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October 8, 2023

30 Vintage Portrait Photos of Dorothy Lee in the 1930s

Born 1911 as Marjorie Elizabeth Millsap in Los Angeles, California, American actress and comedian Dorothy Lee began her career as a dancer in a stage show, Ideas. She later went to New York for a role in the stage show Hello Yourself. Her work in that production caught the attention of an RKO director, leading to her being in Syncopation (1929), which was being filmed in New York.

At 18, Lee signed with RKO Radio Pictures and began working with Wheeler & Woolsey; she became so identified with the comedians that she seldom appeared apart from them. Of W & W’s 21 feature films, Lee is the leading lady in 14 of them. She withdrew from the series after producer David O. Selznick tampered with her performance in Girl Crazy; she returned when Selznick’s successor Mark Sandrich cast her in two well-received features in 1934. RKO replaced her with Mary Carlisle and then Betty Grable, but she returned in 1935 for two appearances.

In the early 1940s, after Robert Woolsey had died, Bert Wheeler was struggling to re-establish himself as a solo performer, and asked Dorothy Lee to tour with him in vaudeville. She immediately interrupted her private life to help her friend.

Lee died in 1999, aged 88, in San Diego, California, from respiratory failure. Here are some photographs of a young Dorothy Lee in the 1930s:


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