Dorothy Lamour

Mary Leta Dorothy Lamour (née Slaton; December 10, 1914 – September 22, 1996) was an American actress and singer. She is best remembered for appearing in the Road to... movies, a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.[1]

Dorothy Lamour
Dorothy Lamour in 1945
Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton

(1914-12-10)December 10, 1914
DiedSeptember 22, 1996(1996-09-22) (aged 81)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1933–1995
Herbie Kay
(m. 1935; div. 1939)

William Ross Howard III
(m. 1943; died 1978)

Lamour began her career in the 1930s as a big band singer. In 1936, she moved to Hollywood where she signed with Paramount Pictures. Her appearance as "Ulah" in The Jungle Princess (1936) brought her fame and marked the beginning of her image as the "Sarong Queen."

In 1940, Lamour made her first Road series comedy film, Road to Singapore. The Road series films were popular during the 1940s. The sixth film in the series, Road to Bali, was released in 1952. By that time, Lamour's screen career began to wane, and she focused on stage and television work. In 1961, Crosby and Hope teamed up for one more, The Road to Hong Kong, but actress Joan Collins was cast as the female lead. Lamour made a brief appearance and sang a song near the end of that film.

In the 1970s, Lamour revived her nightclub act and, in 1980, released her autobiography My Side of the Road. She made her final onscreen appearance in 1987.

Lamour married her second husband, William Ross Howard III, in 1943. They had two sons and remained married until Howard's death in 1978. Lamour died at her home in 1996, at the age of 81.

Early life

Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton[2] was born on December 10, 1914, in New Orleans, Louisiana,[3] the daughter of Carmen Louise (née LaPorte; 1892–1930) and John Watson Slaton (1895–1963), both of whom were waiters.[4] Lamour was of French, Spanish, and Irish descent. Her parents' marriage lasted only a few years. Her mother married for the second time to Clarence Lambour, whose surname Dorothy later adopted and modified as her stage name.[5] That marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager.

Lamour quit school at age 14. After taking a business course, she worked as a secretary to support herself and her mother. She began entering beauty pageants and was crowned "Miss New Orleans" in 1931. Miss Lamour was close friends with Dorothy Dell, who was in the Ziegfeld Follies. Lamour used the prize money to support herself while she worked in a stock theatre company. She and her mother later moved to Chicago, Illinois. Lamour found a job working at Marshall Field's department store, working as an elevator operator at the age of 16. Her boss, Douglas Singleterry, referred to her as 'Dolly Face'; he also recalled that she'd spend a lot of her time auditioning around Chicago. She was discovered by orchestra leader Herbie Kay when he spotted her in performance at a Chicago talent show held at the Hotel Morrison. She had an audition the very next day; Kay hired her as a singer for his orchestra and, in 1935, Lamour went on tour with him. Her work with Kay eventually led Lamour to vaudeville and work in radio.[3] In 1935, she had her own fifteen-minute weekly musical program on NBC Radio. Lamour also sang on the popular Rudy Vallee radio show and The Chase and Sanborn Hour. On January 30, 1944, Lamour starred in "For This We Live," an episode of Silver Theater on CBS radio.[6]


In 1936, Lamour moved to Hollywood. Around that time, Carmen married her third husband, Ollie Castleberry, and the family lived in Los Angeles.[7] That same year, she did a screen test for Paramount Pictures and signed a contract with them.[8]

Lamour made her first film for Paramount, College Holiday (1936), in which she has a bit part as an uncredited dancer.

The Jungle Princess and "sarong" roles

Her second film for Paramount, The Jungle Princess (1936) with Ray Milland, solidified her fame. In the film, Lamour plays the role of "Ulah," a jungle native who wore an Edith Head-designed sarong throughout the film. The Jungle Princess was a big hit for the studio and Lamour would be associated with sarongs for the rest of her career. It also gave her a hit song "Moonlight and Shadows".[9]

She followed it with a support role in a Carole Lombard-Fred MacMurray musical Swing High, Swing Low (1937) where she got to sing "Panamania". She was top billed in a thriller set in the Spanish Civil War, The Last Train from Madrid (1937).

Lamour supported Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott in High, Wide and Handsome (1937), singing "The Things I Want". Sam Goldwyn borrowed her for John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), where she was back in a sarong playing an island princess alongside Jon Hall. The film was a massive success and gave Lamour another hit song with "The Moon of Manakoora".

Lamour had a cameo in Thrill of a Lifetime (1937) and was third billed in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) after W.C. Fields and Martha Raye; the cast also included Bob Hope in an early appearance.

