Sunday, August 29, 2021

Whatever happened to Angie Dickinson?

"Actress Angie Dickinson proved strong woman have a place on the small screen and the American workplace when she stepped into the iconic role of Pepper Anderson, an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department, in the groundbreaking show, Police Woman . . . Her strong-willed, competent character helped demonstrate to America that men and women could work together without romantic entanglements.", Pioneers of Television

Believe it or not, Angie Dickinson is approaching her 90th birthday.  Angie was born Angeline Brown on September 30, 1931, in Kulm, North Dakota, a small American town with a population of about 740.  She is the daughter of Leo H. Brown, and his wife, Frederica.  Her parents published the town's weekly newspaper, The Kalm Messenger, and later The Edgeley Mail in Edgeley, North Dakota.

Angie grew up going to movies. "My daddy was the projectionist, so we got in for free.  And I loved movies," she told CBS Sunday Morning in a 2019 interview..  The town only had one movie theatre, and, according to Angie, they "cried for a week" when the theatre burned down.  In 1942, when Angie was ten years old, the Brown family moved to Southern California.  Angie attended Bellamine-Jefferson High School, a private Roman Catholic school in Burbank, where she graduated at the age of 15.  She later  continued her studies at Glendale Community College and then graduated in 1954 with a degree in business from Immaculate Heat College in Los Angeles.  

While a student, Angie found employment as a secretary at Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank (now Bob e Hope Airport) and at an airplane parts factory.  She also competed in beauty contests, which led to to an appearance as a commercial model on The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1954.  That show made quite an impression on her.  "Jimmy Durante was singing with Frank Sinatra," she explained to CBS News.  "That was it," I said.  "This is for me."  She decided to go into show business.

In 1954, Angie began her television acting career with bit parts as a party guest on Lucky Me and as a receptionist on The Mickey Rooney Show.  That same year, he had a bigger role as Comrade Margaret in an episode of the Emmy-nominated spy drama I Had Three Lives (Season 2, Episode 20).

During the 1950s, Angie appeared in episodes of  several popular TV Westerns such as Death Valley Days (1954), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1956), Gunsmoke (1957),, Cheyenne (1957) and Have Gun-Will Travel (1957) and Wagon Train (1959).

Below is a 1957 photo of Angie in Cheyenne with Clint Walker.

Angie had her big screen breakthrough role as Janice in the Western movie Gun the Man Down (1956 with James Arness.  She enjoyed even greater success when she was cast in another Western,  Howard Hawks' 1959 film, Rio Bravo, starring John Wayne, her childhood idol, and Dean Martin.  Angie portrayed a flirtatious saloon girl named Feathers in Rio Bravo, for which she won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year in 1960.

Angie also appeared in episodes of many TV series in the 1950s.that were not Westerns, including The Millionaire (1956), two episodes of The Bob Cummings Show (1957, 1958) and Perry Mason (1958),  as Marian Fargo in "The Case of the One-Eyed Witness" (Season 1, Episode 23, Air Date: February 22, 1958).

In 1960, Angie co-starred with the Rat Pack in Oceans 11, a crime caper film in which she played Frank Sinatra's wife.  Angie dated the famed crooner.  "We got very close to getting married in 1964," she said in her interview with CBS News correspondent Mo Rocca..  However, according to Angie, Sinatra's lifestyle was not what she wanted, and he told her that he was not going to marry an actress. (Frank married actress Mia Farrow in 1966).  In the interview, Angie also denied persistent rumours that she had an affair with President John F. Kennedy.  "There was no reason or grounds for thinking that I was seeing him, and I wasn't." she stated.

In the 1960s, Angie made guest appearance in episodes of such series as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962, 1965), The Fugitive (1965), Dr. Kildare (1965), The Jack Benny Program (1965) and The Virginian (1966).  In the early 1970s, she had roles in TV movies such as The Love War (1979), The Resurrection of Zachery Wheeler (1971), See the Man Run (1971) and The Norliss Tapes (1973).

Despite her six decades in show business. Angie Dickinson is best known for her portrayal of Sergeant Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson on the NBC crime series Police Woman.  Angie played Pepper Anderson from 1974 to 1978 , a role for which she received three Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe in the category of  Best Actress in a Drama Series.  She actually hesitated about taking the role until producer David Gerber asked, "Don't you wanna be a household name?"

Angie's character, Sergeant Anderson, was an undercover agent for the criminal conspiracy department of the Los Angeles Police Department.  She worked on a vice-squad team with two other undercover cop and posed as everything from a prostitute to the girlfriend of a mobster.  Police Woman is notable because it was one of the earliest American weekly network TV dramas with a female lead.  Until Police Woman came along in 1974, women weren't seen as top cops.

Angie in Police Woman 1975
Angie Dickinson received much attention for her role in Brian De Palma's 1980 crime thriller, Dressed to Kill.  In the film, she portrayed the ill-fated Kate Miller., an unhappily married woman who decides to have an affair with a mysterious stranger.  She ends up being gruesomely murdered.

