Dorothy Lamour (December 10, 1914 – September 22, 1996) was an American film actress. She is best remembered for appearing in the Road to... movies, a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope .
Lamour was born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Carmen Louise (née LaPorte) and John Watson Slaton, both of whom were waiters. Lamour had French Louisianan, Spanish and Irish descent. Her parents' marriage lasted only a few years, with her mother re-marrying to Clarence Lambour, and Dorothy took his last name. That marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager.
In 1935, she had her own fifteen-minute weekly musical program on NBC Radio. She also sang on the popular Rudy Vallee radio show and the Chase and Sanborn Hour.
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 Lamour romantically, but she was initially interested only in friendship with him. Hoover and Lamour remained close friends to the end of Hoover's life, and after his 1972 death, Lamour did not deny rumors that she'd had an affair with him in the years after she divorced Kay. However, this appears nowhere in her memoirs "My Side of the Road" (Prentice-Hall ISBN 0-13-218594-6).
In 1936, she moved to Hollywood and began appearing regularly in films for Paramount Pictures. The role that made her a star was Ulah (a sort of female Tarzan) in The Jungle Princess (1936). She wore a sarong, which would become associated with her. While she first achieved stardom as a sex symbol, Lamour also showed talent as both a comic and dramatic actress. She was among the most popular actresses in motion pictures from 1936 to 1952.
She starred in the "Road to..." movie series with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the 1940s and 1950s. The movies were enormously popular during the 1940s, and they regularly placed among the top moneymaking films each year. While the films centered more on Hope and Crosby, Lamour held her own as their "straight man", looked beautiful, and sang some of her most popular songs. Her contribution to the films was considered by the public and theater owners of equal importance to that of Crosby and Hope during the series' golden era, 1940-1952. The series essentially ended with the release of Road to Bali in 1952, with her career declining while co-stars Hope and Crosby remained major show business figures.
During the World War II years, Lamour was among the most popular pinup girls among American servicemen, along with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also largely responsible for starting up the war bond tours in which movie stars would travel the country selling U.S. government bonds to the public. Lamour alone promoted the sale of over $21 million dollars worth of war bonds, and other stars promoted the sale of a billion more.
Dorothy Lamour starred in a number of movie musicals and sang in many of her comedies and dramatic films as well. She introduced a number of standards, including "The Moon of Manakoora", "I Remember You", "It Could Happen to You", "Personality", and "But Beautiful".
Lamour's film career petered out in the early 1950s, and she began a new career as a nightclub entertainer and occasional stage actress. In the 1960s, she returned to the screen for secondary roles in three films and became more active in the legitimate theater, headlining a road company of Hello Dolly! for over a year near the end of the decade.
Lamour's good humor and lack of pretension allowed her to have a remarkably long career in show business for someone best known as a glamour girl. She was a popular draw on the dinner theatre circuit of the 1970s. In the 1960s and 1970s, she lived with her longtime husband William Ross Howard III (whom she married in 1943), in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland. He died in 1978. Lamour published her autobiography My Side of the Road in 1980, revived her nightclub act, and performed in plays and television shows such as Hart to Hart, Crazy Like a Fox, and Murder, She Wrote.
During the 1990s, she made only a handful of professional appearances but she remained a popular interview subject for publications and TV talk and news programs. In 1995, the musical Swinging on a Star, a revue of songs written by Johnny Burke opened on Broadway and ran for three months; Lamour was credited as a "special advisor". Burke wrote many of the most famous "Road to..." movie songs as well as the score to Lamour's And the Angels Sing. The musical was nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award and the actress playing "Dorothy Lamour" in the Road movie segment, Kathy Fitzgerald, was also nominated.
Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood, California at the age of 81 from a heart attack. She was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Femme fatale in the Bing Crosby - Bob Hope "Road" series of Paramount Pictures offerings from 1941 to 1953. In the final entry, The Road to Hong Kong (1962), she appeared with Crosby and Hope but the femme fatale this time was Joan Collins.
Miss New Orleans 1931.
Interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Enduring Faith section, lot 387, space 2.
Derived her acting name name "Dorothy Lamour" from her step-father, whose surname was "Lambour".
Host of NBC Radio's "Sealtest Variety Theater" (aka The Dorothy Lamour Show) (1948-1949).
"The Moon of Manakoora" from 1937's The Hurricane (1937), was her signature song.
During World War II, she toured the country, selling in excess of $300 million worth of war bonds.
In 1946 (with the full assistance of Paramount's publicity department) she staged a memorable stunt by publicly burning a sarong, the garment with which she had been associated since her first starring role.
Her step-son gave her a dog, CoCo, when her husband died. She didn't want it at first, but he insisted. She soon learned to love the dog and referred to him as her boyfriend.
Her step-son William Ross "Bill, Jr." Howard IV was born in 1933. Her son John Ridgely "Ridge" Howard was born January 8, 1946. Her son Richard Thomson "Tommy" Howard was born on October 20, 1949.
She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her motion picture star is located at 6332 Hollywood Blvd. and her radio star is located at 6240 Hollywood Blvd.
Biography in: "American National Biography." Supplement 1, pp. 338-339. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
In Italy, almost all her films were dubbed by Rosetta Calavetta.