Paramount reunited her with Milland and a sarong for Her Jungle Love (1938). Tropic Holiday (1938) cast her as a Mexican alongside Bob Burns, Raye and Milland, then she supported George Raft and Henry Fonda in the adventure film Spawn of the North (1938). Raft was meant to be Lamour's leading man in St. Louis Blues (1939) but he turned down the part and was replaced by Lloyd Nolan.

Lamour was Jack Benny's leading lady in the musical Man About Town (1939) then played a Chinese girl in a melodrama, Disputed Passage (1939).

The "Road" movies

In 1940, Lamour starred in Road to Singapore, a spoof of Lamour's "sarong" films. It was originally meant to co-star Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie, then George Burns and Gracie Allen, before Paramount decided to use Bob Hope and Bing Crosby; Lamour was billed after Crosby and above Hope. The two male stars began ad-libbing during filming. "I was trying to follow the script but just couldn't get my lines out," she said later. "Finally, I realised that I should just get the general idea of a scene rather than learn the words by heart, then go along with the boys." Said Hope, "Dottie is one of the bravest gals in pictures. She stands there before the camera and ad-libs with Crosby and me knowing that the way the script is written she'll come second or third best, but she fears nothing."[10]

The movie was a solid hit and response to the team was enthusiastic.

20th Century Fox borrowed her to play Tyrone Power's leading lady in the gangster film Johnny Apollo (1940). She sang "This is the Beginning of the End" and "Dancing for Nickels and Dimes".

It was back to sarongs for Typhoon (1940). Her male co-star in the latter was Robert Preston who was also with Lamour in Moon Over Burma (1940). Fox borrowed her again for Chad Hanna (1941) with Henry Fonda.

Response to Road to Singapore had been such that Paramount reunited Lamour, Hope and Crosby in Road to Zanzibar (1941) which was even more successful and eventually led to a series of pictures (although from this point on Lamour was billed beneath Hope). She and Hope then did Caught in the Draft (1941) which was one of the biggest hits of the year.[11]

Lamour was reunited with her old Hurricane star, Jon Hall, in Aloma of the South Seas (1941). She did a popular musical with Eddie Bracken, William Holden and Betty Hutton, The Fleet's In (1942), which gave her a hit song, "I Remember You".

There was another sarong movie, Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942). Both were well liked by the public but neither was as popular as her third "Road" movie, Road to Morocco (1942).[12]

Lamour was one of many Paramount stars who did guest shots in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). She and Hope were borrowed by Sam Goldwyn for a comedy They Got Me Covered (1943), then she did one with Crosby without Hope, Dixie (1943), a popular biopic of Dan Emmett.

During World War II, Lamour was among the most popular pinup girls among American servicemen, along with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also known for her volunteer work, selling war bonds during tours in which movie stars would travel the country selling U.S. government bonds to the public. Lamour reportedly sold $300 million worth of bonds earning her the nickname "The Bond Bombshell." She also volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen where she would dance and talk to soldiers. In 1965, Lamour was awarded a belated citation from the United States Department of the Treasury for her war bond sales.[1]

Lamour made Melody Inn (1943) with Dick Powell, then And the Angels Sing (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Hutton, where she sang "It Should Happen to You". She made one last sarong movie, Rainbow Island (1944), co-starring Bracken.

Lamour played a Mexican in A Medal for Benny (1945), based on a story by John Steinbeck, co-starring Arturo de Córdova. She was one of many Paramount stars to cameo in Duffy's Tavern (1945), then did a fourth "Road", Road to Utopia (1945), then Masquerade in Mexico (1945) with de Cordova.

She was in three big hits in a row: My Favorite Brunette (1947), a comedy with Hope; Wild Harvest (1947), a melodrama with Alan Ladd and Preston; and Road to Rio (1947). She also sang a duet with Ladd in Variety Girl (1947). Then she left Paramount.

After Paramount

Lamour emceed Front and Center, a 1947[13] variety comedy show, as a summer replacement for The Fred Allen Show, with the Army Air Force recruiting as sponsors. The show changed to The Sealtest[14] Variety Theater in September[15] 1948.

After leaving Paramount, Lamour made a series of films for producer Benedict Bogeaus: the all-star comedy On Our Merry Way (1948); Lulu Belle (1948), a melodrama with George Montgomery; and The Girl from Manhattan (1948), also with Montgomery.

She tried two comedies: The Lucky Stiff (1949), produced by Jack Benny co-starring Brian Donlevy, then Slightly French (1949) with Don Ameche. Manhandled (1950) was a film noir with Dan Duryea for Pine-Thomas. None of these films were particularly popular.

