioning around Chicago. She was discovered by orchestra leader Herbie Kay when he spotted her in performance at a Chicago talent show held at the Hotel Morrison. She had an audition the next day; Kay hired her as a singer for his orchestra and, in 1935, Lamour went on tour with him. Her work with Kay eventually led Lamour to vaudeville and work in radio. In 1935, she had her own 15-minute weekly musical program on NBC Radio. Lamour also sang on the popular Rudy Vallée radio show and The Chase and Sanborn Hour. On January 30, 1944, Lamour starred in "For This We Live", an episode of Silver Theater on CBS radio.
In 1936, Lamour moved to Hollywood. Around that time, Carmen married her third husband, Ollie Castleberry, and the family lived in Los Angeles. That same year, she did a screen test for Paramount Pictures and signed a contract with them.
Lamour made her first film for Paramount, College Holiday (1936), in which she has a bit part as an uncredited dancer.
The Jungle Princess and "sarong" roles
Her second film for Paramount, The Jungle Princess (1936) with Ray Milland, solidified her fame. In the film, Lamour plays the role of "Ulah", a jungle native who wore an Edith Head-designed sarong throughout the film. The Jungle Princess was a big hit for the studio and Lamour would be associated with sarongs for the rest of her career. It also gave her a hit song "Moonlight and Shadows".
Lamour supported Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott in High, Wide and Handsome (1937), singing "The Things I Want". Sam Goldwyn borrowed her for John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), where she was back in a sarong playing an island princess alongside Jon Hall. Her swimming and diving scenes were handled by stunt double Lila Finn, who at one point dropped the sarong and was filmed diving into a lagoon in the nude. The film was a massive success and gave Lamour another hit song with "The Moon of Manakoora".
Paramount reunited her with Milland and a sarong for Her Jungle Love (1938). Tropic Holiday (1938) cast her as a Mexican alongside Bob Burns, Raye and Milland, then she supported George Raft and Henry Fonda in the adventure film Spawn of the North (1938). Raft was meant to be Lamour's leading man in St. Louis Blues (1939) but he turned down the part and was replaced by Lloyd Nolan.
The "Road" movies
In 1940, Lamour starred in Road to Singapore, a spoof of Lamour's "sarong" films. It was originally meant to co-star Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie, then George Burns and Gracie Allen, before Paramount decided to use Bob Hope and Bing Crosby; Lamour was billed after Crosby and above Hope. The two male stars began ad-libbing during filming. "I was trying to follow the script but just couldn't get my lines out", she said later. "Finally, I realised that I should just get the general idea of a scene rather than learn the words by heart, then go along with the boys." Said Hope, "Dottie is one of the bravest gals in pictures. She stands there before the camera and ad-libs with Crosby and me knowing that the way the script is written she'll come second or third best, but she fears nothing."
The movie was a solid hit and response to the team was enthusiastic.
It was back to sarongs for Typhoon (1940). Her male co-star in the latter was Robert Preston who was also with Lamour in Moon Over Burma (1940). Fox borrowed her again for Chad Hanna (1941) with Henry Fonda.
Response to Road to Singapore had been such that Paramount reunited Lamour, Hope and Crosby in Road to Zanzibar (1941) which was even more successful and eventually led to a series of pictures (although from this point on Lamour was billed beneath Hope). She and Hope then did Caught in the Draft (1941) which was one of the biggest hits of the year.
Lamour was reunited with her old Hurricane star, Jon Hall, in Aloma of the South Seas (1941). She did a popular musical with Eddie Bracken, William Holden and Betty Hutton, The Fleet's In (1942), which gave her a hit song, "I Remember You".
Lamour was one of many Paramount stars who did guest shots in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). She and Hope were borrowed by Sam Goldwyn for a comedy They Got Me Covered (1943), then she did one with Crosby without Hope, Dixie (1943), a popular biopic of Dan Emmett.
