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Dorothy Dell Gets Her Answer


Once there were two friends named Dorothy. Dorothy Lamour and Dorothy Dell Goff both wanted to be famous stars, and promised to help each other achieve this goal. Dorothy Dell Goff beat her friend out for the title of Miss New Orleans (Lamour won the following year) and then went on to win Miss Universe (not the same title as the one we are familiar with, but a precursor). From there she went to vaudeville where she was discovered by legendary Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfield and cast in the Ziegfield Follies. In the Follies she sang a song that was so popular she recorded it, Was I Drunk, Was He Handsome, and Did My Ma Give Me Hell? The lyrics are a bit surprising for a hit song in 1932.

I said stop please behave

Now what's the use of ravin'

He said give so I gave

After all what was I savin'?


She was in another show and then got her first role in a film short. From here she got a supporting part in Wharf Angel and then a part in a Shirley Temple movie, Miss Marker. In 1934 she made Shoot the Works, and her performance in it led to comparisons with Mae West. She had another hit record from a song in that movie. She was scheduled to do another movie with Shirley Temple. She had made good on her promise to help Dorothy Lamour. She was said to be engaged and in love. All things considered things were looking good for her.

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Her mother had been ill a little while before, and there was a doctor who had apparently saved the woman's life. Dorothy was grateful and in awe of Dr. Wagner. So she agreed to go out to meet his mother and then go to a party with him on June 7, 1934. In the early hours of June 8 he was taking her home when his car had lost control and went through two telephone poles and hit a concrete pillar. Dr. Wagner was thrown from the car and lingered for six hours before dying. Dorothy died either instantly or within a few minutes. She was 19 years old.


Only about a week before her costar in her final film, Lew Cody, had died of a sudden heart attack, and a couple of months before that actress Lilyan Tashman died of cancer at the age of 37. Dorothy is said to have remarked at the time "These things always happen in cycles of three. I wonder who will be next." One hopes she died quickly enough so that she did not have to know she got her answer.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad

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