Obituary: Dorothy Kingsley

Dorothy Kingsley, screenwriter: born New York 14 October 1909; twice married (three sons, three daughters); died Carmel, California 26 September 1997.

"I never think of myself as a real writer," said Dorothy Kingsley, looking back on a long career. "I only wrote because I needed the money." The money was steady, and came principally from MGM, who employed this prolific, witty writer for 16 busy years on such musicals as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Kiss Me, Kate, and no less than seven vehicles for the swimming star Esther Williams.

Born in New York to an actress mother and a journalist father, Kingsley moved with her mother to Detroit after her parents divorced. After her own marriage was dissolved in the late 1930s, she took her three sons to Los Angeles, determined to support them by becoming a gag writer. She wrote radio comedy for Bob Hope and, later, for the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who started her in screenwriting when he and his dummy Charlie McCarthy appeared in RKO's Look Who's Laughing (1941). This low- budget second feature was a surprise smash hit, and Kingsley also contributed material to its successful sequel, Here We Go, Again (1942).

She then started writing original screen stories and submitting them to the studios. MGM's legendary producer Arthur Freed was impressed with her work and had her placed under contract - her first assignment, to write additional dialogue for the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musical Girl Crazy (1943). She was also asked to bring some order to the chaotic screenplay of Bathing Beauty (1944), a Red Skelton-Esther Williams musical, on which six other writers had already laboured. The result of her endeavours was a top-grossing film that made Williams one of the studio's biggest stars.

Her fourth script for the "Chlorine Queen" was Neptune's Daughter (1949). Frank Loesser, who was writing the score, told Kingsley that he'd composed a surefire duet, but didn't know what to do with it. After hearing the song, she wrote a new scene, in which Williams and Ricardo Montalban could sing it. The number, "Baby, It's Cold Outside", won the 1949 Best Song Oscar.

After writing the screen version of Sam and Bella Spewack and Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate (1953), Kingsley was asked to refine Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett's script for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Deciding that Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) had too much to do and his wife Milly (Jane Powell) too little, she wrote a scene in which Milly taught Adam's brothers how to woo a female. She then got Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul to write "Goin' Co'tin' ", one of the film's most winning song-and-dance numbers.

Reviewing the film version of Rodgers and Hart's musical Pal Joey (1957), Time magazine stated, "Almost everything that could be done wrong the moviemakers have done wrong in this production, and yet somehow the picture comes out remarkably right." Columbia Pictures had indeed cut out most of the Broadway show's songs while bowdlerising the remaining ones, and Kingsley's script had changed the lecherous Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) from an adulterous wife to a widow, disinfected John O'Hara's original dialogue, and allowed the reptilian Joey Evans to give up his womanising ways by the final scene. Yet, the film was still far sexier and sharper than most screen musicals, studded with classic Rodgers and Hart songs from other sources, and blessed with the perfect Joey in Frank Sinatra. So pleased was Ol' Blue Eyes with Kingsley's contribution to Pal Joey that he later accepted, sight unseen, the screen version of Cole Porter's Can-Can (1960), which she co-wrote.

In 1967 Kingsley and Helen Deutsch co-wrote the profitable film version of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. Clearly, the experience gave Kingsley a taste for soap opera; in 1969 she created and wrote Bracken's World, an hour-long television series set in the mythical Century Studios. Variety called it "the classiest soap yet. The setting is the entire 20th Century-Fox lot." Perhaps Bracken's World was too classy for the general public; it lasted only two seasons. After its cancellation, Dorothy Kingsley retired from writing and concentrated on her social activities, her children and her second marriage, to William Durney, owner of a seafood company and a winery.

For 27 years her name was absent from film credits, until 1994, when the Disney corporation remade Angels in the Outfield, her 1951 comedy- fantasy about an eight-year-old orphan girl (Donna Corcoran) whose prayers turn a losing baseball team into a world-beating one. Despite some abusive reviews, the remake was a smash hit - Kingsley's last.

When Pat McGilligan interviewed her eight years ago for Backstory 2, his book on screenwriters, he asked which of her films she preferred. After singling out Pal Joey and Angels in the Outfield, she said, "The others, I always think, `Gee, why didn't we do this?' or `it should have been better . . .' "

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?