Along with Dorothy, the 1924 cast of Scandals included Dolores Costello, Winnie Lightner and Louise Brooks who grew fond of
Dorothy and the two became friends. They shared some interesting adventures in The Big Apple.
According to Dorothy: "So I was a Scandals Girl for a while. I met butter-and-egg men, hobohemians who threw red ink
parties, Middle Western bankers whose wives misunderstood 'em, and college boys from Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard,
New York, New Haven and Hartford. It took me two months to realize that all this wining and dining was the bunk. But
chorus served my purpose. It brought me publicity in the Sunday roto sections and in a few magazines. (Alfred) Cheney
Johnston took my picture and that helped too. I figured it all added to my chance of getting into pictures".
For Dorothy, getting to Hollywood would be via New York City. She had wanted to be a dancer for a long time and then an actress but her family did not
approve. At first she said she would study art and stay with a "maiden aunt" but Dorothy didn't go to her aunt's place. Instead, when she arrived in the City she
asked a porter where a cheap place to live was and went there. Here she went from agent to agent trying to get a dancing job. Many told her to give up and go
back home, others gave her some useful advice, she persisted and it worked.
|A Dancer in New York City
While still in Alabama, Dorothy saved money
she made selling her paintings and crafts, so
when she got to NYC she was able to rent a
$12 a week apartment. By sharing the
apartment with another girl she was able to
half her rent to $6! That girl was Ruth (Ruby)
George White's Scandals of 1924 ran from June 30, 1924 to December 13, 1924 (198
performances total) at the Apollo Theatre and Dorothy was part of the opening night cast. The
costumes worn by the girls were very risqué thus the title of the show. All of the costumes and
even the curtains were designed by Erte and made in Paris, France by Max Welty. One critic
went as far as describing the outfits as such: "There were large quantities of gorgeous
costumes much of them on the girls of the chorus from the neck up and the shoes down."
The fashion show kept her busy for a short time but Dorothy decided it was time to try the
theater again. She went to a casting call for George White's "Scandals" - a musical revue - and
got the job that day. Even though the casting was closed, a chance meeting with George White,
sheer determination and her thick Southern accent got her a place in the chorus. She also got
a nickname from White that stuck with her throughout her career "Little Alabam".
In a 1929 interview, Dorothy spoke of how she was too proud
to ask for an advance on her paycheck from George White. For
six weeks before the show opened, Dot lived on $60 that also
paid for rent and dancing lessons. The company went to
Atlantic City to perform before it opened in New York - by that
time she was completely broke. Every day on the way to the
theater Dorothy passed a candy shop and made up her mind
that the first thing she'd purchase when the pay started
coming in was a pound of fudge and eat it all herself. Well she
did, and then was too sick to eat for three days afterward.
It was during this time she met the people with the connections and got her
movie contract. According to actress and fellow Scandals Girl Louise Brooks here
is how it happened:
"When I was in Scandals naturally all the girls looked forward to becoming movie
stars, and in The Ritz Hotel, most of the very famous, very rich men about town in
New York kept apartments year-round where they would give parties. One of
these belonged to Otto Kahn, though of course they would lend them to each
other. "I was invited to a party night with some of the girls from Scandals, and
among them were Walter Wanger and Joe Schenck and Lord Beaverbrook
(William Maxwell Aitken - British newspaper baron and cabinet minister).
So we - all the girls - went up to this little grey suite in the Ritz and we were
introduced and we had drinks and we talked, and I saw that Lord Beaverbrook
was very, very interested in the girl I liked most in the Scandals. She was a
darling girl from the South, a darling girl - and they were talking and very cosy,
and I watched very discretely and they did disappear into the little grey bedroom
in the little grey suite in the Ritz, and then they came out a little while later and a
few days later she told me that she had a contract at MGM and she did go to
MGM and she did do very well, and I say hooray for Lord Beaverbrook!"
The reason this is known to be Dorothy is that Louise was inconsistent in keeping
identities a secret - in one interview she kept Dorothy's name secret and not
Beaverbrook's, but in another interview she kept Lord Beaverbrook's identity
secret but not Dorothy's.
There are many conflicting reports of her age when she went to New York.
According to a federal census report she was 20, according to her first
marriage license she would have been 22 and according to Dorothy she was
15 years old. This is a continuing theme with Dorothy throughout her
career, everywhere she went and every official paper she filled out, she
gave a different age.
Being constantly turned down by theatrical agents did not deter her ambition and her first
venture in New York was a Ned Wayburn fashion show. Using her last few dollars, Dot also
took acrobatic dance lessons at Wayburn's dance school. Ned Wayburn's school was
considered to be THE launching point for any career in dance.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel