Dorothy Sebastian

Dorothy Sebastian (born Stella Dorothy Sabiston; April 26, 1903[note 1][1] April 8, 1957) was an American film and stage actress.[2]

Dorothy Sebastian
Sebastian in 1927
Stella Dorothy Sabiston

(1903-04-26)April 26, 1903
DiedApril 8, 1957(1957-04-08) (aged 53)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
Years active19251948
William Boyd
(m. 1930; div. 1936)

Harold Shapiro (m. 1947)

Early years

Sebastian was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, the daughter of Lycurgus (Lawrence) Robert and Stella Armstrong Sabiston. An article on the website of the National Alumni Association of The University of Alabama noted, "Most accounts indicate that she was born Stella Dorothy Sabiston (she changed the spelling of her last name after leaving home) ..."[3]

In her youth, she aspired to be a dancer and a film actress. Her family frowned on both ambitions, however, so she fled to New York at the age of 15. Upon her arrival in New York City, Sebastian's southern drawl was thick enough to "cut with a knife".[4] She followed around theatrical agents before returning at night to a $12-a-month room, after being consistently rejected.


Before appearing in films, Sebastian was in George White's Scandals.[5] Her first contact in Hollywood was Robert Kane, who gave her a film test at United Studios. She performed in George White's Scandals and later co-starred with Joan Crawford and Anita Page in a popular series of MGM romantic dramas including Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and Our Blushing Brides (1930). Sebastian also appeared in 1929's Spite Marriage, where she was cast opposite her then-lover Buster Keaton.

By the mid-1930s, Sebastian was semi-retired from acting after marrying Hopalong Cassidy star William Boyd. After their 1936 divorce, she returned to acting appearing in mostly bit parts. Her last onscreen appearance was in the 1948 film The Miracle of the Bells.


Sebastian is credited with co-writing the Moon Mullican blues ballad "The Leaves Mustn't Fall". Mullican recorded this in 1950 and 1958. and it has become a bluegrass standard.

Personal life

Sebastian married actor William Boyd in December 1930 in Las Vegas, Nevada. They began a relationship after meeting on the set of His First Command in 1929.[6] They divorced in 1936.[2][7]

In 1947, Sebastian married Miami Beach businessman Harold Shapiro to whom she remained married until her death.[8]

On November 7, 1938, Sebastian was found guilty of drunk driving in a Beverly Hills, California Justice Court. The night she was arrested, she had been dining at the home of Buster Keaton with her nephew. She was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and paid a fine of $75.[9]

In 1940, Sebastian was denied an award of $10,000 from a San Diego court. She had appeared at a Red Cross benefit in San Francisco in 1937, and failed to pay her hotel bill. She contended the promoter for the event should have paid the bill. An employee of the Plaza Hotel took out the suit, charging "defrauding an innkeeper." The State Supreme Court of California reversed the lower court's decision, which had awarded her the money on grounds of malicious prosecution.[10]

Death and legacy

On April 8, 1957, Sebastian died of cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.[2][8] She is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Dorothy Sebastian has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6655 Hollywood Boulevard. It was dedicated on February 8, 1960.[11]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1925 Sackcloth and Scarlet Polly Freeman Lost film
1925 Why Women Love Pearl Lost film
1926 You'd Be Surprised Ruth Whitman
1927 On Ze Boulevard Gaby de Sylva
1927 The Isle of Forgotten Women Marua
1928 A Woman of Affairs Constance
1928 The House of Scandal Ann Rourke
1929 Spite Marriage Trilby Drew
1929 The Rainbow Lola
1929 The Unholy Night Lady Efra Cavender Alternative title: The Green Ghost
1930 Montana Moon Elizabeth "Lizzie" Prescott
1930 Hell's Island Marie
1930 The Rounder Ethel Dalton MGM short, costarring Jack Benny.
1930 Ladies Must Die Norma Blake
1931 The Deceiver Ina Fontanne
1932 They Never Come Back Adele Landon
1933 Ship of Wanted Men Irene Reynolds
1934 The Life of Vergie Winters Lulu
1937 The Mysterious Pilot Jean McNain
1939 The Arizona Kid Bess Warren
1941 Kansas Cyclone Helen King
1942 True to the Army Gloria Uncredited
1948 The Miracle of the Bells Miss Katie Orwin Uncredited


  1. The book Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory gives Sebastian's date of birth as April 26, 1907.


  1. Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 172. ISBN 9780786450190. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  2. "Dorothy Sebastian, Former Actress, Dies". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. April 9, 1957. p. 22. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  3. Gwaltney, Caroline. "You Ought to Be in Pictures". National Alumni Association. The University of Alabama. Archived from the original on September 29, 2017. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  4. "Dorothy Is Gate Crasher". The Los Angeles Times. October 4, 1926. p. C20.
  5. "A Rising Star of Films". Morning Register. Oregon, Eugene. September 6, 1925. p. 10. Retrieved September 28, 2017 via
  6. Merrick, Molly (December 30, 1930). "Hollywood In Person". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  7. "Divorces William Boyd". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 30, 1936.
  8. Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 179. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
  9. "Actress Found Guilty Of Driving While Intoxicated". Lewiston Morning Tribune. November 8, 1968. p. 3. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  10. "High Court Rules Against Actress". The Los Angeles Times. May 28, 1940. p. 9.
  11. "Dorothy Sebastian". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on September 29, 2017. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Alabama Steps To Top", August 10, 1930, Page B16.
  • Oakland Tribune, "Kin of Actress Burns To Death", May 14, 1938, Page 1.
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