A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dorothy Dandridge, an accomplished African-American singer-actress of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s is a tragic figure and this film attempts to track her downward spiral by following the events, circumstances, and characters who impacted her life. Racial discrimination and exploitation of a talented and beautiful woman are primary elements in this story. Scenes between Dandridge and her only child, an autistic daughter, are heartrending and sad. There is an intense early sequence in which Dandridge is viciously assaulted in the guise of an examination by sadistic guardian and a later scene in which she is beaten by a husband. Characters consume alcohol throughout, and her eventual dependence on prescription drugs plays a significant part in the story's resolution. There are occasional obscenities, including "f--k," "s--t," and African-Americans are referred to as "colored" or "negroes" throughout.
What's the story?
Young, talented, and beautiful Dorothy Dandridge (Halle Berry in an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning turn) wants to be an actress, a singer, and a star. Most of all, she wants to be loved. But 1940s Hollywood is hard to negotiate for a young African-American woman, especially one with an autistic daughter as well as scars from her own damaging childhood. But Dandridge, with the help of a loyal and committed manager (Brent Spiner), makes it almost all the way to the top, including an Academy Award nomination for her leading role in Carmen Jones. Along the way, however, a series of devastatingly bad relationships, episodes of racial prejudice, and encounters with men eager to use her for their own self-interest combine to make her success short-lived and threaten her life.
Is it any good?
In INTRODUCING DOROTHY DANDRIDGE, Halle Berry skillfully brings the tragic singer-actress to life. The story and most of the characters are familiar -- show biz hopeful struggles and meets with some success -- but the additional element of the racial boundaries which contained Dandridge's rise to near-stardom, provides a little-seen picture of prejudice in even the uppermost levels of mid-20th century society.
There's a certain irony to the fact that though Dorothy Dandridge was the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as leading actress, it wasn't until a half-century later that Halle Berry was the first to win the award for her performance in Monster's Ball. Dorothy Dandridge is not a household name, still she merits this earnest look. Older teens will probably appreciate the "rags-to-riches-to-rags" story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the many films about entertainers that have a tragic ending. What can we learn from these stories? What, if anything, sets these movies apart from day-to-day media gossip and celebrity-bashing?
Dorothy Dandridge's story introduces the audience to the racial discrimination experienced even by famous African Americans before the civil rights movement. Which minorities do you think are subject to discrimination in today's culture? What films have you seen that illustrate that discrimination?
How did the filmmakers treat Dandridge's relationship with her autistic daughter? In what ways do you think both the media and our communities have changed over the years with respect to acceptance and treatment of special needs children?
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