Screenwriter DOROTHY KINGSLEY (1909 – 1997) once said, “I finally ran out of ways to get Esther (Williams) in the water.”
Dorothy wrote most of Esther Williams’ MGM films, plus scripts for Debbie Reynolds.
Dorothy’s father, Walter J. Kingsley ,was a newspaperman and agent.
Dorothy began writing for radio in Los Angeles. She got a helping hand from Constance Bennett who used some of her gags on radio appearances. She wrote for the top rated Edgar Bergen show for several years . All the while looking after her three sons.
Dorothy said, “It was impossible to get hired if you were a woman gag writer, as there wasn’t such a thing at the time,”
She began sending scripts to the studios , and Arthur Freed at MGM gave her a chance.
Dorothy ‘s first assignment was a re-write on GIRL CRAZY.
With fellow writer Dorothy Cooper, she wrote A DATE WITH JUDY.
Dorothy became known as a script doctor, always ready to fix a script that wasn’t working.
She and Lillian Burns ( assistant to Columbia’s Harry Cohn), did a synopsis of PAL JOEY and sent it directly to Frank Sinatra who wasn’t speaking to Cohn at the time. Sinatra committed to the film without seeing a full script.,
When Frank Loesser played ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’, Dorothy liked it so much, she wrote a scene for it in NEPTUNE’S DAUGHTER (1949). And the song won an Oscar.
Although Dorothy’s writing was mainly for musicals, she also did GREEN MANSIONS and the comedy , DONT GO NEAR THE WATER.
Her final work on the big screen was for VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and HALF A SIXPENCE.
In 1969, she created the TV series BRACKEN’S WORLD which was set in a Hollywood studio. Eleanor Parker starred as Bracken’s executive secretary in the first 16 episodes. Head of the studio, Bracken , was played by Leslie Neilsen. Clips can be seen on You Tube.
When she retired, Dorothy and her husband established a successful vineyard .
So, another one of the few successful women behind the camera in the classic era.
Dorothy , almost 80, is interviewed by Patrick McGillian in McGilligan’s book, BACKSTORY 2, INTERVIEWS WITH SCREENWRITERS OF THE 1940s AND 1950s.
Of all her films, she liked Pal Joey and Angels in the Outfield best.
She was Oscar- nominated for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and had several Writers Guild nominations.
Your blog is proving to be very inspiring! I know very little about screenwriters in Hollywood. I will keep my eyes and ears out for Dorothy’s name when I begin my next musical project featuring the songs of Harry Warren. I also hope to do a program about all the great songs written for MGM musicals at some point… Thank you for another interesting post.
Love Harry Warren melodies. There is a great 15 minute interview with Warren on You Tube – from 1972.
It’s so great to hear stories about Hollywood women giving a leg up to other women, e.g. Constance Bennett promoting Dorothy’s talents.
Yes, three cheers for Connie Bennett! And to Dorothy for getting hired as a gag writer, unheard of at the time.