Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton was born on December 10, 1914 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Carmen and John Slaton. Her parent’s marriage lasted only a few years, but Carmen later remarried Clarence Lambour, and Dorothy took his last name. The marriage also ended in divorce when Dorothy was a teenager. She is remembered for her beautiful, long brown hair and trademark sarong. She was an important player for Paramount Pictures in the 1940s. She is best known for her performances in the “Road” films (Road To Bali, Road To Hong Kong, Road To Morocco, Road To Rio, Road To Singapore, Road To Utopia and Road To Zanzibar), in which she co-starred in with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Miss Lamour starred in more than 50 pictures, including the “Road” films with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, before “retiring” from show biz in 1959. She came out of retirement and received much tv exposure for the “Dolly” jaunt, which led to guest stints on NBC’s “I Spy” and ABC’s “Joey Bishop Show,” “Dateline: Hollywood” and “Dream Girl.”
Here is the story of Dorothy Lamour's Hello, Dolly! through reviews and articles that ran at the time.
David Merrick signed Dorothy Lamour to star in a 40-week, small-city tour of “Hello, Dolly!” in 1967.
A tab (abbreviated) version of the David Merrick production would return to Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas for 12 weeks, starting August 23. It had already been a successful Vegas hit helmed by Betty Grable the previous year. She was now doing it on Broadway having replaced Martha Raye in June of 1967.
Dorothy Lamour and Ginger Rogers would alternate performances. The production had a demanding schedule with 14 performances a week.
Each would play one show opening night, with Miss Lamour making her debut as Dolly.
Miss Lamour was originally scheduled to head a national touring company of the musical in September, after which she would undertake a national tour after her Las Vegas engagement.
Miss Rogers had already starred in Dolly for 18 months on Broadway succeeding Carol Channing.
She also had done the show in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland.
Dorothy Lamour's road tour had been booked by Tom Mallow’s American Theatre Productions, beginning its travels Sept. 21 in Providence, R.I. In the same way, the Carol Channing and Betty Grable touring versions of the smash musical expanded the market, for road legit last season by playing week-long stands in hitherto-regarded split-week towns, the Lamour tour would play split-week engagements in many burgs hitherto limited to one and two-night
Beginning in the early 1960′s, Mr. Mallow produced more than 60 Broadway shows on the ”bus and truck” circuit — the touring productions that crisscross the country, stopping in small cities and towns. In addition to Dolly, they would go on to produce ”Sweeney Todd,” ”Cabaret,” ”A Chorus Line” and ”La Cage aux Folles.”
The Battle of the Dollys wasn't really a battle at all — Ginger Rogers and Dorothy Lamour were the best of friends. (Marquee reads: “With Ginger Rogers or Dorothy Lamour.”)
On opening night Miss Rogers was the dinner show “Dolly” and Miss Lamour did the role at the midnight show.
Every Dolly has had a different interpretation of the part. Miss Lamour was considered the better singer and had warmth, while Miss Rogers walked away with the acting honors and played Dolly with the appropriate aggressiveness.
As in the previous edition here which starred Betty Grable, an outstanding feature of the show was the moving scenery which jigsawed in and out sans curtain. As Horace Vandergelder, Coley Worth was excellent. He played the role of the “half a millionaire” feed store owner from Yonkers as a crotchety grouch who warmed up — but not too much — just in time for final curtain.
(In this 100-minute tab version, there were no intermissions.)
Bill Mullikin was just right as the 33-year-old feed store clerk who had never had a romance. His young assistant was played with wide-eyed exuberance by Danny Lockin, who would go on to play Barnaby in the Streisand film version. Marry Nettum was Irene Molloy, and Isabelle Farrella was Minnie Fay.
Gower Champion’s direction and choreography remained intact with a cast that also included sixteen women, nineteen men.
skillfully interpret his dance patterns.
The Jack Cathcart orchestrated twenty-one pieces. This show opened in Vegas for an indefinite engagement.
Miss Rogers did eight shows each week at the Riviera and Miss Lamour the other six.
Miss Rogers did both the dinner and midnight shows on Monday and Saturday and Miss Lamour performed it on Sundays.
During the rest of the week, Miss Lamour takes the dinner shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Miss Rogers doing the early shows on Thursday and Friday.
The midnight performances were divided as equally. On opening night, the Vegas “Dollys” got a wire from Carol Channing: “Love and luck from one Dolly sister to a couple of others.”
Whether the audiences came to see “Hello, Dolly!” or the women stars might be a moot question.
For Miss Lamour, switching from the sarong that boosted her to stardom on the screen to the bustle and florid costumes of the early NY. era, “Dolly” was a triumph.
She surprised with the authority she bestows upon both her characterization and her singing.
While she was strictly Dorothy Lamour trooping up there on the stage, spicing the character of the prolific matchmaker with her own bits of business, she displayed an awareness that made it difficult to believe she was making her legit bow.
A standing ovation at curtain led to nearly five minutes of an intimate talk by the star addressed to the audience, in which she cracked, “This is the closest I’ve ever come to an Academy Award.”
For the road tour, re-staged by Lucia Victor from Gower Champion’s original production, the production carried the settings originally designed by Oliver Smith and costumes by Freddy Wittop, and a cast of clever supporting players.
Eric Brotherson was Horace Vandergelder and Leslie Daniel as Mrs. Molloy, Dick Leppig as Cornelius, and Andrea Bell as Minnie.
On February 14th, 1968, Variety reported that the long journey of “Hello, Dolly,” with Ginger Rogers would end after its current six-week Boston stand. The Dorothy Lamour bus-and-truck edition would continue. Unfortunately, Lamour's company would not be the potential record-breaker both Rogers' and Grable's tours had been, however. That may explain why she never made it to Broadway with this production which was a huge disappointment for her.
Also, a dispute between Dorothy Lamour and her former agent occurred over commissions after the closed bus – truck tour of “Hello, Dolly!” eventually being settled in arbitration.
Lamour agreed to pay about $9,500 of the $10,000 sought by the ex-agent Tom Korman, of Korman and Lorner Associates. She obtained cancellation of the agent pact.
Miss Lamour had sought cancellation of the deal on the ground that Korman didn’t make it clear to her that the terms of the “Dolly” contract were broad enough to include a bus-and-truck operation and one-night stands.
She asserted that she was led to believe that the tour would consist primarily of split-week and single-week engagements. She also said she didn’t realize it committed her,”to tent appearances or arena - (N.J.) Music Circus.
Korman insisted that the terms of the agreement were clearly explained to the star. The settlement was reached after two days of arbitration before Joseph Wildebush, an attorney acting as arbiter. Vincent Donahue, Equity’s chief business rep sat in ex officio. Miss Lamour was represented by the firm of Weissberger and Frosch, while Korman- Lorner were represented by Barovick and Konecky.
There had reportedly been much complaining to Equity from actors in bus-truck companies about poor working conditions, violations of contracts and assorted malpractices.
Lamour died at her home in 1996, at the age of 81.
If you or someone you know has firsthand information about Dorothy Lamour and Hello, Dolly!, we would love to hear from us. Please contact us through Richard@RichardSkipper.com