April 16, 1939
Duluth screen star narrates her success
Written by Dorothy Arnold for Merle Potter, Minneapolis Journal
It’s a long way from Duluth to Hollywood,
but I think I’ve made it. I’m not sure.
Ten years ago, when I was 12, I used to sing with
the Salvation Army.
I was born Dorothy Arnold Olson in Duluth on Nov.
21, 1917. My father is Victor Arnold Olson, a railroad man. With
his coaching, I turned out to be a tomboy.
At school I was on the basketball, baseball, track
and swimming team. I think my father took more pride in me when
I won Duluth city championships in swimming and tennis than he did
when I signed a movie contract with Universal last fall.
I appeared in children’s revues during school
vacations, traveling through Minnesota and Wisconsin. Geraldine
Butler’s dancing lessons provided the impetus for my entertainment
ambitions. I saw a stage show produced by the McCall Bridge Players
at the Lyric, and then and there decided the somehow, sometime,
I would be on the stage.
Incidentally, the Lyric is now a movie house and
it recently played my first picture for Universal, “The Storm.”
It was widely advertised as the first triumph of a local girl. My
father went to see me, had to stay two shows to find me, and was
late to work for the first time in years.
While attending Denfeld High School, I spent summer
vacations singing with Bob Owens’ Minnesota campus band. I
traveled with my father, whose run on the Northern Pacific railroad
is from Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul. I would hop off at either
point and sing at the party, hotel or club at which the orchestra
was playing, then catch the train for home.
After graduation from high school, I joined a
Balaban & Katz stage unit and toured the Midwest. In Madison,
Wis., a Paramount studio executive wanted me to go to New York for
a screen test. That was in 1936. When the Paramount man heard my
voice, he said it was too low for talking pictures.
I began singing over NBC Radio in 1938. My voice
attracted the attention of Paramount. I returned for another test,
this one in sound. The test must have clicked, because I signed
a contract almost immediately — not with Paramount but with
Universal. An executive of the latter studio happened to see my
test, and offered the contract.
Did I grab it? I was on the train a day later,
on my way to Hollywood.
I’ve appeared in 12 pictures for Universal
since last fall. Most of the parts were bits, starting with that
microscopic role in “The Storm.” But I’m forced
to admit I needed the experience, and I was finally rewarded with
a featured part with William Gargan and Irene Harvey in “The
House of Fear.”