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The Tragic Life and Demise of Angie Dickinson

Angie Dickinson was every male filmgoers secret crush back in the day. She waltzed onto the Hollywood scene as the Rat Pack’s female friend and proceeded to have a decade-long affair with Frank Sinatra. All of that started when she was given the role of playing his wife in the original Ocean Eleven. Not only was Ol’ Blue Eyes enamored by her, but apparently so was President John F. Kennedy.

Over a quarter-century ago, Angie Dickinson shocked the world when she walked off the set of the television program This Is Your Life, leaving the show’s host, Ralph Edwards, and a handful of Dickson’s family and friends stranded on the set.

Edwards had convinced her to do the show under the pretense that she would have the opportunity of meeting with Brian De Palma, the filmmaker who directed her so spectacularly in the 1980 thriller flick Dressed to Kill.

Instead of meeting with Palma, they instead brought in all of Dickinson’s closest family, friends, and colleagues. Bob Hope reportedly even left a dinner with President Ford and Colin Powell to attend the event. But of course, after Dickinson walked off set, everyone had to go home. That was something that had never happened in the history of the program.

When the press asked her why she flat-out refused to allow everyone to honor her, Dickinson explained that in her opinion, instead of assembling all those people to rave about her, the show’s organizers should have instead planned for everyone to do the exact opposite so that she could have had the opportunity to talk about their impotence.

That wasn’t the only time that Dickinson, who was born Angeline Brown in North Dakota in 1931, refused to reveal details of her personal life. In 1989, she turned down a six-figure advance from a major book publisher for her autobiography. So what exactly was it that she couldn’t muster up the courage to tell the world?

Rumors and speculations had been circling for years about an affair that she supposedly had with President Kennedy during the four-day inaugural celebration. Then, there were the details of her 10-year love affair with crooner Frank Sinatra coupled with the resulting scandal of dissolving her marriage with songwriter Burt Bacharach. But were there other secrets that Dickinson is hiding? And why, did an actress as beloved and talented as she is, have so few major film credits?

Keep watching to learn the truth about Angie Dickinson’s tragic life and career.

But before we get started, take a second to show us a little support by giving this video a like and by subscribing to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. And don’t go anywhere just yet. Stick around to see how Angie went from being a small-town daughter of a newspaper publisher to being a bonafide Hollywood sex symbol and much-beloved film star.

Angie Dickinson’s Reputation Proceeds Her

Angie Dickinson has appeared in more than 89 films and television movies and has amassed more than 100 TV credits under her belt, but even at 89 she still occasionally receives scripts that ask her to do nude scenes. It’s almost as if the world still sees her as the young, voluptuous starlet that she once was. 

Even though she is getting up there in years, Dickinson still attracts admiring glances, although she typically apologizes for no longer having the ‘Angie Look’ anymore. But despite what she claims, Dickinson still has it. She’s got the champagne-colored hair, the warm flirtatious eyes, the sensual mouth, the velvety smooth voice. She’s not only a blonde-bombshell but she’s got the brains to boot.

David Thomson, one of Hollywood’s foremost film historians, has described Dickinson as being his favorite actress. According to him, Dickinson was the kind of actress who was always effective and reliable at what she did but for a while, it looked as if she could’ve done quite a bit more than she ended up doing. But even though she never won an Academy Award or achieved the same kind of superstar status that folks like Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor did, she still remains one of the most universally adored and sought-after figures of her generation. The mere mention of her name lights up a room. There is no denying her crush-worthy sex appeal.

It’s not only lingering traces of Old Hollywood that remain captivated by Angie Dickinson, but younger, contemporary directors find her entrancing as well. Gus Van Sant, for example, cast her in Only Cowgirls Get The Blues. Steven Soderbergh likewise made sure to give her a cameo in his remake of Ocean’s Eleven. And When Brian De Palma handed her the role as the sensual, adulterous wife in Dressed to Kill, it was because he needed an actress who could instantly cultivate a sympathetic bond with the audience knowing full well that the public already knew and adored her.

In Howard Hawk’s 1959 Western film, Rio Bravo, the character of ‘Feathers’ or ‘The Girl’ as many know her as, established Dickinson as a household name. Cast as a coquettish saloon girl, ‘Feathers’ liked to please men or in the case of this film, that man was John Wayne playing Sheriff John ‘T for Trouble’ Chance.

But at no point during that performance did Dickinson ever appear weak or passive. She possessed this sense of self-assurance in all of the characters that she portrayed leading one critic to refer to her as a ‘quasi-liberated, pre Women’s lib woman’. Yes, in a lot of ways, Dickinson was ahead of her time.

