Hello everybody. Morella and Segers still at it. Joe continues with his story about Paramount star Dorothy Lamour.
Although she was in C. B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show On Earth” Dorothy Lamour’s career as a leading actress essentially ended after 1952’s “The Road to Bali.” Ten year later when Dorothy’s career was a fading memory to most movie fans, a final road pic“The Road To Hong Kong” was made with Hope and Crosby. But Joan Collins took the leading lady role, not Dorothy.
The by-then 48-year-old Lamour was incensed by what she regarded as a casting affront, and took her case to Hollywood columnist, Louella Parsons. To placate the public and because she was still a great friend of Bob Hope’s, the studio carved out a cameo in “Hong Kong” in which Dorothy played herself and sang a song in a nightclub setting.
The upside of all this was that Dorothy’s appearance in the movie drew the attention of none other than director John Ford, who a year later cast her in a supporting role in “Donovan’s Reef,” an action vehicle for John Wayne and Lee Marvin. And this movie appearance in turn led to some late-Sixties stage work.
So, the result of Dorothy’s casting beef wound up giving her career a bit of a boost.
There’s no question that after 1952, Dorothy Lamour spent less time on her career and more and more time on her marriage to William Ross Howard III, with whom she had two children and shared a step son. The couple, married in 1943, stayed together until his death.
He met Dorothy when he was in the service during WW II and she was a Hollywood star promoting war bonds with great gusto and success (the “Bond Bombshell” was personally credited for closing the sales on some $21 million – a staggering amount at the time – in war bonds). She was with Bob Hope entertaining the troops on Hope’s first of what would become his legendary trips.
William Howard was a dashing, aristocratic officer in uniform. Dorothy Lamour was the patriotic beauty of solid, traditional values (Dorothy was Roman Catholic). They fell in love, got married and presumably lived happily ever after. And that seemed to be that. (Although Dorothy starred in the 1968 national road show of “Hello, Dolly,” her family life came first and she remained largely a homemaker.)
By all accounts the union was a happy one. Howard’s family came from of old line Maryland lineage (he and Dorothy lived during the 60’s and 70’s in a suburb of Towson), and Howard himself was described as a businessman with interests in the frozen food and advertising businesses.
Like much of the entertainment world, Joe was highly impressed with Lamour’s energetic re-emergence in the entertainment world following her husband’s death in early 1978.
All of a sudden, she was all over the place – on television (Bob Hope specials, “The Love Boat” and “Murder, She Wrote”) and in regional theater.
The question: was Lamour’s cover-all-bases showbiz return after nearly 35 years of domesticity just another example of a merry widow kicking up her heels? Joe wasn’t sure, so he dropped by Lamour’s home in North Hollywood during the 1980’s to find out. More about that tomorrow.
YESTERDAY’S PIC: Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in “My Favorite Brunette.” And she was. They remained life long friends.