Even though she never won Academy Awards, Angie Dickinson was a Hollywood legend, turning heads with her flirtatious characters and almost-always-bare legs. She had male moviegoers wrapped around her finger, not to mention a whole host of scandalous star-studded lovers.
1. She Came From Humble Beginnings
Believe it or not, Angie Dickinson was a country girl before she ever knew anything about a glamorous life on the big screen. Far from the city lights of LA, where she would later live, she grew up in bleak little prairie towns in North Dakota that resembled the edge of the world. But there’s more to the story of Angie’s modest origins.
2. She Lived Through A Dark Time
Born in 1931, young Angie grew up in the hectic hubbub of the Great Depression. The political and economic tumult of the time (alongside living in the middle of nowhere) meant Angie had little to do besides twiddle her thumbs. But it didn’t cost a dime to watch a movie at the theatre where her father worked! This was only the beginning of her love for the big screen.
However, hanging with her father wasn’t all hunky-dory.
3. Her Father Had Heartbreaking Vices
With the turmoil of the time, coupled with his own crushed dreams, Angie’s father lost himself in the bottom of many bottles. Angie loved her father, but his turn to drink showed her an encumbered life she never wanted. Living with an alcoholic was no picnic, but she used her father’s mistakes to turn her life around in a startling way.
4. She Noticed Something Missing
Angie refused to live a stagnant life and began dreaming big as a small girl. She fell in love with the characters that came alive on the big screen at her local theatre. But she felt there was something missing in the neat housewife roles of leading ladies, like Betty Grable or Lana Turner. Angie Dickinson needed something more…
5. She Wanted To Be Different
Male characters like Humphrey Bogart’s ex-paratrooper, Rip, and Gregory Peck’s unconventional priest in Keys to the Kingdom bewitched Angie. These male characters inhabited excitement, while the women on screen seemed to live colorless lives. She later explained, “I wanted to look like [Marlene] Dietrich or [Betty] Grable or Lana Turner, but I wanted to do what the men did”.
6. She Married Her College Sweetheart
At the young age of 21, while Angie was studying at Glendale College, she married her blue-eyed football-playing college beau, Gene Dickinson. The two dated for only ten months before deciding to settle down. Nevertheless, it seemed like everything was coming up roses for Angie, with a college diploma in one hand and a ring on the other.
But with her star-studded fate fast approaching, this “happily ever after” was in for a curveball.
7. She Boasted Both Brains And Beauty
Young Angie had a knack for writing, winning an important essay contest when she was only 14. She fully intended on following her pop’s footsteps after finishing college—but it wasn’t meant to be. But Angie’s path quickly changed gears when she discovered that new doors opened when she paraded her good looks.
8. She Put It All Out There
When she was 22 years old, Angie made a last-minute decision to enter her local Miss America contest after work one day. She was a head turner with full lips, sultry eyes, and a delicate frame. Not even her belated arrival could keep her from winning second place. But she dazzled more than just the judges with her beauty.
This would be the first of many opportunities to showcase her bewitching body in front of a doting audience.
9. She Became A Showgirl
As it turned out, a casting agent caught a glimpse of Angie’s charming, good looks (or more accurately, her sleek long legs) and pressed her to join the five other leggy ladies who made up the heart-stopping team of showgirls on The Jimmy Durante Show. Not only did Angie begin to consider acting—but also she met one of Hollywood’s most popular entertainers (who would become one of the most important men in her life).
10. Her Mother Didn’t Support Her
When Angie Dickinson decided to commit to a career in the spotlight and began appearing in minor roles on television screens in 1954, her mother was not very happy. But that disapproval only lasted until Angie showed up for her first appearance on The Jimmy Durante Show and met the charming Hollywood star, Ol’ Blue Eyes, better known as Frank Sinatra.
11. Sinatra Swept Her Away
Known for his magnetic charisma, Sinatra put a spell on everyone, including Angie. From the moment she walked onto the set of The Jimmy Durante Show and saw Sinatra and Durante rehearsing a number, she was head over heels for the entertainment industry and utterly bewitched by Sinatra.
Later in her career, she would learn Sinatra’s tricks and enchant an audience of her own.
12. She Made A Big Splash
For the next five years, Angie greased her wheels with a handful of roles in television shows and B-movies, appearing mostly in crime dramas and Westerns. It wasn’t until 1959’s Rio Bravo that she became the feisty and coquettish Angie that fans went crazy for. Her coy character, Feathers, was only the start of her famous flirtatious repertoire.
13. She Was Part Of The In-Crowd
Angie Dickinson was in the right place at the right time. The hard-swinging 50s entertainment scene was full of glitz, glamor, and mesmerizing characters. And in 1955, she fell right into step with the lot of them. She hung out in Vegas with the Rat Pack and other Hollywood stars like Judy Garland and David Niven.
Angie certainly held her own amidst such heavy-hitters—and perhaps even caught them by surprise.
14. She Had An Unladylike Hobby
One of the reasons she fell in with the Rat Pack was because she could put some of the boys in their place with her lewd language and lucky hand. One day in between takes on set, a few stunt men taught Angie Dickinson to kick up her heels and play poker. Ever since then, she’s been trying her luck with anyone who will face her.
15. She Walked The Walk
Angie knew that stardom was more than just reading lines on a page—you had to have a certain charisma. So, she was always watching the icons around her. One thing she zeroed in on was a star’s walk. She must have learned a thing or two from watching the gait of other stars because her legs gained an unprecedented reputation.
16. She Had Million Dollar Legs
A few years after her legendary legs were on full display in Rio Bravo, Angie Dickinson signed on to work a seven-year contract with Universal Pictures who decided they had to protect her lovely limbs. So, they did something mid-boggling: They took out a hefty $1 million insurance policy just in case. Can you imagine if she nicked her legs while shaving?
17. She Won Awards For Her… Legs?
Dickinson amassed countless admirers thanks to her long legs. In fact, she accepted the Golden Garter Award for “Hollywood’s Greatest Gams” in 1962. Picture that on a fireplace mantle!
Twenty years later, she was also honored by the L.A. Country Podiatry Association which appointed her the actress with “the most beautiful legs in Hollywood”. Oh, but she didn’t stop there.
18. She Gained Favor In Nothing But A Sweater
In 1966, Angie ended up melting even more hearts, pants-less on the cover of Esquire. In the photograph, her charm seems effortless as she looks at the viewer with her soft and sultry gaze, standing tall in merely a thin sweater and heels. Her pantyhose-clad legs and peachy side-view left little to the imagination and definitely puffed up her status as a Hollywood head-turner.
19. She Refused To Go Blonde
It’s hard to believe that Angie was a natural brunette considering her on-screen appearances as a blonde knockout. Apparently, she initially put her foot down when studios wanted to lighten her hair to mirror Marilyn Monroe’s platinum blonde because she didn’t want to limit herself to roles as a vacuous sex symbol. She had mixed feelings about her status as a dreamboat…
20. She Didn’t Want To Be Just A Pretty Face
Angie didn’t mind fans drooling over her gorgeous features, and she flaunted her body in front of the camera with ease. But she didn’t want to make the same mistakes as previous Hollywood darlings who attracted fame solely for their physical appearance. Instead, she fought to go down in history as an accomplished actor.
However, there was one man who couldn’t take his eyes off Angie’s lethal figure.
21. She Cheated On Her Husband
From the moment she met Frank Sinatra in 1954, Angie couldn’t ignore the energy that buzzed between them, despite the fact that she was still hitched to her first husband, Gene Dickinson. She and Sinatra had a cozy and amicable love that was based as much in friendship as it was in sensual desire. It was so great a love, it almost led them to the altar…
22. They Considered Settling Down
The chemistry between Angie and Sinatra in 1960’s Ocean’s 11 is unmistakeable, even though they are only together in two scenes. Four years after the film, the two lovebirds mused about the idea of marriage, but Sinatra’s late-night partying wasn’t for Angie. What’s more? Sinatra never wanted to get hitched to an actor. After 10 years of being on-again, off-again, they called it quits…But Sinatra wasn’t the only man Angie left behind.
23. She Kept His Name
After nearly a decade together, Angie and her college sweetheart, Gene Dickinson, divorced. But she figured she’d keep Gene’s last name because, by the time of her divorce in 1960, she was already making headlines as the stunning “Angie Dickinson”. Their parting was probably for the best because, by that time, Angie had already tangled up with famous lovers like Frank Sinatra.
Of course, this wasn’t Angie’s last foray into celebrity drama.
24. She Was One of the Boys
Angie Dickinson met countless celebrities thanks to her friendship with Sinatra. Her co-star in Ocean’s 11, Peter Lawford, was husband to JFK’s sister and connected the Hollywood posse with the Kennedys. The gang was so fired-up by the presidential campaign, they barnstormed across America, taking Dickinson with them and stirring up the rumor mill as they went.
