Dorothy Comingore (Margaret Louise Comingore)

Dorothy Comingore

Born Margaret Louise Comingore in Los Angeles, California, Dorothy Comingore was discovered by Charles Chaplin when she was acting in a small playhouse in Carmel. Comingore played bit parts in Hollywood movies until Orson Welles cast her as Susan Alexander Kane|Susan Alexander, the second wife of press tycoon Charles Foster Kane, in his debut feature film Citizen Kane (1941). Her performance garnered rave reviews: “(She) is put through a range of emotions that would try any actress one could name,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter. “Hearst’s yellow ink had stained her reputation. According to documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dorothy Comingore had landed on a government watch list for the crime of ‘distributing Communist literature to negroes.’ It’s true that Dorothy Comingore had canvassed Watts, stumping door-to-door for actor Albert Dekker, a state Assembly candidate. (He won.) And yes, she had worked with musician Lead Belly and singer Paul Robeson to try and desegregate whites-only USO clubs. (They succeeded.) And she had indeed urged voters, soldiers, and Baptist teetotalers to support ‘union solidarity’ whenever possible. At a time when Hollywood workers were organizing themselves, she became a marked woman. A few years later, the US House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) became a permanent fixture, and Dorothy’s FBI file had grown thick. HUAC’s stated mission was to investigate ‘subversive activities in the entertainment industry,’ but Richard [Collins, her husband], Dorothy, and thousands of others believed it was out to strangle free speech and organized labor.

According to Peter Bogdanovich in his DVD commentary on Citizen Kane, she impaired her subsequent career by turning down too many roles that she felt were uninteresting. She appeared in the film version of the Eugene O’Neill play The Hairy Ape (1944) with William Bendix, Susan Hayward and John Loder. Comingore’s last movie appearance was in a supporting role in The Big Night (1951) starring John Drew Barrymore. Her career ended in 1951, when she was caught up in the Hollywood blacklist. The following year she was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee about her alleged Communist connections, and she declined to answer on constitutional grounds. Soon after she was accused of heavy drinking in custody hearings for her children, and on March 19, 1953, she was arrested for prostitution in West Hollywood. The arrest is believed by many to have been part of a revenge scheme by police offended by her mocking the H.U.A.C. She was married to screenwriters Richard J. Collins (1914-2013) and Theodore Strauss (1912–1989), and to John Crowe, who was not in the entertainment business, from 1958 until her death in 1971. Comingore struggled with alcoholism during her later life, and died from a pulmonary disease in Stonington, Connecticut, at the age of 58. She had also broken her back years prior and subsequently restricted her movements, mostly confined to her seaside apartment.

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Born

  • August, 24, 1913
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Died

  • December, 30, 1971
  • USA
  • Stonington, Connecticut

Cause of Death

  • pulmonary disease

Other

  • Cremated

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