Northern Wilds Magazine
In her sixth feature film The Phantom Creeps (aka The Shadow Creeps), Dorothy Arnold has the role of Jean Drew, acting with Bela Lugosi. | PUBLIC DOMAIN
Strange Tales

From Duluth to Hollywood: Dorothy Arnold

So, what’s the connection between the legendary New York Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio and a Duluth-born Hollywood actress?

While it’s well-known that Joe DiMaggio married Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, much less known is that his first wife and the mother of his only child was Dorothy Arnoldine Olson.

Dorothy was born in Duluth on November 21, 1917, to Northern Pacific Railway’s Victor Arnold Olson and Clara Kolbak, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants to Duluth. By age 12, she was singing and dancing at Duluth’s Lyric Theatre, and later performing song-and-dance numbers with her friend Dorothy Tetzman as part of “Dot and Dot (With a Little Bit of Dash).”

After graduating in 1935 from Denfield High School, Dorothy left Duluth, headed for Chicago to join the Band Box Revue as a singer/dancer. She then changed her stage name to Dorothy Arnold and moved on to New York where she attended Paramount School of Acting. According to the biography Dorothy Arnold: Joe DiMaggio’s First Wife, written by her sister Joyce M. Hadley, “…she worked at NBC and as a [radio] singer, posed for shots in magazine stories, modelled for ladies’ wear in ads, modelled clothes, and was in short subject films.”

Dorothy later told Hollywood columnist Paul Harrison, “As a kid in Duluth, I was an awful tomboy—always playing baseball and football with sandlot boys. But that was only until I got to be in night clubs…I went into vaudeville with a song and dance specialty. I tried little theatre work and stock, and tried to crash Broadway. I almost starved, and sometimes I sang with cheap dance orchestra.”

Hollywood’s Universal Studios signed her to a movie contract in 1937 and she began a film career spanning over 20 years, starting with the short film Freshies (1937) and ending with the movie Fräulein (1958). Between 1937-1939, she appeared in 15 films.

Poster for The Phantom Creeps, originally released in 1939. | UNIVERSAL PICTURES

In 1937, Dorothy met Joe DiMaggio on the movie set for the musical comedy Manhattan Merry-Go-Round. She was a movie extra and Joe—who was gaining celebrity fame as a New York Yankees baseball player—had some speaking lines in the movie. After dating for two years, they were engaged in July 1939. Joe expected Dorothy to give up her film career once they married, however, Dorothy wasn’t so sure about giving up her rising stardom.

In a Connecticut newspaper article (Waterbury Evening Democrat, July 24, 1939), journalist Ruth Millet wrote, “It is Dorothy Arnold who admits that if things keep on going right for her in Hollywood, she might find it pretty hard to give up acting for a life of sitting in a ball park biting her nails. Dorothy Arnold isn’t sure yet what she ought to do.” She told the journalist, “Everything depends on what happens in the next few months. After all, you have to play your cards as they come, don’t you, even in love?”

Well, 22-year-old Dorothy and 25-year-old Joe got married on November 19, 1939, in Joe’s hometown of San Francisco at the Church of Saint Peter and Paul. The wedding was a huge event. Police estimated around 30,000 people had gathered to see the celebrity couple.

And as per Joe’s wishes, Dorothy gave up her movie career, with regret. Years later, her sister wrote in her book, “He left her at home and he always wanted her there. A wife had to be on his beck and call. That went over like a lead balloon for Dorothy.”

Their son, Joseph Paul “Joe Jr” DiMaggio III, was born on October 23, 1941—the same year that his father set the baseball record of a 56 game-hitting streak, a record that still stands today, almost 83 years later.

Within a year after their son’s birth, Dorothy sought a divorce from Joe. They reconciled, split, and reconciled, telling the press they were in love and wanted to be together. It didn’t last. In October 1943—when Joe was in the U.S. Army Air Force (1943-44)—they separated again and were divorced in May 1944. Dorothy was awarded a $14,000 one-time payment from Joe (today’s value, over $248,000), $500 monthly support (today’s value, over $8,800), and $150 for child support (today’s value, over $2,600).

This 1939 image of New York Yankees baseball player Joe DiMaggio was taken the same year he married Dorothy Arnold. | PUBLIC DOMAIN

But their love story wasn’t over yet. In 1946, Dorothy married George Schubert, a New York stockbroker. When they divorced four years later, Joe and Dorothy seemed to reconcile, and rumours began that they might remarry. When asked by the media, both said ‘maybe.’

They had remained good friends since their divorce in 1944, but that all changed in 1952 when Joe married the legendary Marilyn Monroe on January 14, 1952 (they divorced within a year.) In the meantime, Dorothy briefly revived her movie career (two movies Lizzie and Fräulein, plus some TV show appearances, including Dragnet).

Married for the third time in 1970 to Ralph Peck, a WWII Navy veteran, Dorothy died on November 13, 1984 in Ensenada, Mexico, while receiving cancer treatment. Joe DiMaggio, recognized as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, died on March 8, 1999, and their son, Joe Jr., died five months later on August 6, 1999.

While Dorothy is gone, she’s not forgotten in Duluth. At the city’s downtown boutique hotel, The Oliver Inn, the 13 rooms at the Inn recognize unique Duluth personalities and room 12 is named for Dorothy Arnold.

Related posts

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Verified by MonsterInsights