Michaels was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Raymond Roscoe Michaels and his wife Esther Marie Holcomb.). Her father had been a professional baseball player who was a catcher with the Chicago Cubs. He then became a food broker. Michaels had the same birthday as Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was born only five weeks before he was inaugurated President of the United States on March 4. Before her third birthday her father sent the president a birthday card informing him of the connection. Roosevelt replied sending Dolores his best wishes on her birthday. She began studying ballet at age five, and went to New York City to study dance and drama before she graduated from Bishop Hogan High School . Her older sister, Gloria Michaels, had gone to New York City and joined the traveling cast of Brigadoon. When the musical came to Kansas City, 16-year-old Dolores was inited to join them. Michaels moved to Laguna Beach, California after she married interior decorator Maurice Martiné in 1953. They separated in 1958. In January 1959, she filed for divorce. At the hearing she testified that Martiné had moved them into an expensive unfinished house, without heat or water, and that he expected her to bathe in the ocean, something she didn’t want to do because she was constantly catching a cold. The divorce became final on September 29, 1959. During her separation and after the divorce, she dated actor John Duke. Michaels was discovered when she was doing a scene in an acting class at 20th Century-Fox’s talent school. A group of producers and directors were in the audience, and after the scenes were finished, the audience voted on who gave the best performance. She won and got a contract with 20th Century-Fox. Joanne Woodward was supposed to have the part of “Mildred Pritchard” in The Wayward Bus (1957), but Woodward dropped out to star in The Three Faces of Eve, and the part went to Michaels at the last minute, her first acting role. United Press International said in a review of the film that Michaels’ “torrid” scene, a seduction scene in a hayloft where she makes a pass at the bus driver (Rick Jason), “manages to steal the sexiest scene in the picture,” over better known sirens as Jayne Mansfield and Joan Collins. And also said that Hollywood had not had a scene like this since Jane Russell in The Outlaw. Director Victor Vicas shot the scene twice, an “A” scene and a “B” scene because of the censors.
Her publicist released a biography that stated she had attended the University of Kansas for one year and was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. But, people, trying to remember if they knew her, at both the university and the sorority could find no record of her at either entity. The fact was that she had enrolled at the university in the fall of 1951 and was “rushed” by the sorority, but she only stayed at the school a few weeks and then dropped out, and she did not join the sorority. He publicist had fabricated her biography to enhance it. Early in her Hollywood career she struggled with her weight, as she was a compulsive eater. After trying all kinds of diets, she realized that the problem was “mental.” While a ballet dancer in New York City, her weight reached 152 pounds, this on a five-foot-five-inch frame. By the time she signed her contract with 20th Century-Fox, though, she weighed 135 pounds. She developed work-related anxiety; she would lose weight when she was not working, but once she got a role, she would start eating again, at times eating a two-pound box of chocolates in a single sitting. Michaels would eat fruit and cottage cheese all day and then raid the refrigerator at midnight, sometimes not even remembering that she had until she opened the refrigerator the next morning. The turning point came after the death of her father (he died April 15, 1959-); he was the one who had pushed her in her career, and without him, she felt lost. She went into psychological analysis and learned that she needed to “respect” her job. Michaels went down to 115 pounds and her career took off. She told Associated Press Hollywood reporter Bob Thomas: “I’m convinced that most weight problems stem from mental causes. But most people who lose weight on diets gain it back because they don’t know the reasons why they crave food. Generally it is because of some frustration in their lives.” Her psychologist told her to act and not dance ballet.
Michaels wanted to be taken seriously as an actress and not be treated as a sex symbol. When one reporter asked her for her measurements, she responded, “You can go to the wardrobe department and find out.” She also said that she had never been asked to go to the studio photo gallery, stating, “That’s part of the old Hollywood glamor nonsense. Also, it’s in bad taste. I’m not a sexpot, I’m an actress”. Later she told Hollywood columnist Erskine Johnson: “I favor the truly sensual photograph over the coyly teasing garter shots. I’d even rather be posed artistically nude than photographed giggling from behind a Venetian blind. I have never objected to posing. It’s just that I wanted to build a career as an actress first”. Michaels’ acting career lasted ten years from 1953-1963. Among her final appearances was the role of murderer Jo Sands in the 1962 Perry Mason episode, “The Case of the Playboy Pugilist.” She made her final appearance the following year on an episode of The Lloyd Bridges Show. After John Duke, she started dating Argentine actor Alejandro Rey, whom she met on the set of Battle at Bloody Beach. She then started dating Novelist-screenwriter Bernard Wolfe (1915-1985), who proposed to her in 1962, but she sent the engagement ring back to him with a note that read, “I don’t wanna”. Michaels and Wolfe married in Los Angeles on June 1, 1964. The marriage was her second and his first. He was 48 and she was 31. The couple divorced in October 1969. She and Wolfe had twin daughters, Jordan M. and Miranda I., born in Los Angeles on July 23, 1970. Dolores Michaels Wolfe died at the age of 68 in West Hollywood, California, of natural causes on September 25, 2001.
- January, 30, 1933
- Kansas City, Missouri
- September, 25, 2001
- West Hollywood, California
Cause of Death
- natural causes