25. Rumor Has it, She Was JFK’s Mistress
Flashy parties at Peter Lawford’s home brought together the Rat Pack posse and the Kennedys, presenting plenty of chances for Angie to catch the eye of the future president. And she must have too, because rumors haven’t stopped circulating since she attended a private inauguration party where there were accounts of the two getting hot and heavy…
26. She Never Fessed Up
Angie never deigned to take advantage of the publicity a relationship with JFK would bring her. And while she has held her cards close to her chest for years, in 1993 she told Entertainment Weekly that, because she didn’t like to lie, she would have to hide from questions about the rumored affair. Sounds like we’ve got our answer!
But Angie must have had a knack for charming politicians because Kennedy wasn’t the only one smitten with her.
27. She Felt The Chemistry
In his last film role in The Killers, Ronald Reagan slaps Angie Dickinson firmly across her cheek, but don’t let that brutal strike fool you. Reflecting on her past, Angie recalls that the two actors were really, really into each other. Nothing came of their chemistry on set, but the actress recalls that if “things” had been different, they would have dated.
28. She Loved Working With Hollywood Hunks
Angie never shied away from talking about how much she adored acting alongside good-looking male actors. She confesses she was never able to work dispassionately around handsome men and admits to fantasizing about working with Al Pacino or getting another chance at seducing Rio Bravo co-star, John Wayne.
However, no amount of handsome co-stars could keep her career afloat.
29. Her Luck Ran Out
Although Angie Dickinson was well-established by the mid-60s, she experienced a very trying rough patch. Her well seemed to dry right up. Nobody knows whether she passed up iconic roles or if younger actors snatched them out from under her nose. Nevertheless, she planned to get away for a change of scenery.
30. She Wanted To Move To Paris
In France, Angie was a sensational star for her femme fatale role in American film noirs like The Killers, so she planned to move to Paris. She started to put her efforts into studying the language of love, but didn’t get too far before deciding to hang onto her life in LA. And it’s a good thing too because that’s where she would meet her next husband.
31. She Married A Famous Songwriter
In 1965, Dickinson tied the knot with Burt Bacharach, one of the most brilliant composers of the 20th century. They were quickly deemed Hollywood’s hottest couple, but their relationship started off rocky. While Dickinson’s career had simmered, Bacharach’s was taking off to new heights, casting a shadow over Dickinson’s glow.
But this wasn’t the only tension to shake down their relationship.
32. She Was Head Over Heels
A year after they said “I do”, Bacharach had already cheated on Angie—twice! It was a heartbreaking situation. Angie was smitten with Bacharach and she’s even gone so far as to call him the romantic love of her life. But their relationship was unhealthy and the betrayed actress felt her husband didn’t have any respect for her.
But this wasn’t the only sorrow in Angie’s personal life.
33. She Had A Difficult Birth
Angie Dickinson’s only child was Lea Nikki Bacharach, who had a tough life from the get-go. Born three months premature after a complicated birth that jeopardized Angie’s health, baby Nikki was tiny, weighing just over a pound. Unfortunately, the uphill battle would continue for Angie as her sickly daughter grew older…
34. She Had To Raise Her Daughter In The Dark
Raising Nikki presented challenges for Angie and Bacharach. Doctors didn’t have a clue about how to nurture Nikki, who experienced symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. In fact, until 1994, The American Psychiatric Association didn’t identify Asperger’s in their manual. It wasn’t until many years later (in her adulthood) that Nikki got a formal diagnosis.
But through it all, Angie did what she had to do to support her daughter.
35. She Chose Family Over Her Career
Angie spent a lot of time nurturing Nikki, who grew up struggling with health complications due to her premature birth and undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. As a result, she did the unthinkable: Angie left her fans high and dry, refusing roles that likely would have made her one of the hottest Hollywood stars of her time. Even so, she still managed to snag some hit roles…
36. They Were Two Peas In A Pod
Even though Nikki had an apartment of her own, she spent most of her time with Angie. Together they would travel, skinny-dip, and of course, watch countless films. Nikki adored seeing her mother play confident and coquettish characters and when her mom slowly but surely returned to the big screen, she discovered her all-time favorite Angie Dickinson film.
37. She Stirred Up Fans With Her Next Steamy Film
In 1974, Angie Dickinson reprised her role as a self-assured stunner, letting it all hang out in one of her sexiest and most beloved films, Big Bad Mama. A crop of new male fans flocked to see the bare-skinned 42-year-old actress play the sensual Wilma, who flaunts her wit and body (and makes co-star William Shatner melt in his shoes). Angie was finally back on her game.
