Hello everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers here again to finish Joe’s tale about Dorothy Lamour.
Guess why she orchestrated that spectacular comeback for herself? (Read on!)
After a series of meetings and conversations between Joe and Dorothy about a possible book project, it became clear that her re-emergence on the show biz scene in the 1980’s — which astonished much of show business at the time — was primarily driven by one thing.
Dorothy needed the money, she confessed to Joe.
Like many women of her age and time, she had absented herself from the finances of her family, leaving such matters to her businessman husband.
After he passed she discovered that all their credit cards had been maxed out. That all their stock had been sold. That her husband had cashed in his life insurance. That there was little if any money left.
Dorothy was urged to file for personal bankruptcy.” No,” she said.” I’ll go back to work and pay all my debts.” And that’s exactly what she did.
Fortunately her step-son, William Ross Howard IV, knew enough about the entertainment business to take over as Dorothy’s agent. At first the only job available was a supporting role in an El Paso dinner theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park”.
GASP! IS THAT DOROTHY LAMOUR ??
Lamour told Joe that her most horrible moment occurred when she walked onstage for the first time, and was greeted with a collective gasp from the audience. Naively expecting to see a youthful, sarong-draped Dorothy out of her earliest movies, audiences had to visually adjust to the deliberately frumpy-looking actress in her mid-Sixties playing the mother of a new bride.
But with Dorothy’s name, the offers soon came flooding in. What began as nervously tentative return driven by financial desperation quickly turned into late-career show business triumph.
Lamour suggested to Joe that her financial predicament could provide the makings of a wonderful new book with Dorothy the centerpiece representing so many women of her generation who had blissfully left finances to husbands only to find themselves financially stranded after their mates departed. There was a real story here!
All across America there were thousands of women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who, when their “upper middle income” or even “rich” husbands died, found out they had in fact been living in a financial house of cards. There WERE no stocks, investments or bank accounts that these women could fall back on.
Without a movie star name to back them up, these women were forced to return to the work force often as waitresses, restaurant hostesses or sales clerks. Writing a book with Dorothy about how such women cope in such pressing circumstances seemed to Joe to be a worthy and most interesting project.
Joe whipped up a four-page book proposal, and took it to several New York publishers. One, the late Lyle Stuart, snapped it up. He told Joe he was buying the book idea at least partially because Lamour was the first movie star he had fallen in love with. (Stuart had never forgotten seeing as a young teenager Dorothy in 1936’s “The Jungle Princess.” Ah, that sarong!)
And, Stuart was savvy enough to realize the potential of a book about a famous Hollywood star experiencing the same distressing situation as an average housewife confronting the reality that dear departed husband had spent all the money, leaving a pile of debts in his wake. (Similar fates befell, by the way, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds.)
But over time, Lamour began to get cold feet. Would this book be too revealing?
She finally made it clear to Joe that the subject of her financial straits was something much too personal — not so much about her personal distress but about the negative effect public disclosure might have on the memory of a man she had loved for more than three decades.
To Joe’s regret to this day, the book project with Dorothy never came to be. (Dorothy continued working into the late 1980’s. She even appeared as a disheveled housewife who gets bumped off in the horror movie“Creep Show 2.”)
She died in her North Hollywood home of a heart attack on Sept. 22, 1996. She was 81. Dorothy is remembered in many ways including her two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her movies and another for her radio shows. By most accounts she was pretty well off financially at the end.
YESTERDAY’S PIC: Dottie with Bob Hope and Joan Collins on one of Hope’s TV Specials. Collins had the female lead in the last of the Road movies with Hope and Crosby. Hope saw to it that Lamour got a cameo in the film, “The Road to Hong Kong.”