September 30, 2019 — Today is the birthday of legendary actress Angie Dickinson. Her given name was Angeline Brown, but the name for which she is better known came from her first husband, semi-pro football player Gene Dickinson.

Angie was born in Kulm, in southeast ND, where her father ran the Kulm Messenger. The family also lived in nearby Edgeley. Once a week, their father ran movies, and Angie developed an early fascination with stardom. It was her father’s drinking problem that inadvertently led to her acting career when Angie’s mother picked up the family and moved them to Burbank, CA.

Angie was eleven at the time of the move. Pictures of her as a teenager show a blond beauty whose unique eyes made her appear innocent and vulnerable. According to reports, she was also boy crazy. And smart. When she was a senior in high school, she won the Sixth Annual Bill of Rights Contest. She was toying with the idea of becoming a writer, like her father, but after finishing college, she got stuck working as a secretary in an airplane parts factory.

Everything changed in 1953, when she impulsively entered the local Miss America contest and took 2nd place. She followed that by appearing on a TV show called “Beauty Parade,” in which she won the competitions of the week, the month, and finally for the year. A role on the “Colgate Comedy Hour” followed, along with minor roles in small movies, including westerns.

Dickinson’s big break came for her role as “Feathers” in a 1959 John Wayne film called Rio Bravo. The book, Swingin’ Chicks of the ‘60s, says the movie “made her a star and confirmed her strengths as a spunky, beautiful, self-assured woman who wasn’t intimidated by a cast full of tough guys... Combining brains and beauty, style and independence, she’s always managed to convey both sexiness and strength in her movies, among which are several ‘60s classics.”

In 1963, Universal Studios had her legs insured for a million dollars. Twenty years later, those same legs were featured on a “memorable” billboard for California Avocados. She turned down the role of Crystal Carrington in the nighttime soap, “Dynasty,” and also turned down Playboy magazine when they asked her to pose for a centerfold after she had already turned 50.

Dickinson has been nominated for a host of awards; her own television series, Police Woman, earned her a Golden Globe. In addition to countless television appearances, she also has been in more than 85 movies, including Point Blank and Dressed to Kill. She starred in the original version of Ocean’s Eleven and then reappeared in the 2001 version of the film as... herself.

Angie once said, “My mother was against me being an actress – until I introduced her to Frank Sinatra.” Of her 10-year intermittent relationship with Sinatra, she once said, “He has a way, a magical way; it’s not just the blue eyes and their very color, but the way they look at you. You feel very, very comfortable. And he doesn’t ignore you when he’s in the company of others.”

A whirlwind romance led to her 15-year marriage to composer, Burt Bacharach. They divorced in 1980 during her chaotic days on Police Woman. Although she has never remarried, she has had no shortage of interesting admirers, including talk-show hosts Johnny Carson and Larry King, musicians Billy Vera and Julio Iglesias, and newsman Harry Reasoner.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.

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