Dorothy Lamour will always be most remembered for her great beauty, her trademark sarongs, and for her role in Paramount's Road movies alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Lamour was also a talented singer, though. Her recordings and the musical numbers in her many films helped make her one of the top box office draws of the 1930s and 1940s.
Born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton in New Orleans, Dorothy's parents divorced soon after her birth. Her mother later remarried to a man named Lambour, the source of Dorothy's future stage name. Dorothy dropped out of school at age 15, forging her mother's name on school documents, and went to work to help support her family. She later attended secretarial school. At age 16 she was crowned Miss New Orleans, after which she and her mother moved to Chicago, where Dorothy worked as an elevator operator at Marshall Fields.
Dorothy's professional career began in a vaudeville revue, but she soon landed her first singing job with the Herbie Kay Orchestra on its national radio program. Dorothy and Kay were married in 1935 and moved to New York City, where she appeared with Rudy Vallee and Eddy Duchin. While singing in nightclubs she met MGM head Louis B. Meyer, who arranged for a screen test. Dorothy, though, ended up signing a contract with Paramount instead and made her debut on the silver screen in 1936. She appeared in over three dozen films during the 1930s and 1940s.
During WWII Dorothy dedicated much of her time to selling war bonds, earning her the nickname ''bond bombshell.'' She and Kay were divorced in 1939, and she later married frozen food magnate William Howard Ross III, whom she met while on a bond drive. They remained together until his death in 1978.
In 1949 Dorothy, then pregnant, retired from show business and moved to Baltimore with her husband. Two years later she staged a very successful film comeback. During the 1950s and 1960s she appeared on stage and toured with her own nightclub act. In the late 1960s she starred in the national road show productions of ''Hello, Dolly!'' and ''Dubarry Was a Lady.'' During the 1980s she worked the cabaret circuit, singing many of the songs she had sung in her movies. Her last movie role was as a murdered housewife in ''Creepshow II'' in 1987. Dorothy Lamour passed away on September 22, 1996.