Kingsley, Dorothy (1909–1997)

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Kingsley, Dorothy (1909–1997)

American screenwriter who wrote scripts for over 25 movies, including Pal Joey, Can-Can, Kiss Me, Kate, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Born Dorothy Kingsley on October 14, 1909, in New York City; died of a heart ailment on September 26, 1997, in Carmel, California; daughter of Alma Hanlon (a silent-screen actress) and Walter Kingsley (a Broadway press agent); first marriage ended in divorce; married William Durney (d. 1989); children: (first marriage) three sons.

Academy Award nomination for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Writers Guild best script nominations for On an Island with You; Angels in the Outfield; Kiss Me, Kate; Don't Go Near the Water; Pal Joey; and Can-Can.


Look Who's Laughing (1941); (uncredited) Girl Crazy (1943); (uncredited) Here We Go Again (1944); (co-credit) Broadway Rhythm (1944); (co-credit) Bathing Beauty (1944); Easy to Wed (1946); (co-credit) On an Island with You (1948); (co-credit) A Date with Judy (1948); Neptune's Daughter (1949); (co-credit) Two Weeks in Love (1950); Skipper Surprised His Wife (1950); (co-credit) Angels in the Outfield (1951); (co-credit) Texas Carnival (1951); It's a Big Country (1951); (uncredited) Cause for Alarm (1951); When In Rome (1952); Small Town Girl (1953); Dangerous When Wet (1953); (co-credit) Kiss Me, Kate (1953); Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954); Jupiter's Darling (1955); Pal Joey (1957); (co-credit) Don't Go Near the Water (1957); Green Mansions (1959); Pepe (1960); Can-Can (1960); (co-credit) Valley of the Dolls (1967); (co-credit) Half a Sixpence (1967); Angels in the Outfield (remake, 1994). Also was a radio writer for Bob Hope and created the television series "Bracken's World," 1969.

Dorothy Kingsley was born in New York City in 1909 and spent her childhood on Park Avenue as the only daughter of successful show-business parents. Walter Kingsley was a press agent who represented major stars of the Broadway stage, including Sarah Bernhardt , George M. Cohan and Florenz Ziegfeld. Kingsley's mother, Alma Hanlon , was an actress who appeared on Broadway and in a dozen motion pictures. When Kingsley was 13, her parents divorced. Alma Hanlon gave up her career and moved with her daughter to Grosse Point, Michigan, an affluent suburb of Detroit, where she married a wealthy real estate developer. Kingsley's adolescence was spent as a socialite in the company of the daughters of the nation's leading industrialists.

Kingsley's own first marriage ended in divorce. Left with three sons to raise, she had to find a way to support her young family. While recuperating from a bout of measles, Kingsley spent her time listening to the radio. It was the heyday of such comics as Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Edgar Bergen, and Kingsley became convinced that she too could write gags. After several false starts, she moved to Hollywood where she was hired as a $50-a-week gag writer for Edgar Bergen. Not long after, she decided the better move would to be to work in the motion-picture business. She began writing screenplays "on spec" and submitting them, through her agent, to the studios.

In 1943, Kingsley was hired as a staff writer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Though she wrote some original material, she was most often brought onto movies to rewrite them. It was her ability to fix scripts in trouble that made her reputation and kept her working for two decades. In a 1991 interview with Pat McGilligan for Backstory, Kingsley said she never considered herself a "real writer. I only wrote because I needed the money. I had no desire to express myself. I couldn't have cared less."

Kingsley remained active in show business until the early 1970s. In 1969, she created the television series "Bracken's World," a dramatic show revolving around the inner workings of a motion-picture studio. The show ran a couple of seasons after which Kingsley went into semi-retirement. She and her second husband, William Durney, moved to Carmel, California, and founded Durney Vineyards. In 1994, Dorothy Kingsley came out of retirement to co-write the remake of Angels in the Outfield. She remained a resident of Carmel, where she died of heart failure less than three weeks before her 88th birthday.


McGilligan, Pat. Backstory 2. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991.

Deborah Jones , Studio City, California

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