During World War II, Lamour was among the more popular pinup girls among American servicemen, along with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also known for her volunteer work, selling war bonds during tours in which movie stars would travel the country selling U.S. government bonds to the public. Lamour reportedly sold $300 million worth of bonds earning her the nickname "The Bond Bombshell". She also volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen where she would dance and talk to soldiers. In 1965, Lamour was awarded a belated citation from the United States Department of the Treasury for her war bond sales.
Lamour made Melody Inn (1943) with Dick Powell, then And the Angels Sing (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Hutton, where she sang "It Should Happen to You". She made one last sarong movie, Rainbow Island (1944), co-starring Bracken.
Lamour played a Mexican in A Medal for Benny (1945), based on a story by John Steinbeck, co-starring Arturo de Córdova. She was one of many Paramount stars to cameo in Duffy's Tavern (1945), then did a fourth "Road", Road to Utopia (1945), then Masquerade in Mexico (1945) with de Cordova.
She was in three big hits in a row: My Favorite Brunette (1947), a comedy with Hope; Wild Harvest (1947), a melodrama with Alan Ladd and Preston; and Road to Rio (1947). She also sang a duet with Ladd in Variety Girl (1947). Then she left Paramount.
Lamour emceed Front and Center, a 1947 variety comedy show, as a summer replacement for The Fred Allen Show, with the Army Air Force recruiting as sponsors. The show changed to The Sealtest Variety Theater in September 1948.
After leaving Paramount, Lamour made a series of films for producer Benedict Bogeaus: the all-star comedy On Our Merry Way (1948); Lulu Belle (1948), a melodrama with George Montgomery; and The Girl from Manhattan (1948), also with Montgomery.
She tried two comedies: The Lucky Stiff (1949), produced by Jack Benny co-starring Brian Donlevy, then Slightly French (1949) with Don Ameche. Manhandled (1950) was a film noir with Dan Duryea for Pine-Thomas. None of these films were particularly popular.
Lamour played a successful season at the London Palladium in 1950 then was in two big hits: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Cecil B. De Mille's circus epic, and Road to Bali (1952). However this did not seem to lead to better film offers, and Lamour began concentrating on being a nightclub entertainer and a stage actress.
Lamour returned to movies with a cameo in the final "Road" film, The Road to Hong Kong (1962); she was replaced as a love interest by Joan Collins because Bing Crosby wanted a younger actress. However, Bob Hope would not do the film without Lamour, so she appeared in an extended cameo.
She had a bigger part in John Ford's Donovan's Reef (1963) with John Wayne and Lee Marvin, and made guest appearances on shows like Burke's Law, I Spy and The Name of the Game, and films such as Pajama Party (1964) and The Phynx (1970).
Lamour moved to Baltimore with her family, where she appeared on TV and worked on the city's cultural commission. Then David Merrick offered her the chance to headline a road company of Hello Dolly! which she did for over a year near the end of the decade.
Lamour starred in a number of movie musicals and sang in many of her comedies and dramatic films as well. For several years beginning in the late 1930s, Harriet Lee was her voice teacher. Lamour introduced a number of standards, including "The Moon of Manakoora", "I Remember You", "It Could Happen to You", "Personality", and "But Beautiful".
She guest starred on shows such as Marcus Welby, M.D. and The Love Boat and films like Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) and Death at Love House (1976). In 1977, she toured in the play Personal Appearance.
Her husband died in 1978, but she continued to work for "therapy".
In 1980, Lamour published her autobiography My Side of the Road and revived her nightclub act.
In 1984, she toured in a production of Barefoot in the Park.
In 1986 she said "I'm still as busy at 71 as I was when I was just a slip of a girl. I do concerts, television and a lot of dinner theatre, where I sing old songs and talk about Bob and Bing and starting out at Paramount at $200 a week and working myself up to $450,000 a picture...I feel wonderful. Age is only in the mind and I'm grateful that God has taken care of me. And I'm very grateful for that sarong. It did a lot for me! But to be truthful, the sarong was never my favorite wearing apparel."
