Lamour, Dorothy (1914–1996)

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Lamour, Dorothy (1914–1996)

American actress, well known for her "Road" films. Born Mary Leta Dorothy Kaumeyer on December 10, 1914, in New Orleans, Louisiana; died on September 22, 1996, in Los Angeles, California; married Herbie Kaye (an orchestra leader), on May 10, 1935 (divorced 1939); married William Ross Howard II (a businessman), on April 7, 1943 (died 1978); children: two sons, Ridgely and Richard Howard.


The Stars Can't Be Wrong (1936); The Jungle Princess (1936); Swing High, Swing Low (1937); High, Wide and Handsome (1937); Last Train from Madrid (1937); The Hurricane (1937); Thrill of a Lifetime (1937); Her Jungle Love (1938); The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938); Tropic Holiday (1938); Spawn of the North (1938); St. Louis Blues (1939); Man About Town (1939); Disputed Passage (1939); Typhoon (1940); Johnny Apollo (1940); Moon over Burma (1940); Road to Singapore (1940); Chad Hanna (1940); Aloma of the South Seas (1941); Road to Zanzibar (1941); Caught in the Draft (1941); Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942); Road to Morocco (1942); The

Fleet's In (1942); Star Spangled Rhythm (1942); They Got Me Covered (1943); Dixie (1943); Riding High (Melody Inn, 1943); Show Business at War (1943); Rainbow Island (1944); And the Angels Sing (1944); Road to Utopia (1945); Duffy's Tavern (1945); A Medal for Benny (1945); Masquerade in Mexico (1945); My Favorite Brunette (1947); Variety Girl (1947); Road to Rio (1947); Wild Harvest (1947); A Miracle Can Happen (On Our Merry Way, 1948); Lulu Bell (1948); The Girl from Manhattan (1948); Slightly French (1948); Manhandled (1948); The Lucky Stiff (1949); Here Comes the Groom (1951); The Greatest Show on Earth (1952); Road to Bali (1953); Screen Snapshots #205 (1953); The Road to Hong Kong (1962); Donovan's Reef (1963); Pajama Party (1964); The Phynx (1970); Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976); Creepshow 2 (1987).

Dorothy Lamour captured the imagination of moviegoers as a sarong-clad beauty in her first major motion picture, The Jungle Princess (1936), and was typecast in a string of island theme movies that followed during the 1930s and 1940s. She reached her zenith as the sultry foil to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in a zany series of "Road" movies. The trademark sarong which made Lamour a success was also a curse. The actress felt that from the beginning of her career her looks dictated the kind of roles she was given. "Nobody has ever wanted to take me seriously or admit I can act," she lamented.

She was born Mary Leta Dorothy Kaumeyer in 1914 in New Orleans, the daughter of a waiter and a waitress. After her parents divorced when she was young, her mother married a man by the name of Lambour. Dorothy would later drop the B to form the stage name Lamour. She began performing as a child and won a number of beauty contests in her teens, culminating in Miss New Orleans of 1931. She then moved to Chicago, where she worked at Marshall Field's as a sales clerk while trying to break into show business. Through a talent competition, she came to the attention of band leader Herbie Kaye, who hired her as a vocalist. While on tour, the two fell in love and were married in 1935.

In New York, Lamour got a job singing at the Stork Club, which later led to a contract with NBC and her own radio show in Los Angeles, "The Dreamer of Songs." She made her film debut in a Vitapoint short, The Stars Can't Be Wrong (1936), then successfully tested with Paramount and signed a standard seven-year contract. Hoping to cash in on her exotic looks, the studio featured her opposite Ray Milland in The Jungle Princess (1936). Appearing in a tight-fitting sarong with her long dark hair cascading down her back, Lamour was a hit despite the film's implausible story. "The main asset of the picture is the naturalness and unsophisticated charm of Dorothy Lamour," reported Picturegoer, "who makes the main character as credible as it is possible for it to be." Lamour also sang "Moonlight and Shadows" in the movie and, in 1937, recorded it for Brunswick Records, along with a trio of songs from her second movie Swing High, Swing Low (1937). Lamour sang perhaps her most famous screen song, "The Moon of Manakoora," in the 1937 South Seas romance The Hurricane, which she made while on loan to Goldwyn. That same year, she began a two-year stint as a regular on the NBC radio show "The Chase and Sanborn Hour."

With her screen image in place, Lamour's career soared during the 1940s, and she became one of the studio's most valuable stars. There were, of course, the "Road" pictures with Crosby and Hope, the first of which, Road to Singapore (1940), found Lamour wearing her sarong and singing "The Moon and the Willow Tree" and "Too Romantic," both of which would be hit recordings. Combining adventure, slapstick, and show-business satire, the "Road" movies included The Road to Zanzibar (1941), The Road to Morocco (1942), The Road to Utopia (1945), The Road to Rio (1947), The Road to Bali (1953), and The Road to Hong Kong (1962), a later venture in which Lamour had only a guest cameo while the younger Joan Collins , at Crosby's insistence, took the role as female foil. During the 1940s, Lamour also teamed with Hope in Caught in the Draft (1941) and They Got Me Covered (1943), and appeared in a series of high-budget musical comedies, including The Fleet's In (1942), Dixie (1943), and Riding High (1943). She was heard regularly on such radio shows as "Lux Radio Theater," "Mail Call," and "Palmolive Party" and, during the war, participated in numerous war-bond drives. At one event, two of her sarongs fetched $2 million at auction. (One of her original sarongs is now on display at the Smithsonian.)

Lamour's personal life also took an upward turn in the 1940s. Divorced from Herbie Kaye in 1939, she married William Ross Howard of Baltimore in 1943, an event which prompted her to reflect on her career. "I got serious about my acting for the first time, I can't explain it," she said. "I wanted to start all over again on a different basis. Maybe to prove something to somebody." After the war, the couple adopted a son Ridgely (1945), and Lamour gave birth to a second son Richard (1949).

Lamour left Paramount in 1947, but her image followed her, and she had difficulty finding decent roles. She made a few forgettable films but had better luck on the singing front with successful engagements at the Palladium and in Glasgow, Scotland. She also made a successful LP album for Decca, Favorite Hawaiian Songs, and starred in her own radio show, "The Dorothy Lamour Show" (1948–49). Her only pictures in the 1950s were The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), in which she had an inconsequential role, and Road to Bali (1953), which lacked some of the usual fun of the "Road" pictures. In 1953, Lamour announced her retirement to raise her sons, but continued to make television and nightclub appearances and spent a week as Abby Lane 's replacement in the Broadway musical Oh Captain! In the early 1960s, she marketed a line of beauty products and wrote the book Road to Beauty.

Lamour's film career pretty much ended with a cameo in the comedy Pajama Party (1964), although she returned sporadically for brief appearances in The Phynx (1970), Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and a segment of the horror film Creepshow II (1987). Her later years were punctuated with stage performances, including tours in Hello Dolly! and Anything Goes, as well as television appearances on shows like "The Love Boat," "Hart to Hart," "Remington Steele," and "Murder, She Wrote." Widowed in 1978, Lamour busied herself with her autobiography, The Other Side of the Road, which was published in 1980. Dorothy Lamour died at her North Hollywood home in 1996, age 81.


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Parish, James Robert, and Michael R. Pitts. Hollywood Songsters. NY: Garland, 1991.

Shipman, David. The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1995.

Shooman, Annie. "Dorothy Lamour Travels Last Road," in The Day [New London, CT]. September 23, 1996.

suggested reading:

Lamour, Dorothy. My Side of the Road. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1980.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Lamour, Dorothy (1914–1996)

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