Malone was born Dorothy Maloney, under which name she appeared in her earliest films. She began modeling in childhood and also frequently acted in school plays. While performing in a college play at age 18 she was spotted by a talent agent and soon signed to a film contract by RKO. After playing bits in several films she switched studios in 1945 and gradually got better roles; usually she played standard pretty-girl leads. In the mid '50s she began to gain attention as a serious actress. For her portrayal of a frustrated nymphomaniac in Written on the Wind (1956) she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar; however, few of her later roles were rewarding, and she made few films after 1964. She costarred in the TV series Peyton Place. She continued appearing in occasional films through the '80s. From 1959-64 she was married to actor Jacques Bergerac.