Dorothy Sebastian

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Dorothy Sebastian
Born (1903-04-26)April 26, 1903
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Died April 8, 1957(1957-04-08) (aged 53)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cancer
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery
Occupation Actress
Years active 1925–1948
Spouse(s) William Boyd (m. 1930–36)
Harold Shapiro (m. 1947–57)

Dorothy Sebastian (April 26, 1903 – April 8, 1957) was an American film and stage actress.[1]


Sebastian was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. In her youth, she aspired to be a dancer and a film actress. Her family frowned on both ambitions, however, so she fled to New York at the age of 15. Upon her arrival in New York City, Sebastian's southern drawl was thick enough to "cut with a knife".[2] She followed around theatrical agents before returning at night to a $12-a-month room, after being consistently rejected.

Sebastian's first contact in Hollywood was Robert Kane, who gave her a film test at United Studios. She performed in George White's Scandals and later co-starred with Joan Crawford and Anita Page in a popular series of MGM romantic dramas including Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and Our Blushing Brides (1930). Sebastian also appeared in 1929's Spite Marriage, wherein she was cast opposite her then-lover Buster Keaton.

By the mid-1930s, Sebastian was semi-retired from acting after marrying Hopalong Cassidy star William Boyd. After their 1936 divorce, she returned to acting appearing in mostly bit parts. Her last onscreen appearance was in the 1948 film The Miracle of the Bells.

On April 8, 1957, Sebastian died of cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.[1][3] She is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.


Sebastian is credited with co-writing the Moon Mullican blues ballad "The Leaves Mustn't Fall". Mullican recorded this in 1950 and 1958 and it has since become a bluegrass standard.

Personal life[edit]

Sebastian married actor William Boyd in December 1930 in Las Vegas, Nevada. They began a relationship after meeting on the set of His First Command in 1929.[4] They divorced in 1936.[1][5]

In 1947, Sebastian married Miami Beach businessman Harold Shapiro to whom she remained married until her death.[3]

Legal issues[edit]

On November 7, 1938, Sebastian was found guilty of drunk driving in a Beverly Hills, California Justice Court. The night she was arrested, she had been dining at the home of Buster Keaton with her nephew. She was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and paid a fine of $75.[6]

In 1940, Sebastian was denied an award of $10,000 from a San Diego court. She appeared at a Red Cross benefit in San Francisco in 1937, and failed to pay her hotel bill. She contended the promoter for the event should have paid the bill. An employee of the Plaza Hotel took out the suit, charging "defrauding an innkeeper". The State Supreme Court of California reversed the decision, which awarded her the money on grounds of malicious prosecution.[7]


For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Dorothy Sebastian has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6655 Hollywood Boulevard.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1925 Sackcloth and Scarlet Polly Freeman
1925 Why Women Love Pearl
1926 You'd Be Surprised Ruth Whitman
1927 On Ze Boulevard Gaby de Sylva
1927 The Isle of Forgotten Women Marua
1928 A Woman of Affairs Constance
1928 The House of Scandal Ann Rourke
1929 Spite Marriage Trilby Drew
1929 The Rainbow Lola
1929 The Unholy Night Lady Efra Cavender Alternative title: The Green Ghost
1930 Montana Moon Elizabeth "Lizzie" Prescott
1930 The Rounder Ethel Dalton MGM short, costarring Jack Benny.
1931 The Deceiver Ina Fontanne
1932 They Never Come Back Adele Landon
1933 Ship of Wanted Men Irene Reynolds
1934 The Life of Vergie Winters Lulu
1937 The Mysterious Pilot Jean McNain
1939 The Arizona Kid Bess Warren
1941 Kansas Cyclone Helen King
1942 True to the Army Gloria Uncredited
1948 The Miracle of the Bells Miss Katie Orwin Uncredited


  1. ^ a b c "Dorothy Sebastian, Former Actress, Dies". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. April 9, 1957. p. 22. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "Dorothy Is Gate Crasher". The Los Angeles Times. 1926-10-04. p. C20. 
  3. ^ a b Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 179. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9. 
  4. ^ Merrick, Molly (1930-12-30). "Hollywood In Person". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Divorces William Boyd". New York Times. Associated Press. May 30, 1936. 
  6. ^ "Actress Found Guilty Of Driving While Intoxicated". Lewiston Morning Tribune. 1968-11-08. p. 3. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "High Court Rules Against Actress". The Los Angeles Times. 1940-05-28. p. 9. 


  • Los Angeles Times, "Alabama Steps To Top", August 10, 1930, Page B16.
  • Oakland Tribune, "Kin of Actress Burns To Death", May 14, 1938, Page 1.

External links[edit]