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02 September 2015

Imported from the USA: Doris Dowling

Doris Dowling (1923-2004) was an American actress who had her breakthrough with Billy Wilder's film The Lost Weekend (1945). Between the late 1940s and early 1950s she acted in a few films in Europe, notably in Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (Giuseppe De Santis, 1949) and Orson Welles' Othello (1952).

Doris Dowling in Riso Amaro (1949)
Belgian postcard by Nieuwe Merksemsche Chocolaterie S.P.R.L., Merksem (Anvers). Photo: Lux Film, Rome. Publicity still for Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (Giuseppe de Santis, 1949).

Sobering classic


Doris R. Dowling was born in 1923 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Her older sister was actress Constance Dowling, who was born in 1920 and died relatively young in 1969.

After some Broadway musical stage work as a chorine, Doris followed Constance to Hollywood and made about an equal representation. Gary Brumburgh at IMDb: "Doris started off auspiciously with the role of the barfly and drinking companion to fellow alcoholic Ray Milland in the sobering classic film The Lost Weekend (1945)." The film, directed by Billy Wilder whom she dated at the time, won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor. It was the first film to deal with the harrowing effects of alcoholism.

Her first credited role led for Doris Dowling to a part as the wife of Alan Ladd in the The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall, 1946) also starring Veronica Lake. Linda Rasmussen at AllMovie: "This neat, fast-paced perfectly cast film noir reflects the hard-boiled, grim wit of the author of its screenplay, Raymond Chandler. Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) returns from the war to find his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) having a party and in the arms of another man. Johnny and Helen have a terrible fight, and later Helen is found dead. Johnny must prove his innocence."

She then played the female lead in another Film Noir, The Crimson Key (Eugene Forde, 1947) with Kent Taylor. IMDb-reviewer Mozjoukine: "The second string cast meet the need with Dowling surprisingly glamorous. The small budget doesn't get in the way of a B movie slickness." She also had an uncredited part in Billy Wilder's The Emperor Waltz (1948).

However, no other Hollywood offers followed, Doris decided to leave for Europe, as her sister had done. Constance Dowling had become tired of Hollywood typecasting, and had found a more liberating venue for her talents in the Italian cinema.

174 Doris Dowling_Greiling (Film Stars der Welt C; 174)
Small collectors card by Greiling in the series Film Stars der Welt, no. C. 174. Collection: Manuel Palomino Arjona @ Flickr. See his Film Stars der Welt album.

Dark, earthy beauty


With her soulful eyes and her dark, earthy beauty, Doris Dowling managed to revive her career in post-war Italy where Neo-Realism had changed the history of the cinema. Films like Roma città aperta/Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) and Ladri di biciclette/Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) had taken the world by storm, stunned audiences and won awards all over. The themes of the Neorealist film dramas reflected the realities of the Second World War. Dowling found a part as one of the four protagonists of one of the later successes of this film movement, Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (Giuseppe De Santis, 1949).

In Bitter Rice, Dowling plays Francesca, a jewel thief who hides in a rice plantation and joins a band of illegal female workers. Then her partner-in-crime Walter (Vittorio Gassman) turns up. While Francesca repents her former life, Walter charms Silvana (Silvana Mangano) in becoming his new partner in crime, stealing from the workers. Soldier Marco (Raf Vallone) loves Silvana and tries to keep her on the right track but she finds him boring. Francesca instead loves Marco. A fight breaks out in a slaughterhouse, and while the men are both hurt, the women take over...

Bitter Rice became one of the biggest world-wide box-office hits of Neo-Realism. Doris Dowling continued her Italian career with Alina (Giorgio Pastina, 1950) opposite Gina Lollobrigida, and the adventure film Cuori sul mare/Hearts at Sea (Giorgio Bianchi, 1950) with Jacques Sernas.

She also appeared in Orson Welles' European production of Othello/The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952) playing the role of Bianca. Dan Jardine at AllMovie: " Welles put together a visually exciting accompaniment to the aural delight of Shakespeare's words. The black-and-white cinematography is sterling, while the aggressively angular shots keep the audience a little off-balance throughout."

She returned to the US and theatre and television comprised much of her later work. She appeared on such popular TV shows as Bonanza (1959), Barnaby Jones (1973) and finally, The Dukes of Hazzard (1984). One of her later films was the cult thriller The Car (Elliot Silverstein, 1977). In 1973, she shared an Outer Critics Circle award for her performance in the all-star stage production of The Women on Broadway. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles theatre-based company Theater East.

Doris Dowling died in Los Angeles in 2004. She married three times. From 1952 till 1956, she was wife #7 to band leader Artie Shaw, by whom she had a son, Jonathan Shaw, who became a famous tattoo artist. Second husband was Robert F. Blumofe (1956-1959) and her third was Leonard B. Kaufman (1960-2004; her death) with whom she had her second child.

Doris Dowling and Raf Vallone in Riso amaro (Bitter Rice)
Dutch postcard by Centrafilm, Dordrecht. Photo: Lux Film, Rome. Publicity still for Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (Giuseppe de Santis, 1949) with Raf Vallone.


Trailer Riso amaro/Bitter Rice (Giuseppe de Santis, 1949). Source: CG Entertainment (YouTube).

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Linda Rasmussen (AllMovie), Dan Jardine (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

I vaguely remember her character in Othello. Ouite a career.