In 1982, Angie starred in a detective drama called Cassie & Co.  She played Cassie Holland, a feisty former police officer- turned private investigator.  The series was cancelled after only 13 episodes.  
In the 1980s, Angie appeared in a number of TV movies including One Shoe Makes It Murder (1982), Jealousy (1984), A Touch of Scandal (1984), Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), Fire and Rain (1989), Prime Target (1989) and Kojak: Fatal Flaw (1989)..  In Touch of Scandal, Angie played Katherine Gilvey, a California councilwoman whose campaign for attorney general is jeopardized by some scandalous photos that turn up.
In the 1990s, Angie made guest appearances on such television series as Empty Nest (1991), The Larry Sanders Show (1997), Diagnosis Murder (1997)  and Ellen (1997).  She also played Josie Ito in the 1993 TV mini series Wild Palms. Wild Palms was a drama about a multi-national corporation's attempt to take control of the United Stated amid small pockets of resistance to rampant technology.  The five-part series had an ensemble cast featuring Jim Belushi, Kim Catrall, Robert Loggia  and Robert Morse.  

Angie Dickinson guest-starred as Evelyn Worth in a 2004 episode of the family drama Judging Amy.  The episode is entitled "Catching It Early" (Season 6, Episode 6, Air Date: November 30, 2004).  She also co-starred with Laura Leighton in a 2009 Hallmark Channel television film called Mending Fences, her last television acting role.  She played the mother of Leighton's character.  

Angie has been married twice.  On June 2, 1952, she married Gene Dickinson, whom she met at Glendale College.  Gene was a star on Glendale's football team and he later became involved in the electronics business.  The couple divorced in 1959.  After their divorce, she retained his last name.

On May 15, 1965, Angie Dickinson wed American composer and songwriter Burt Bacharach.  She and Bacharach separated in 1976 and divorced in 1981.  Angie had some unflattering things to say about her former husband in her 2019 CBS interview.   When asked why she fell for Bacharach, Angie replied, "Well, that's very hard to summarize.  He was so different."  She said that their separation was an unhappy time and that he "should never have been married."  She claimed that Burt "never really loved me, I can tell you right now, the way one loves."  She added, "He loved in his own way, which is not too good.  And so, he had no respect for me."

Below is a photo of Angie and Burt two weeks after they married.

Angie and Burt had a daughter, Leah Nikki, known as Nikki.  Nikki was born three months prematurely on July 12, 1966. She battled Asperger's Disorder. a form of autism.  Angie and Burt eventually placed their daughter in a psychiatric treatment facility for adolescents in Minnesota, where she remained for about nine years.  Nikki later studied geology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, a city in Ventura County, California.  However, her poor vision prevented her from pursuing a career as a geologist.

Angie and Burt with baby Nikki in 1966

Sadly, on January 4, 2007, Nikki Bacharach committed suicide in her apartment in Ventura County, California.  She was 40 years old.

Angie Dickinson lives by herself now in Beverly Hills.  In a 2011 interview with AARP, she said, "I'm not looking for work.  I've had my day in the sun, and I am very content."


* Angie had two sisters, Mary Lou Belmont and Janet Lee Brown.  Mary Lou (born 1929) suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in 2005.  According to a 1990 article in Deseret News, Angie Dickinson and her sisters were never close while growing up in North Dakota with an alcoholic father.  The article stated, however, that Angie was overseeing the case of he sister, Mary Lou, who was no longer able to bathe, dress and feed herself.  

* Angie is a Democrat and she supported John F. Kennedy in his 1960 presidential campaign.  Angie's political views made her feel awkward around John Wayne, who was a staunch Republican.

* In 1973, Angie was a guest performer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

* In November of 1989, Angie refused  to take part in a NBC This is Your Life special, a surprise tribute to herself.  When announcer Ralph Edwards announced backstage , "This is your life, Angie Dickinson!!" Angie replied "No!.It's NOT.!!  She then fled the scene, leaving behind host Pat Sajak and the guests, including her family and a group of her celebrity and hometown friends.  When asked the reason why she would not allow herself to be honoured," she declared, "All these people are supposed to come around and rave about you.  I think they should have organized it the other way around, so I could have talked about their importance."

* Angie made a cameo appearance in the 2001 remake of Oceans 11, which starred Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

* Angie was a natural brunette.  She lightened her hair to a honey colour, and then became a blonde for Police Woman.

* Angie is an avid poker player.  She was taught how to play by stuntmen and is still playing.  She had a small part as a poker player in the 2000 film The Last Producer, a comedy directed by Burt Reynolds.

SOURCES: CBS News (, "Frank Talk with Angie Dickinson," February 24, 2019; Vanity Fair, "A Legend With Legs," by Sam Kashner, January 2008); Notable Names Database (NNDB); Deseret News (, "Dickinson Comes to Sister's Aid," November 6, 1990; AARP (, "A Pioneering Police Woman," by Jack Curry, January 27, 2011;, Pioneers of TelevisionWikipedia; Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

- Joanne

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