Dot's Biography
A very big "THANK YOU" goes out to Delane Darby Moore and Susan Henry Darby for sharing some great pictures
and information on the relative they affectionately call "Big Dot"
Another very big "THANK YOU" goes out to Susie Hatch for sharing more wonderful information about Dorothy's
genealogy and family history!
In one magazine article interview she is quoted as saying "When, as, and if you write me up tell the truth.
From what I can gather through extensive reading, all movie stars are beautiful or handsome, strong and
noble, talented, artistic, and addicted to their hearths and firesides. Let's make this different from the usual
thing. I was not reared in a dressing room, with Modjeska as a godmother. When I was 6 years old I did not
run away from home. I haven't nursed a lifelong ambition to act ever since reciting 'Twinkle Twinkle Little
Star' at a church bazaar, and I've never spent months and months, nor even a month, waiting on the extra
bench. I wasn't discovered by D.W. Griffith, and I was never so much a runner-up in a beauty contest."
was written that when she spoke she was open and honest (maybe to a fault sometimes) but none-the-less a
seemingly real person. The fast life with dinners, parties and drinking with a crowd that included Joan
Crawford and Renee Adoree among others, was where Dorothy liked to spend her free time. She was popular
with friends and even many in the press. "A good scout" as they would say back then. Nice clothes, furs,
perfume and jewelery were also a few of her favorite things!
According to articles from the 20's and 30's, Dorothy was described as
being 5' 3" tall, weighing between 105 and 117 pounds, having brown
curly hair and depending on which magazine you read either deep
hazel eyes or brown eyes. Some favorite hobbies of hers were history,
painting, music and interior decorating.
On August 27, 1946 Dorothy Sebastian became Dorothy Sebastian
Shapiro after she married
Herman Shapiro. They remained together
until her death from colon cancer in 1957.
Dorothy with Herman, getting a kiss from
her dog ca late 1940's/50's)
Dorothy's maternal grandparents had been missionaries in China,
Turkey, Persia and Korea. Her grandfather founded the first
Presbyterian church in Alabama.
"Religion is closely related to the
drama. And preaching is related to acting. They both require the same
flair. My grandfather and grandmother were missionaries in China.
When I was a kid, collecting gold stars for regular attendance in
Sunday School, I couldn't make up my mind whether I wanted to be a
missionary or an actress. The line between them was so fine that I
couldn't make up my mind."

When she was finally allowed to go the theatre she decided then and
there she would be an actress. Something she would keep to herself as
she knew the family would not approve.

The Sabiston's had four children:  Elizabeth (Bessie) Christine was the
oldest, then
Robert James, third was Stella Dorothy and the youngest
Mary Helen. Sadly three of the four Sabiston children would die
fairly early, two of whom were very tragic deaths.
Bill and Dorothy eloped to Las Vegas, Nevada on December 19,
1930. One interview has her saying: "
Sit steady" she warned
hysterically. "Hold onto something tight. In ten minutes Bill and
I are flying off to Arizona or New Mexico or some funny place to
get married. I told him he'd have to make it snappy before I
changed my mind.
" It was such a rush affair that they didn't even
stop to buy rings, they used one with a star sapphire that one had
given to the other as a gift:
Her second marriage was to fellow actor William Boyd. As they do
today, the press kept an eye on the couple to see when and if they
would marry. They met while filming
His First Command in 1929
and then immediately worked together again in
Officer O'Brien.
This movie turned out to be somewhat of a flop, and as the
magazine story goes, they fell in love while consoling each other.
Not to mention Boyd's marriage to actress Elinor Fair was ending
and Dorothy's engagement to Clarence Brown was over, as was
her affair with Buster Keaton. The last movie they worked
together in was
The Big Gamble and by that point they were man
and wife.
Wedding day December 19, 1930 with studio
photographer Al 'Whitey' Schaffer and his wife.
circa 1924
Stella Dorothy Sabiston was born on April 26, 1903 in the
Woodlawn area of Birmingham Alabama. She grew up in what
seems to have been a very normal upbringing. She was a
typical girl who liked to dance and took pride in doing well in
school. Of her first crush she commented
: "When I was 15 I
thought boys were bores. I tried to be very highbrow and read
books I couldn't understand. An old bachlor friend of the
family was the only one who pretended to take me seriously,
and I'm sure he deserved a medal when I remember what a
pest I must have been. I used to tell my schoolmates that my
best beau was a 'Man who understood me."
Alabama was home until she headed up north to New York City to try and make
it as a dancer. Something she had wanted to do for a very long time. In order to
prove to her parents she could support herself, thus making her case to go to
NYC, Dorothy would do portrait sketches, parchment lamp shades and sew
cushion covers, even going as far as opening her own little shop in an apartment
in Birmingham.
"It was the best looking place. I got old rugs and had them dyed
black. Then I did the place in robin's egg blue with touches of orange. I couldn't
take care of all the orders I had at the studio. But all the time in the back of my
mind was the idea of being an actress. I used to spend my lunch money on
pictures- it was always pictures more than the stage that interested me."
Dorothy has her own star on
Hollywood's famous "Walk
of Fame". It can be found at
6655 Hollywood Blvd.
Dorothy was married three times. Her first marriage was November 9, 1920
when she married
Al Stafford in Birmingham, Alabama. Their marriage ended
in divorce in February 1924. I have been told that Dorothy gave birth to a little
girl during her marriage to Al and I would love to find out if this is true.
"It was sweet wasn't it? Somehow it seemed lovelier than using any other sort of ring. And Bill is everything
to me - everything that lover and husband should be."
Early on the sympathetic relationship was a happy
one, but since it was more a friendship than a love match it slowly unraveled due to incompatibility and
pressure to keep up appearances of a press covered 'perfect marriage'. They divorced in May 1936.
Dorothy's parents were Lycurgus (Lawrence) Robert Sabiston and Stella Armstrong Sabiston. Her mother was
a "
really fine painter. She used oils and her portraits and landscapes were far from amateur. I have always
regretted that she gave it up. Whatever little knack I have for sketching comes from her, but in  a very modified
After the divorce, Dorothy made her way to NYC and then to Hollywood. After getting a taste of the movie
star life, Dorothy decided not to marry again until she felt she had succeeded in her acting career.
"I'm sure
that I could never do two things well. I could not have a career and marriage both and I would not stop now
to marry. It would be a great injustice to a man, because I would always think, 'Now if I had not married I
might be at the top of my profession'. I would only marry after I have gotten where I want to be and am
ready to retire permantly from the screen"
. Another philosophy of hers was much more simple: "I don't
want to get married. Why spoil a good friend by making a bad husband out of him?
New York City in the 1920's
Birmingham circa 1915.