Hawkes who also helped launch the career of Lauren Bacall first was drawn to Dickinson when she appeared in an episode of Perry Mason which he watched at the suggestion of his wife, Slim Keith. But when Hawkes selected Dickinson, Slim was surprised by his choice. But in fact, that was exactly the reaction that Hawkes had expected from her.

Dickinson wasn’t necessarily a newcomer. After all, she had already appeared in a handful of films and had played the female lead as ‘Lucky Legs’ in Sam Fuller’s 1957 drama film China Gate at the age of 25. Her performance In that film was exceptional and she was oozing with confidence that bordered on bravado.

Angie Dickinson’s Humble Beginnings

Angie Dickinson was born in North Dakota in the small German-settled prairie town of Kulm, but he spent the majority of her younger years in an even smaller town called Edgeley. It has been suggested that L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz, used Edgeley to describe the ‘edge of the world’. Even though it wasn’t exactly Kansas, Edgeley was as Dickinson described it ‘smaller than small’. Not only that, but she also grew up during the Great Depression which had a major impact on her upbringing as well.

Dickinson’s parents published two newspapers while Angie and her two sisters, Janet and Mary Lou, were growing up, The Kulm Messenger and Edgeley Mail. She described her father, Leo Henry Brown, as an exceptionally talented man who had a gift for writing and possessed a fabulous, sly sense of humor. Angie’s mother was also a hard worker and helped run the Linotype.

Dickinson fell in love with the movies at a very early age as her father was also the projectionist at the town’s only movie theater until it burned down.

In 1942, when Angie was just ten years old, her family moved to Burbank, California where she attended Bellarmine-Jefferson High School. She graduated in 1947 at the age of 15. A year prior, she won the Sixth Annual Bill of Rights essay contest. She went on to continue her studies at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and later at Glendale Community College. 

In 1952, Angie married football player gene Dickinson. After graduating with a business degree in 1954, Dickinson took her father’s advice and set out to become a writer, but she gave up on this dream after winning her first beauty contest.

After earning her degree, Dickinson worked as a secretary in a Burbank airplane parts factory for a few years. In 1953, she entered the local Miss America Contest one day before the deadline and ended up placing in second. In August of that same year, she was one of the five winners in a beauty contest put on by NBC and subsequently appeared in several variety TV shows.

A Star Is Born

Angie landed her first bit part in a Warner Brothers film in 1954 and achieved television fame after starring in the 1955 series The Millionaire. Just a few years later she scored the leading role that ended up defining her career when she appeared in 1959s Rio Bravo. Her success then continued to climb until she became of the nation’s top stars.

In 1960, Angie’s marriage to Gene Dickinson fell apart and the couple filed for divorce. During that marriage, however, she became close friends with John Kenneth Galbraith and his wife Catherine. She made extensive outings to visit them and even toured with the couple when John was U.S. Ambassador to India. The details of this chapter of her life were documented in Galbraith’s memoirs Ambassador’s Journal and A Life in Our Times.

Dickinson’s affair with Frank Sinatra was well documented but when it came to her reported fling with John F. Kennedy, Dickinson denied the affair and refused to discuss the subject at any length.

After divorcing Gene Dickinson, Angie kept her married name. In 1965, She married Burt Bacharach. They remained married for 15 years, although later on in their union they had a period of separation during which they saw other people.

The Tragic Story of Angie Dickinson’s Daughter, Nikki

Angie’s daughter with Bacharach, Lea Nikki, was born a year after they got married. Nikki, as she was known, was born three months premature and suffered from several health difficulties including a pretty severe visual impairment. She was later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. 

Bacharach composed a song called ‘Nikki’ for he and his wife’s fragile young daughter and Dickinson turned down a number of roles to focus on taking care of her unique physical and psychological needs. It’s been said that if she were to have taken those roles, then Dickinson would have likely become one of the biggest film stars of her era. But fame and fortune paled in comparison to her love for her little girl.

Angie and Bacharach eventually put Nikki into the care of the Wilson Center, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescents in Faribault, Minnesota where she remained for the better part of a decade. Later on, Nikki studied geology at California Lutheran University, but her visual impairment prevented her from pursuing it as a career.

Tragically, in 2007, Nikki, at the age of 40, committed suicide by suffocating herself in her apartment in the Ventura County suburb of Thousand Oaks.

Well, unfortunately, we’ve just about run out of time, but hopefully, you’ve enjoyed taking this little peek into the life and times of Angie Dickinson, an actress who even at the age of 89 is still considered to be one of the finest and most gifted performers of her generation. Sure, she could have gone on to become a more prolific film star than she did, but her family values meant a lot more to her than seeing her name in lights.

What’s your most cherished memory of Angie Dickinson? Let us know in the comments section below.

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