Lamour played a successful season at the London Palladium in 1950 then was in two big hits: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Cecil B. De Mille's circus epic, and Road to Bali (1952). However this did not seem to lead to better film offers, and Lamour began concentrating on being a nightclub entertainer and a stage actress.

She also began working on television, guest starring on Damon Runyon Theater and was on Broadway in Oh Captain! (1958).


Lamour returned to movies with a cameo in the final "Road" film, The Road to Hong Kong (1962); she was replaced as a love interest by Joan Collins because Bing Crosby wanted a younger actress. However, Bob Hope would not do the film without Lamour, so she appeared in an extended cameo.

She had a bigger part in John Ford's Donovan's Reef (1963) with John Wayne and Lee Marvin, and made guest appearances on shows like Burke's Law, I Spy and The Name of the Game, and films such as Pajama Party (1964) and The Phynx (1970).

Lamour moved to Baltimore with her family, where she appeared on TV and worked on the city's cultural commission. Then David Merrick offered her the chance to headline a road company of Hello Dolly! which she did for over a year near the end of the decade.[16]


Lamour starred in a number of movie musicals and sang in many of her comedies and dramatic films as well. She introduced a number of standards, including "The Moon of Manakoora," "I Remember You," "It Could Happen to You," "Personality," and "But Beautiful."

Later years


In the 1970s, Lamour was a popular draw on the dinner theatre circuit and in shows such as Anything Goes.[17]

She guest starred on shows such as Marcus Welby, M.D. and The Love Boat and films like Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) and Death at Love House (1976). In 1977 she toured in the play Personal Appearance.[18]

Her husband died in 1978 but she continued to work for "therapy".[19]


In 1980, Lamour published her autobiography, My Side of the Road, and revived her nightclub act.[20]

During the remainder of the decade, she performed in plays and television shows such as Hart to Hart, Crazy Like a Fox, Remington Steele, and Murder, She Wrote.

In 1984 she toured in a production of Barefoot in the Park.

In 1986 she said ""I'm still as busy at 71 as I was when I was just a slip of a girl. I do concerts, television and a lot of dinner theatre, where I sing old songs and talk about Bob and Bing and starting out at Paramount at $200 a week and working myself up to $450,000 a picture... I feel wonderful. Age is only in the mind and I'm grateful that God has taken care of me. And I'm very grateful for that sarong. It did a lot for me! But to be truthful, the sarong was never my favorite wearing apparel."[19]

In 1987, she made one last big-screen appearance in the movie Creepshow 2, appearing with George Kennedy as an aging couple who are killed during a robbery. The wooden, Native American statue in front of their general store comes to life to avenge their death. The 72-year-old Lamour quipped: "Well, at my age you can't lean against a palm tree and sing 'Moon of Manakoora'," she said. "People would look at that and say, 'What is she trying to do?'"[21]


During the 1990s, she made only a handful of professional appearances but remained a popular interview subject for publications and TV talk and news programs.

In 1995, the musical Swinging on a Star, a revue of songs written by Johnny Burke (who wrote many of the most famous Road to ... movie songs as well as the score to Lamour's film And the Angels Sing (1944)) opened on Broadway and ran for three months; Lamour was credited as a "special advisor." It was nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award; the actress playing her in the road movie segment, Kathy Fitzgerald, was also nominated.

Personal life

Lamour's first marriage was to orchestra leader Herbie Kay, whose orchestra Lamour sang with. The two married in 1935 and divorced in 1939.[22][23]

Early in her career, Lamour met J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to Hoover's biographer Richard Hack, Hoover pursued a romantic relationship with Lamour, and the two spent a night together at a Washington, D.C. hotel. When Lamour was later asked if she and Hoover had a sexual relationship, she replied: "I cannot deny it."[24] In her autobiography, My Side of the Road (1980), Lamour does not discuss Hoover in detail; she refers to him only as "a lifelong friend".[25]

On April 7, 1943, Lamour married Air Force Captain and advertising executive William Ross Howard III in Beverly Hills.[26] The couple had two sons: John Ridgely (January 1946–February 2018[27]) and Richard Thomson Howard (born October 1949).[28][29]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Lamour and Howard lived in the Baltimore suburb of Sudbrook Park.[30] She also owned a home in Palm Springs, California.[31] Howard died in 1978.[1]

Lamour was a registered Republican who supported the presidency of Ronald Reagan as well as Reagan's re-election in 1984.[32]


Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood on September 22, 1996, at the age of 81.[1] Her funeral was held at St. Charles Catholic Church in North Hollywood, California, where she was a member.[33][34] She was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.[35]

For her contribution to the radio and motion picture industry, Lamour has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her star for her radio contributions is located at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard and her star for her motion picture contributions is located at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.[36]



Year Title Role Notes
1936 College Holiday Dancer Film debut; uncredited
1936 The Jungle Princess Ulah
1937 Swing High, Swing Low Anita Alvarez
1937 The Last Train from Madrid Carmelita Castillo
1937 High, Wide, and Handsome Molly Fuller
1937 The Hurricane Marama
1937 Thrill of a Lifetime Specialty
1938 The Big Broadcast of 1938 Dorothy Wyndham
1938 Her Jungle Love Tura
1938 Tropic Holiday Manuela
1938 Spawn of the North Nicky Duval
1939 St. Louis Blues Norma Malone
1939 Man About Town Diana Wilson
1939 Disputed Passage Audrey Hilton
1940 Road to Singapore Mima
1940 Johnny Apollo Lucky Dubarry
1940 Typhoon Dea
1940 Moon Over Burma Arla Dean
1940 Chad Hanna Albany Yates / Lady Lillian
1941 Road to Zanzibar Donna Latour
1941 Caught in the Draft Antoinette "Tony" Fairbanks
1941 Aloma of the South Seas Aloma
1942 The Fleet's In The Countess
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Herself
1942 Beyond the Blue Horizon Tama
1942 Road to Morocco Princess Shalmar
1943 They Got Me Covered Christina Hill
1943 Dixie Millie Cook
1943 Riding High Ann Castle
1944 And the Angels Sing Nancy Angel
1944 Rainbow Island Lona
1945 A Medal for Benny Lolita Sierra
1945 Duffy's Tavern Herself
1945 Road to Utopia Sal Van Hoyden
1945 Masquerade in Mexico Angel O'Reilly
1947 My Favorite Brunette Carlotta Montay Alternative title: The Private Eye
1947 Variety Girl Herself
1947 Wild Harvest Fay Rankin
1947 Road to Rio Lucia Maria de Andrade
1948 On Our Merry Way Gloria Manners Alternative title: A Miracle Can Happen
1948 Lulu Belle Lulu Belle
1949 The Girl from Manhattan Carol Maynard
1949 The Lucky Stiff Anna Marie St. Claire
1949 Slightly French Mary O'Leary
1949 Manhandled Merl Kramer
1951 Here Comes the Groom Herself Uncredited
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth Phyllis
1952 Road to Bali Princess Lala
1962 The Road to Hong Kong Herself
1963 Donovan's Reef Miss Laflour
1964 Pajama Party Head Saleslady
1970 The Phynx Herself
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Visiting Film Star
1987 Creepshow 2 Martha Spruce (segment "Old Chief Wood'nhead"), (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Damon Runyon Theater Sally Bracken Television debut

Episode: "The Mink Doll"

1967 I Spy Halima Episode: "The Honorable Assassins"
1969 The Name of the Game Stella Fisher Episode: "Chains of Command"
1970 Love, American Style Holly's Mother Segment: "Love and the Pick-Up"
1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. Mary DeSocio Episode: "Echos from Another World"
1976 Death at Love House Denise Christian Television movie
Alternative title: The Shrine of Lorna Love
1980 The Love Boat Lil Braddock Episode: "That's My Dad/The Captain's Bird/Captive Audience"
1984 Hart to Hart Katherine Prince Episode: "Max's Waltz"
1984 Remington Steele Herself Episode: "Cast in Steele"
1986 Crazy like a Fox Rosie Episode: "Rosie"
1987 Murder, She Wrote Mrs. Ellis Episode: "No Accounting for Murder"

Broadway musicals

Year Show
1958 Oh, Captain!
1995 Swinging on a Star


  • My Side of the Road. Good Reads. Autobiography. Prentice-Hall. 1980. ISBN 9780132185943. Retrieved April 17, 2010.

