Mary Louise Comingore (August 24, 1913 – December 30, 1971), best known professionally as Dorothy Comingore, was an American film actress. She is best known for starring as Susan Alexander Kane in Citizen Kane (1941), the critically acclaimed debut film of Orson Welles. In earlier films she was credited as Linda Winters, and she had appeared on the stage as Kay Winters. Her career ended when she was caught up in the Hollywood blacklist. She declined to answer questions when she was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.
Dorothy Comingore in 1941
Margaret Louise Comingore
August 24, 1913
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||December 30, 1971 (aged 58)|
Stonington, Connecticut, U.S.
|Other names||Kay Winters|
Margaret Louise Comingore was born in Los Angeles, California and was described as "a one-time Oakland school girl." She attended the University of California, Berkeley. Her father was an electrotyper; her sister Lucille operated a nightclub in San Francisco.
From 1934 to 1940, Comingore was billed in her stage appearances as Kay Winters and then Linda Winters as a film actress.
Dorothy Comingore was discovered by Charles Chaplin when she was acting in a small playhouse in Carmel. Whether Chaplin played any role in her career is questionable. In 1938, Comingore denied being Chaplin's protégé and indicated that press reports had exaggerated the limited contact that she had with Chaplin and one of his assistants.
Comingore played bit parts in Hollywood movies until Orson Welles cast her as 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.
After seeing Dorothy on the big screen, every studio in town wanted to borrow her. But RKO refused. She then fell so ill a doctor ordered bed rest. But when she didn’t show up for work, the studio suspended her. Dorothy had hoped to star in Sister Carrie, Jane Eyre, or some other classy production, but upon returning to work found nothing to do. "I must have said the wrong thing at the right time," she told friends, "and I’d like to know what it is."
Hearst’s yellow ink had stained her reputation. According to documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dorothy had landed on a government watch list for the crime of "distributing Communist literature to negroes." It’s true that Dorothy 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 U.S. 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.
The star also had acquired a powerful enemy - the 78-year-old Hearst. The media mogul so hated Dorothy's portrayal of his mistress, 44-year-old Marion Davies, that he used his chain of newspapers and radio stations to smear the young woman. Hearst's columnists Hedda Hopper and Walter Winchell publicly accused Dorothy of belonging to the "Party" (the Communist Party), and borrowed Orwellian "newspeak" to malign her. As it was, Dorothy never was a dues-paying "commie".
Comingore's supposed Communist connections played a role in a legal battle for custody of her two children with Richard J. Collins. She also said that her 1953 arrest on a prostitution charge was "all a part of my being an 'unfriendly witness.'"
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 HUAC.
Comingore was one of the contributors to Citizen Kane who were personally interviewed by Dr. Howard Suber of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. His research was used by Pauline Kael for her 1971 essay, "Raising Kane". A copy of the interview is in the collection of the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington.:157, 161, 166
Comingore was married to screenwriter Richard Meltzer. She also married screenwriter Richard J. Collins, with whom she had a daughter, Judith, and a son, Michael. They were divorced in 1946. Her other husbands were screenwriter Theodore Strauss and John W. Crowe, a post office employee, from 1962 until her death in 1971.
Comingore died December 30, 1971, 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. She was survived by her husband, a son, and a daughter.
In Guilty by Suspicion, Irwin Winkler's 1991 film set during the Hollywood blacklist, Comingore inspired the character of the actress who is harassed by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
|June 12, 1938||Warner Bros. Academy Theatre||"Desirable"||Credited as Kay Winters|
|June 26, 1938||Warner Bros. Academy Theatre||"The House on 56th Street"||Credited as Kay Winters|
|October 6, 1941||The Orson Welles Show||"The Black Pearl"||:367|
Film and television creditsEdit
|1938||Campus Cinderella||Co-ed||Uncredited, Short film|
|1938||Prison Train||Louise Terris||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1938||Comet Over Broadway||Miss McDermott||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1938||Trade Winds||Ann||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Blondie Meets the Boss||Francis Rogers||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Romance of the Redwoods||Bit Role||Uncredited, Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||North of the Yukon||Jean Duncan||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Outside These Walls||2nd secretary||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Good Girls Go to Paris||Tearoom Hostess||Uncredited|
|1939||Coast Guard||Nurse||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Five Little Peppers and How They Grew||Nurse||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Golden Boy||Fight Spectator||Uncredited|
|1939||Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise||June Jenkins||Uncredited, Short film, credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Scandal Sheet||Marjorie Lawe||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Mr. Smith Goes to Washington||Woman at Station||Uncredited, Credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||The Awful Goof||Charley's Fiancee||Short film, credited as Linda Winters|
|1939||Cafe Hostess||Tricks||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1940||Convicted Woman||May||Uncredited, Credited as Linda Winters|
|1940||Pioneers of the Frontier||Joan Darcey||Credited as Linda Winters|
|1940||The Heckler||Ole's Girlfriend||Uncredited, Short film, credited as Linda Winters|
|1940||Rockin' thru the Rockies||Daisy||Short film, credited as Linda Winters|
|1940||Citizen Kane trailer||Herself, Susan Alexander||Short film:360|
|1941||Citizen Kane||Susan Alexander Kane|||
|1944||The Hairy Ape||Helen Parker|||
|1949||Any Number Can Play||Mrs. Purcell|||
|1951||The Big Night||Julie Rostina|||
|1951||Fireside Theatre (TV)||Rita||"Handcuffed"|
|1952||Rebound (TV)||Dotty||"The Losers"|
|1952||The Doctor (TV)||"The Red Wig", (final appearance)|
- Othman, Frederick C. (April 29, 1938). "Ex-Oakland Girl Denies She's Chaplin Protege". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. p. 36. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Coons, Robbin (June 26, 1938). "Acting Once Cantalouped as Kay Winters Received Prize". California, San Bernardino. The San Bernardino County Sun. p. 7. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- "The Knave". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. May 12, 1938. p. 9. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Lowrance, Dee (July 19, 1942). "Lady Luck: Movieland's Best Talent Scout". The San Bernardino County Sun. The San Bernardino County Sun. p. 24. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- L.A. Review of Books: Destroyed by HUAC: The Dorothy Comingore Story by Kathleen Sharp
- "Actress Balks on Red Party Question". Oklahoma, Ada. The Ada Weekly News. October 23, 1952. p. 3. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Actress Dorothy Comingore Held". Pennsylvania, Chester. Chester Times. March 20, 1953. p. 14. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com.
- David Bromwich, "My son has been poisoned!". London Review of Books. Issue 34:2 (January 26, 2012). pp. 11-13.
- Kellow, Brian (2011). Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02312-7.
- Suber, Howard. "Box 82, Kael Mss". "The Evolution of the Script of Citizen Kane"; interviews with Dorothy Comingore, Sara Mankiewicz, Richard Wilson and Robert Wise (5 folders). Lilly Library, Indiana University. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
- "How Linda Winters, Former Oakland Girl, Became Movie Queen". California, Oakland. Oakland Tribune. August 16, 1938. p. 21. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Dorothy Comingore Held as Alcoholic". California, San Mateo. The Times. May 27, 1953. p. 22. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Actress Dorothy Comingore Dies". Texas, Lubbock. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. January 2, 1972. p. 100. Retrieved January 16, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Woo, Elaine (February 15, 2013). "Blacklisted writer later named names". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
- "Warner Brothers Academy Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- "Warner Brothers Academy Theatre". The Digital Deli Too. Retrieved 2014-11-04.
- Welles, Orson; Bogdanovich, Peter; Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1992). This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-016616-9.
- "Campus Cinderella". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
- "1941 Orson Welles Show (Lady Esther)". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
- "Campus Cinderella". Bringing Up Baby: Two-Disc Special Edition (DVD)
|url=(help). Warner Bros. Home Video. 2005. Event occurs at 3:15. ISBN 9780780651302.
- "Dorothy Comingore". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
- Okuda, Ted; Watz, Edward (1998). The Columbia Comedy Shorts: Two-Reel Hollywood Film Comedies, 1933–1958. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company. ISBN 9781476610108.
- "Fireside Theatre, Season 4". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
- "Rebound". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
- "The Doctor". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2016-08-30.