Angie Dickinson

Active - 1954 - 2011  |   Born - Sep 30, 1931 in Kulm, North Dakota, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Western, Comedy, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born in Kulm, North Dakota and educated at Glendale College and Immaculate Heart College, Angeline Brown acquired her professional name Angie Dickinson when she married college football star Gene Dickinson. A beauty contest winner, Dickinson entered films with an unbilled bit in the 1954 Warner Bros. musical Lucky Me. Her earliest films consisted mostly of "B" Westerns (at one point, she dubbed in actress Sarita Montiel's voice in 1957's Run of the Arrow) and television (Dickinson was rather nastily murdered in very first episode of Mike Hammer). She moved to the A-list when selected by Howard Hawks to play the female lead in Rio Bravo (1958). The film gave Dickinson ample opportunity to display her celebrated legs, which, for publicity purposes, were reportedly insured by Lloyd's of London.

She went on to star in films both famous and forgettable: one of the roles for which she is best remembered is as the mistress of gangster Ronald Reagan (!) in The Killers (1964). In 1974, Dickinson jump-started her flagging career as the star of the TV cop drama Police Woman, which lasted four seasons and represented a tremendous step up in popularity for Dickinson. On that program, the actress played Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson, an undercover agent with the LAPD's criminal conspiracy division, whose assignments nearly always included donning a crafty and sexy guise in order to nab an underworld criminal.

At about the same time, Dickinson also moved into motion pictures and (after years of consciously avoiding nude scenes), went au naturel for exploitation king Roger Corman in that producer's depression-era romp Big Bad Mama, which unsurprisingly became a cult favorite. (Years later, in 1987, she teamed up with Z-grade shlockmeister Jim Wynorski for New World's Big Bad Mama II). Brian DePalma's Psycho-influenced thriller Dressed to Kill (1980) brought the actress greater visibility, and like the Corman assignments, required Angie to do erotic nudity (though in this case, the below-the-waist shower shots were reportedly performed by a body double).

In later years, Dickinson leaned more heavily on starring and supporting turns in made-for-television productions, including a telemovie follow-up to Police Woman, Police Woman: The Freeway Killings (1987); the Oliver Stone miniseries Wild Palms (1993); the direct-to-video thriller The Maddening (1995) (opposite longtime friend and colleague Burt Reynolds); and the prime-time soaper Danielle Steele's Rememberance (1996). The next decade found the septuagenarian actress unexpectedly returning to A-list Hollywood features, albeit in small supporting roles; these included Duets (2000), Pay it Forward (2000) and Ocean's Eleven (2001) (in a cameo as herself, nodding to her involvement in the original).

Angie Dickinson was married to composer Burt Bacharach from 1965 to 1980.

Movie Highlights

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  • Entered a local beauty contest in 1952 while working as a secretary.
  • Launched her TV career on New Year's Eve 1954 with a part on an episode of the Western anthology series Death Valley Days.
  • Breakout movie role was in the 1959 Western Rio Bravo alongside Dean Martin and John Wayne.
  • Appeared in the Rat Pack's 1960 comedy-drama Ocean's Eleven.
  • Had a guest-starring role as brassy Sergeant Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson in a 1974 episode of the popular crime-anthology series Police Story. She garnered so much critical acclaim that the spin-off Police Woman was created for her later that year.
  • Was the original choice to play Krystle Jennings Carrington on the popular nighttime sudser Dynasty, but declined the role. Linda Evans took the part.
  • Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987.
  • Walked off the set of This Is Your Life and refused to do the show after being selected as an honoree in 1993.
  • Daughter Nikki had Asperger's syndrome her entire life but wasn't officially diagnosed until she was an adult. Nikki committed suicide in 2007.