38. She Hit The Bull’s-Eye
In the same year as Big Bad Mama, Angie considered a role on the small screen as Sergeant “Pepper” Anderson in an action-packed drama called Police Woman. Even though she was spot-on for a role as a daring woman with a sturdy backbone, she was initially iffy about it and even asked her husband, Burt Bacharach, for advice.
He urged her to give it a whirl, but Angie’s acceptance of this role changed her life in a big way.
39. She Became A Trailblazer
Police Woman was a smash hit, topping charts and landing Angie Dickinson a Golden Globe Award. She made history in one of the first noteworthy crime dramas to feature a female lead. Her fearless heroine quickly became all the rage: Female fans wrote to Dickinson, keyed-up about chasing a career as a cop. But her new role also caused her some trouble.
40. Her Husband Had No Faith In Her
When Bacharach urged Dickinson to accept her role in Police Woman, he didn’t expect it to be the home run that it was. When producers invited Bacharach to compose the show’s theme song, his response was insulting. He refused because he had little faith in the longevity and success of the show. Unfortunately, this undeniable red flag was only the beginning of the end.
41. Her Success Destroyed Her Marriage
It was during Ange Dickinson’s rebound to fame that fate seemed to flip on the couple. While her career was heating up, his was doused in cold water. This tension was the final strike in their 15-year relationship. The couple separated in 1976, but wouldn’t officially divorce for another four painful years.
Luckily, this didn’t stop Angie from shining as bright as she possibly could.
42. She Appeared In Her Hottest Film
Beginning with a steamy shower scene and ending with a reverse strip tease, it’s no wonder Dressed To Kill had audiences salivating. This fiercely sensual role that captures Angie in all her self-assured poise is not only a fan favorite, but one of her all-time favorite parts. However, despite Angie’s eloquence, not everyone was so keen on the film.
43. She Sparked Controversy
There was a lot of conversation about Angie Dickinson’s character who is murdered because of her bold sensuality. The suspenseful thriller received a lot of backlash from feminists who picketed against the objectification of women the film seemed to portray. But Angie wasn’t fazed, and gladly went on to accept awards for her scandalous part.
44. She Tried Her Hand At Comedy
In 1980, Angie decided to shock fans and herself. Out of left field, she accepted the offer to star in her own sitcom show, The Angie Dickinson Show. Unfortunately, Dickinson’s sweet and sultry persona didn’t have its place in the knee-slapping world of the sitcom, and she quit after only two episodes. However, she didn’t throw in the towel with one failure.
This decade had far more in store for the ager actress.
45. She Blew Them Away
In the 1980s, after her red-hot role in Dressed To Kill, Dickinson appeared in a commercial for California avocados in nothing but a white leotard and heels. As the camera pans up her perfectly posed legs, her deep voice seduces the viewer into believing that avocados are the key to her figure. It’s a wonder California didn’t run out of avocados that year!
46. She Became Hung Up On Her Looks
After decades of people powdering, routing, and draping Angie Dickinson in pretty dresses, it’s no wonder she became hyper-fixated on her appearance. As she aged, she became self-conscious about going to the supermarket without getting dolled up. Perhaps it was all of this attention to her looks that had her still getting requests to appear in her birthday suit well after she turned 50!
Of course, in the end, her greatest heartbreak wasn’t her fading looks at all.
47. Her World Turned Upside-Down
In 2007, Angie was grief-stricken to discover that her only daughter took her own life at the age of 40. Despite the pain of the loss, she was calm in her belief that Nikki was at peace, free from the harsh world. Nevertheless, her daughter’s passing crushed Angie, and from that moment onward, she seemed to fade into the background.
48. She Considered Taking A Break For Good
After her daughter was gone, Angie took two years away from acting where she seesawed between thoughts of retirement and returning to work. When she figured she couldn’t wallow or sit on the fence forever, she decided to return to the big screen and do something a little bit different than what fans expected.
49. She Escaped Reality
Angie returned to acting in 2009, starring in the film, Mending Fences. Here, she got to break away from past roles and from reality itself. She was stubborn grandma Ruth, a far cry from the sexy-but-feisty Angie that everyone had come to adore. Acting out a completely new character meant the actress didn’t have to be Angie.
In her role as a grandmother, Angie found the therapeutic relief she didn’t know she was looking for.
50. She Called It Quits
Her brief return to the big screen as granny Ruth in 2009’s Mending Fences was Angie’s last appearance before she packed it all in. Fortunately for fans, she left behind some cult classics and a leggy legacy that no one will soon forget. Now, at age 90, she reflects on her past with reverence, calling herself one lucky lady.