In 1987, she made her last big-screen appearance in the movie Creepshow 2, appearing with George Kennedy as an aging couple who are killed during a robbery. The wooden, Native American statue in front of their general store comes to life to avenge their death. The 72-year-old Lamour quipped: "Well, at my age you can't lean against a palm tree and sing 'Moon of Manakoora'", she said. "People would look at that and say 'What is she trying to do?'"
During the 1990s, she made only a handful of professional appearances but remained a popular interview subject for publications and TV talk and news programs. Lamour's final stage performance was as "Hattie" in the Long Beach Civic Light Opera's 1990 production of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies".
In 1995, the musical Swinging on a Star, a revue of songs written by Johnny Burke (who wrote many of the most famous Road to ... movie songs as well as the score to Lamour's film And the Angels Sing (1944)) opened on Broadway and ran for three months; Lamour was credited as a "special advisor". It was nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award; the actress playing her in the road movie segment, Kathy Fitzgerald, also was nominated.
Early in her career, Lamour met J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to Hoover's biographer Richard Hack, Hoover pursued a romantic relationship with Lamour, and the two spent a night together at a Washington, D.C. hotel. When Lamour was later asked if she and Hoover had a sexual relationship, she replied: "I cannot deny it." In her autobiography My Side of the Road (1980), Lamour does not discuss Hoover in detail; she refers to him only as "a lifelong friend".
On April 7, 1943, Lamour married Air Force captain and advertising executive William Ross Howard III  in Beverly Hills. The couple had two sons: John Ridgely (1946–2018) and Richard Thomson Howard (born 1949).
In 1957, Lamour and Howard moved to the Baltimore, Maryland, suburb of Sudbrook Park. In 1962, the couple and their two sons moved to Hampton, another Baltimore suburb in Dulaney Valley, with their oldest son, John, attending Towson High School. She also owned a home in Palm Springs, California. Howard died in 1978.
Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood on September 22, 1996, at the age of 81. Her funeral was held at St. Charles Catholic Church in North Hollywood, California, where she was a member. She was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
For her contribution to the radio and motion picture industry, Lamour has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her star for her radio contributions is located at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard, and her star for her motion picture contributions is located at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.
|1936||College Holiday||Dancer||Film debut; uncredited|
|1936||The Jungle Princess||Ulah|
|1937||Swing High, Swing Low||Anita Alvarez|
|1937||The Last Train from Madrid||Carmelita Castillo|
|1937||High, Wide, and Handsome||Molly Fuller|
|1937||Thrill of a Lifetime||Specialty|
|1938||The Big Broadcast of 1938||Dorothy Wyndham|
|1938||Her Jungle Love||Tura|
|1938||Spawn of the North||Nicky Duval|
|1939||St. Louis Blues||Norma Malone|
|1939||Man About Town||Diana Wilson|
|1939||Disputed Passage||Audrey Hilton|
|1940||Road to Singapore||Mima|
|1940||Johnny Apollo||Lucky Dubarry|
|1940||Moon Over Burma||Arla Dean|
|1940||Chad Hanna||Albany Yates / Lady Lillian|
|1941||Road to Zanzibar||Donna Latour|
|1941||Caught in the Draft||Antoinette "Tony" Fairbanks|
|1941||Aloma of the South Seas||Aloma|
|1942||The Fleet's In||The Countess|
|1942||Star Spangled Rhythm||Herself|
|1942||Beyond the Blue Horizon||Tama|
|1942||Road to Morocco||Princess Shalmar|
|1943||They Got Me Covered||Christina Hill|
|1943||Riding High||Ann Castle|
|1944||And the Angels Sing||Nancy Angel|
|1945||A Medal for Benny||Lolita Sierra|
|1945||Road to Utopia||Sal Van Hoyden|
|1945||Masquerade in Mexico||Angel O'Reilly|
|1947||My Favorite Brunette||Carlotta Montay||Alternative title: The Private Eye|
