Dorothy Dare: Called it Quits

Dorothy Dare (Dorothy Herskind, 1911-1981) was reputed to have begun her onstage career as a child of seven in her native Philadelphia. I see possible references to her singing in vaudeville in a trio with the Mandell Sisters in cities like Bridgeport and Scranton in the mid 1920s.

By 1931 Dare was on Broadway in the Rodgers and Hart musical America’s Sweetheart. This was followed by Here Comes the Bride (1931), Manhattan Varieties (1932), Strike Me Pink (1933 with Jimmy Durante, later made into a movie with Eddie Cantor), and The Only Girl (1934). I’ve seen it claimed that she was a Ziegfeld Girl but I’ve not yet come across any evidence to support it.

Meantime, Dare had made her film debut in the Eddie Foy Jr Vitaphone short Nearly Nude (1933), based on a sketch he had presented in the Broadway show Ballyhoo. Her early career was at Warner Brothers. Her niche seems to have been party girls and floozies and she was mostly cast in comedies and musicals (she was also a talented singer and dancer). First there were the 1934 shorts Very Close Veins with Ben Blue and Shemp Howard, Private Lessons and Syncopated City with Hal Le Roy, and The Winnah! with Arthur Lake and Florence Lake. Then numerous features:  Happiness Ahead (1934) with Dick Powell, The St. Louis Kid (1934) with James Cagney, Sweet Adeline (1934) with Irene Dunne and Hugh Herbert, Maybe It’s Love (1935) with Gloria Stuart and Frank McHugh, Gold Diggers of 1935, and Front Page Woman (1935) with Bette Davis.

Warner Brothers seems to have released her after 1935. In 1937 she rebounded, getting second billing in an independent feature called HIgh Hat that also had Lona Andre, Franklin Pangborn, Esther Muir, and Clarence Muse. She then made one Irish feature, Rose of Tralee, one English one, Clothes and the Woman, and a Vitaphone short Cut Out for Love, all in 1937.

This was essentially the end of Dare’s time in movies, although her career continued in night clubs and radio, which we can glean from her turns into later films, the all-star patriotic musical revue The Yanks Are Coming (1942) and in a 1944 Warner Brothers short called Musical Movieland. In 1942 she married a man named John Van Dam and the pair moved to Orange County, California. Dare retired from the business completely while still in her early 30s. Such a terrific stage and screen name and she only used it for less than a decade!

To learn more about vaudeville, please read No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.