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Interview: Angie Dickinson on the Big Break, The Rat Pack, ‘Police Woman’

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CHICAGO – Angie Dickinson has brought her charm and magnetism to a career that has spanned from the 1950s/’60s era – she was featured, for example, in the original Rat Pack-starring “Ocean’s 11” (1960) – to grittier movie roles in such cult classics as as “Point Blank” (1967), Brian DePalma’s “Dressed to Kill” (1980) and Ronald Reagan’s last film,”The Killers” (1964).

Angie Dickinson was born Angeline Brown in North Dakota. Her family moved to Burbank, California, when Dickinson was a child, and she graduated from high school early, at the age of 15. She studied business in college, and married football player Gene Dickinson, giving her the career name that would identify her forever. It was a beauty pageant that got her a acting tryout at the then-fledgling network NBC. She debuted on the TV series “Death Valley Days” in 1954, and made many TV appearances through the rest of the decade.

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Angie Dickinson at ‘The Hollywood Collector’s Show
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

In 1959, she got her big break in the film “Rio Bravo,” opposite John Wayne. This launched her film career, and throughout the 1960s she worked steadily, most notably in “The Art of Love,” “The Poppy is Also a Flower” and “Sam Whiskey.” In the 1970s, she did the cult film “Big Bad Mama” and a French/Canadian production, “L’Homme en colére.” But it was also the 1970s she starred in the breakthrough cop drama, “Police Woman” (1974-78), the first time a female actor was the lead role in a police drama.

From the 1980s on, Dickinson has worked steadily on TV and the movies, shocking audiences with a highly charged role in 1980 in “Dressed to Kill,” reprising her title role in “Big Bad Mama II” (1987), appearing in remake of “Sabrina” (1995), and even doing a cameo in the George Clooney remake of “Ocean’s 11” (2001).

HollywoodChicago.com caught up with Angie Dickinson at “The Hollywood Collector’s Show,” and she talked about her big break, life with the Rat Pack and how “Police Woman” was a role model for girls…and boys.

HollywoodChicago.com: After bit parts in movies and the early days of television, who or what was instrumental in getting you your first big showcase film role in ‘Rio Bravo’

Angie Dickinson: The connection was a director I had doing an episode of ‘Perry Mason’ – his name was Chris Nyby. Chris was a film editor before he was a director, and had worked with the director of ‘Rio Bravo,’ Howard Hawks. So Chris Nyby told Hawks if you want to discover another newcomer, check out Angie Dickinson. I did a screen test for him and I was hired. That was how I got my big break.

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Angie Dickinson talks to Howard Hawks on the Set of ‘Rio Bravo’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

HollywoodChicago.com: What kind of difficulties did you have with the whole Hollywood system as you were breaking into the business during the less enlightened times of the 1950s, and the breakdown of the studio system?

Dickinson: It was not easy. I found my career out of the blue. I was working as a secretary and had gone to college. I got hooked into show business a little later than most, and with no connections or background in it. So every thing I got after that I felt lucky getting because I never aimed too high, I aimed realistically. Everything fell my way, and within four years I was cast opposite John Wayne in ‘Rio Bravo.’ That was a fairly fast track considering how shortly I’d been in the business.

HollywoodChicago.com: Having been part of the actual people and the original film version Ocean’s 11 in 1960, what do you think of the whole “Rat Pack” style of cool has become so popular now? Is it deserved or do you just laugh?

Dickinson: It is deserved and it was a blast. I didn’t think anyone could pull it off again, but George Clooney and Brad Pitt did it, and that was wonderful.

HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve had some varied and peculiar “against type” roles in your career. What was your criteria for choosing the unusual roles you’ve done, such as in ‘Point Blank’ and ‘Dressed to Kill’?

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Angie Dickinson in ‘Police Woman’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Dickinson: Money. [laughs] I don’t know, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just something good. When ‘Police Woman’ came along, it was great to play that role, but I wasn’t aiming for it, I was just striving to keep me career going. Some roles were great, some not so great. But just like a ballplayer, I figure if you hit .375 that’s not too bad.

HollywoodChicago.com: You are held up as a somewhat role model forPepper on ‘Police Woman.’ In looking back at that era, how do you think it helped pave the way for women to get different roles in television dramas?

Dickinson: t paved the way because it was the first. It also had the title ‘Police Woman,’ and more significantly it premiered on a Friday night, where young girls could stay up later and get the role model part of it. Also younger boys were fans as well, I guess for different reasons. [laughs] Everyone needs a reason for a role model.

HollywoodChicago.com: Finally, can you tell us something about Frank Sinatra that the rest of world doesn’t know?

Dickinson: No. [laughs]

’Police Woman - The Complete First Season’ is available on DVD from Sony Pictures. Click here for the HollywoodChicago.com slideshow of the Hollywood Collector Show.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com


© 2009 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Rat Pack Tribute's picture

Angie Dickinson

In addition to having talent and sex appeal, Angie Dickinson has always been considered one of the nicest people in TV and film, who is admired by all of us who respect and emulate The Rat Pack.

johnny fuckin raider's picture

angie d

one of the best lookin broads ever, and broads is affectionate they don’t take shit but know how to have fun

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