|1947||Wild Harvest||Fay Rankin|
|1947||Road to Rio||Lucia Maria de Andrade|
|1948||On Our Merry Way||Gloria Manners||Alternative title: A Miracle Can Happen|
|1948||Lulu Belle||Lulu Belle|
|1949||The Girl from Manhattan||Carol Maynard|
|1949||The Lucky Stiff||Anna Marie St. Claire|
|1949||Slightly French||Mary O'Leary|
|1951||Here Comes the Groom||Herself||Uncredited|
|1952||The Greatest Show on Earth||Phyllis|
|1952||Road to Bali||Princess Lala|
|1962||The Road to Hong Kong||Herself|
|1963||Donovan's Reef||Miss Laflour|
|1964||Pajama Party||Head Saleslady|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Visiting Film Star|
|1987||Creepshow 2||Martha Spruce||(segment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"), (final film role)|
|1955||Damon Runyon Theater||Sally Bracken||Television debut
Episode: "The Mink Doll"
|1967||I Spy||Halima||Episode: "The Honorable Assassins"|
|1969||The Name of the Game||Stella Fisher||Episode: "Chains of Command"|
|1970||Love, American Style||Holly's Mother||Segment: "Love and the Pick-Up"|
|1971||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Mary DeSocio||Episode: "Echos from Another World"|
|1976||Death at Love House||Denise Christian||Television movie|
Alternative title: The Shrine of Lorna Love
|1980||The Love Boat||Lil Braddock||Episode: "That's My Dad/The Captain's Bird/Captive Audience"|
|1984||Hart to Hart||Katherine Prince||Episode: "Max's Waltz"|
|1984||Remington Steele||Herself||Episode: "Cast in Steele"|
|1986||Crazy like a Fox||Rosie||Episode: "Rosie"|
|1987||Murder, She Wrote||Mrs. Ellis||Episode: "No Accounting for Murder"|
|1995||Swinging on a Star|
- My Side of the Road. Good Reads. Autobiography. Prentice-Hall. 1980. ISBN 978-0132185943. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
In popular culture
Lamour is the heroine of Matilda Bailey's young adult novel, Dorothy Lamour and the Haunted Lighthouse (1947), whose "heroine has the same name and appearance as the famous actress but has no connection ... it is as though the famous actress has stepped into an alternate reality in which she is an ordinary person." The story was written for a young teenage audience and is reminiscent of the adventures of Nancy Drew. It is part of a series known as "Whitman Authorized Editions", 16 books published between 1941 and 1947 that each featured a film actress as heroine.
She was featured in a brief print run of 2-3 issues during the 1950s, in Dorothy Lamour Jungle Princess Comics, a series of comic books dedicated to her on-film Jungle Princess persona (featuring screenshots from past movies as the covers).
Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was featured in David Lynch's 2006 film Inland Empire.
Name-checked in Little Feat song Apolitical Blues.
Name-checked in Michael Penn's song "Seen the Doctor" (rhymed with "Singapore").
Referenced in the TV sitcom "The Golden Girls" when Sophia Petrillo refers to her son as a " six foot two, married man with kids who likes to dress up like Dorothy Lamour."
- Severo, Richard (September 23, 1996). "Dorothy Lamour, 81, Sultry Sidekick in Road Films, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
- Lamour, Dorothy; McInnes, Dick (1980). My Side of the Road. Prentice-Hall. p. 39. ISBN 978-0132185943.
It does get a little confusing; for example, my full name would be Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton Lambour Lamour Kay Kaumeyer Howard if you keep count. But at this point, I was just terribly happy to be Mrs. Herbie Kay.
- Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R. (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Garland to O'Connor. Taylor & Francis. p. 477. ISBN 978-0415943338.
- Fleming, E. J. (September 18, 2015). Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Seventeen Driving Tours with Directions and the Full Story, 2d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1850-0.
- LoBianco, Lorraine. "Starring Dorothy Lamour". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- Room, Adrian (2014). "Dorothy Lamour". Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). McFarland. p. 272. ISBN 978-0786457632.
