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In photographs she is always luminous, poised, and jaw droppingly pretty. In interviews she was gracious and admirable. Her presence was undeniable. Dorothy Dandridge was out there doing her thang decades before our contemporary celebrities were even thought of.

Dorothy Dandridge was of that Hollywood era where everything was sacrificed for the showbusiness machine. In her childhood, young Dorothy and her sister Vivian performed on what was then known as the “Chitlin Circuit,” as part of an act called The Wonder Children.

The Great Depression led her to Hollywood, in search of more lucrative dreams. In those days, the work she found was stereotypical and demeaning — often offered parts of a domestic servant, Ms. Dandridge accepted bit roles that failed to establish her as she star that she was. All the while she continued to rise as a live performer — The Wonder Children became The Dandridge Sisters, and they won accolades at venues like The Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.

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