Lamour is the heroine of Matilda Bailey's young adult novel, Dorothy Lamour and the Haunted Lighthouse (1947), whose "heroine has the same name and appearance as the famous actress but has no connection ... it is as though the famous actress has stepped into an alternate reality in which she is an ordinary person." The story was written for a young teenage audience and is reminiscent of the adventures of Nancy Drew. It is part of a series known as "Whitman Authorized Editions", 16 books published between 1941-1947 that each featured a film actress as heroine.[37]

She was featured in a brief print run of 2-3 issues during the 1950s, in Dorothy Lamour Jungle Princess Comics, a series of comic books dedicated to her on-film Jungle Princess persona (featuring screenshots from past movies as the covers).[38]


  1. Severo, Richard (September 23, 1996). "Dorothy Lamour, 81, Sultry Sidekick in Road Films, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  2. Lamour, Dorothy; McInnes, Dick (1980). My side of the road. Prentice-Hall. p. 39. ISBN 9780132185943. It does get a little confusing; for example, my full name would be Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton Lambour Lamour Kay Kaumeyer Howard if you keep count. But at this point, I was just terribly happy to be Mrs. Herbie Kay.
  3. Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R. (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Garland to O'Connor. p. 477. ISBN 0415943337.
  4. LoBianco, Lorraine. "Starring Dorothy Lamour". TCM. Retrieved 28 Aug 2018.
  5. Room, Adrian (2010). "Dorothy Lamour". Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). McFarland. p. 273. ISBN 978-0-786-44373-4.
  6. "Drama". The Nebraska State Journal. January 30, 1944. p. 36. Retrieved March 31, 2015 via
  7. 1940 United States Federal Census
  8. Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R. (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing: A Biographical Dictionary. 2. Taylor & Francis. p. 447. ISBN 0-415-94333-7.
  9. Jorgensen, Jay (2010). Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer. Running Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 978-0-762-44173-0.
  10. Vallance, T. (1996, Sep 24). Obituary: Dorothy lamour. The Independent Retrieved from
  11. FILM MONEY-MAKERS SELECTED BY VARIETY: ' Sergeant York' Top Picture, Gary Cooper Leading Star New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 31 Dec 1941: 21.
  12. "Variety (January 1943)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. November 21, 1943 via Internet Archive.
  13. Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R. (November 21, 2003). Hollywood Songsters: Garland to O'Connor. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415943338 via Google Books.
  14. Dunning, John (May 7, 1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199770786 via Google Books.
  15. "Sealtest Boris Karloff Halloween Party 1948" via
  16. Scott, J. L. (1968, Feb 01). No time for sarongs for dorothy lamour in 'dolly'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  17. Dorothy lamour stars on stage. (1971, Feb 05). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  18. Wisehart, B. (1977, Oct 02). The road yes, films no, for lamour at 63. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from
  19. Mitchell Smyth, T. S. (1986, Aug 31). Whatever happened to . . . dorothy lamour? 'sarong girl' won't stop working. Toronto Star Retrieved from
  20. Wilson, J. S. (1982, Feb 12). CABARET: DOROTHY LAMOUR. New York Times Retrieved from
  21. Severo, Richard (September 23, 1996). "Dorothy Lamour, 81, Sultry Sidekick in Road Films, Dies" via
  22. Lee, William F. (2005). American Big Bands. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 119. ISBN 0-634-08054-7.
  23. Adelson, Suzanne (1982-02-22). "It's Toujours Lamour—Dorothy Is Back on the Road Again at Age 67". People. 17 (7). ISSN 0093-7673.
  24. Ackerman, Kenneth D. (2001-11-09). "Five myths about J. Edgar Hoover". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  25. Lamour, Dorothy; McInnes, Dick (1980). My Side of the Road. Prentice-Hall. p. 33. ISBN 0-132-18594-6.
  26. "Indoors Setting For Wedding Of Dorothy Lamour". Ottawa Citizen. 1943-04-06. p. 19. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  27. "JOHN HOWARD Obituary - Fresno, CA | Fresno Bee".
  28. "Son Is Born To Dorothy Lamour". Ellensburg Daily Record. 1946-01-08. p. 1. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  29. "Dorothy Lamour Gives Birth to Her Second Son". The Milwaukee Journal. 1949-10-21. p. 22. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  30. "Dorothy Lamour" (PDF). Baltimore Magazine: 53.
  31. Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 151. ISBN 978-1479328598.
  32. "Mixing politics with show business makes for star wars in Hollywood". UPI.
  33. "Where actors go to pray". September 19, 2015.
  34. "From the Archives: Dorothy Lamour, Sultry Movie Star, Dies". Los Angeles Times. September 23, 1996.
  35. Keister, Douglas (2010). Forever L.A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents. Gibbs Smith. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-423-60522-5.
  36. "Hollywood Star Walk: Dorothy Lamour". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  37. "Whitman Authorized Editions for Girls". Retrieved September 10, 2009.
  38. "GCD :: Series :: Dorothy Lamour".
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