- The Rosenberg Library Collection – Pageant of Pulchritude and Oleanders (1931). Rosenberg Library and Texas Archive of the Moving Image. 1931.
- "Drama". Nebraska State Journal. January 30, 1944. p. 36. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 31, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- 1940 United States Federal Census
- Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R. (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing: A Biographical Dictionary. Vol. 2. Taylor & Francis. p. 447. ISBN 978-0415937757.
- Jorgensen, Jay (2010). Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer. Philadelphia: Running Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 978-0-762-44173-0.
- Gregory, Mollie (2015). Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-813-16624-7.
- Vallance, Ton (September 24, 1996). "Obituary: Dorothy Lamour". The Independent. London. ProQuest 312518321.
- "Film Money-makers Selected by Variety: 'Sergeant York' Top Picture Gary Cooper Leading Star". The New York Times. December 31, 1941. p. 21.
- "101 Pix Gross in Millions". Variety. November 21, 1943 – via Internet Archive.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. p. 602. ISBN 978-0199770786 – via Internet Archive.
Front and Center | Sealtest Variety Hour Dorothy Lamour.
- Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Sealtest Boris Karloff Halloween Party 1948" – via www.youtube.com.
- Scott, John L. (February 1, 1968). "No Time for Sarongs for Dorothy Lamour in 'Dolly'". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155831793.
- Johnson, Erskine (April 4, 1951). "In Hollywood". Dixon Evening Telegraph. NEA. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Dorothy Lamour Stars on Stage". Los Angeles Times. February 5, 1971. ProQuest 156644159.
- Wisehart, Bob (October 2, 1977). "The Road yes, films no, for Lamour at 63". Chicago Tribune. ProQuest 169621710.
- Mitchell, Smyth (August 31, 1986). "Whatever happened to...Dorothy Lamour? 'Sarong Girl' won't stop working". Toronto Star. ProQuest 435476804.
- Wilson, J. S. (February 12, 1982). "Cabaret: Dorothy Lamour". The New York Times. ProQuest 424302078.
- Lee, William F. (2005). American Big Bands. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 119. ISBN 978-0634080548.
- Adelson, Suzanne (February 22, 1982). "It's Toujours Lamour – Dorothy Is Back on the Road Again at Age 67". People. Vol. 17, no. 7. ISSN 0093-7673.
- Ackerman, Kenneth D. (November 9, 2001). "Five myths about J. Edgar Hoover". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- Lamour 1980, p. 33.
- "Indoors Setting For Wedding Of Dorothy Lamour". Ottawa Citizen. April 6, 1943. p. 19. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- "John Howard Obituary". Fresno Bee – via Legacy.
- "Son Is Born To Dorothy Lamour". Ellensburg Daily Record. January 8, 1946. p. 1. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- "Dorothy Lamour Gives Birth to Her Second Son". The Milwaukee Journal. October 21, 1949. p. 22. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- "Dorothy Lamour" (PDF). Baltimore Magazine: 53. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- "Dorothy Lamour at Home in Maryland". Sunday Sun Magazine (Rotogravure). September 8, 1963. pp. 16–17 – via Newspapers.com.
- Scheeler, Mary Katherine (December 7, 2006). "One of the hits of the tour was the former home of Dorothy Lamour". Towson Times.
- Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 151. ISBN 978-1479328598.
- "Mixing politics with show business makes for star wars in Hollywood". United Press International.
- Kasten, Patricia (September 19, 2015). "Where actors go to pray". The Compass. Green Bay.
- "From the Archives: Dorothy Lamour, Sultry Movie Star, Dies". Los Angeles Times. September 23, 1996.
- Keister, Douglas (2010). Forever L.A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents. Gibbs Smith. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-423-60522-5.
- "Hollywood Star Walk: Dorothy Lamour". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- "Whitman Authorized Editions for Girls". Whitman Publishing. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- "Dorothy Lamour". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
- State of Louisiana, Parish of Orleans, First City Court of New Orleans marriage license states name of groom as "John Wilson Slaton". His mother's was Leta Wilson (also noted on license).