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Angie Dickinson (born September 30, 1931) is a Golden Globe-winning Americanmarker actress who has appeared in more than 50 films and starred on television as Sergeant Leann "Pepper" Anderson in the successful 1970s crime series Police Woman.

Early life

Dickinson, the second of four daughters, was born Angeline Brown (but called "Angie" by family and friends) in Kulm, North Dakotamarker, the daughter of Frederica and Leo H. Brown. Her father was a small-town newspaper publisher and editor. In 1942, her family moved to Burbankmarker, Californiamarker, and she graduated from Bellarmine-Jefferson High Schoolmarker in 1947 at just 15 years of age. The previous year, she had won the Sixth Annual Bill of Rights essay contest. She studied at Glendale Community College and in 1954 graduated from Immaculate Heart College with a degree in business. Taking a cue from her publisher father, she had intended to be a writer. While a student from 1950-52, she worked as a secretary at Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank (now Bob Hope Airportmarker) and in a parts factory.

Early career

In 1953, she placed second in a beauty pageant. Soon after her first marriage to Gene Dickinson she decided to pursue a career in acting. She studied the craft and a few years later was approached by NBC to guest-star on a number of variety shows, including The Colgate Comedy Hour. She soon met Frank Sinatra who became a lifelong friend. She would later play Sinatra's wife in the film Ocean's Eleven.

On New Year's Eve 1954, Dickinson made her acting debut in an episode of Death Valley Days. This led to other roles in such productions as Buffalo Bill Jr, eight episodes of Matinee Theatre, City Detective, Gray Ghost, General Electric Theater, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Broken Arrow, Meet McGraw (twice), Northwest Passage, Gunsmoke, Tombstone Territory, Cheyenne, Meet McGraw, The Restless Gun, Perry Mason, Mike Hammer, Wagon Train, Men Into Space, and a memorable turn as the duplicitous murder conspirator in a 1964 episode of the classic The Fugitive series with David Janssen and fellow guest star Robert Duvall. In 1965, she had a recurring role as Carol Tredman on Dr. Kildare.

Leading lady

Dickinson's film career began with small roles in Lucky Me (1954) with Doris Day, The Return of Jack Slade (1955), Man with the Gun (1955) and Hidden Guns (1956). She had her first starring role in Gun the Man Down (1956) with James Arness, followed by the Sam Fuller cult film China Gate (1957), which depicted an early view of the internal conflicts in Vietnammarker.

Rejecting the Marilyn Monroe/Jayne Mansfield style of platinum blonde sex-symbolism because she felt it would narrow her acting options, Dickinson initially allowed studios to lighten her naturally-brunette hair to only honey-blonde.

Casting directors began noticing her enigmatic charisma and her ironic, albeit seductive, delivery - at once femininely fluttery, yet undeniably edgy. She was armed with a fine physique, great legs, deepset brown eyes which could read as either warmly receptive or aloofly dismissive, and a striking, classical face which photographed as oval from the front but angular in profile.

Her atypical screen presence initially caused critics to praise her - if not always the films in which she played, many of those same critics lamenting the decline of the old studio system because promising newcomers like Dickinson were no longer groomed, valued, or protected in the fashion once commonplace in the 1930s and '40s. She appeared mainly in B-movies early on, western, including Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend (1957) co-starring with James Garner.

It was a classic western that finally propelled her into Hollywood's A-list: Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959), in which she played a flirtatious gambler called "Feathers" who becomes attracted to the town sheriff played by Dickinson's childhood idol John Wayne. The film co-starred Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan.

When Hawks sold his personal contract with her to a major studio without her knowledge, she was understandably unhappy. Dickinson nonetheless became one of the more prominent leading ladies of the next decade, beginning with The Bramble Bush with Richard Burton and Ocean's Eleven with friends Sinatra and Martin, two films released in 1960.

These were followed by the political potboiler A Fever in the Blood (1961); a Belgian Congo-based melodrama The Sins of Rachel Cade (1962), in which she played a missionary nurse tempted by lust; and the European travelogue Rome Adventure (also known as Lovers Must Learn) in 1962; and Jean Negulesco's Jessica (1962) with Maurice Chevalier, in which she plays a young midwife who is resented by the married women of the town. Angie would also share the screen with friend Gregory Peck in the comedy-drama Captain Newman, M.D.

In The Killers, a film originally intended to be the very first made-for-TV movie but released to theatres due to its violent content, Dickinson reached the apex of her skills as a femme fatale. She is slapped by a villainous boyfriend, played by future U.S. President Ronald Reagan in his last movie role. This movie was directed by Don Siegel. It was a remake of the 1946 version based on a story by Ernest Hemingway.

Dickinson co-starred in the comedy The Art of Love (1965), in which she plays the love interest of both James Garner and Dick Van Dyke. She appeared in a star-studded Arthur Penn/Sam Spiegel production, The Chase (1966) along with Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall and others.

Dickinson's best movie of this era was arguably John Boorman's cult classic Point Blank (1967), a lurid crime drama with Lee Marvin as a criminal betrayed by his wife and best friend and out for revenge. Epitomizing the stark urban mood of the period, the film's reputation has grown through the years.

Westerns would continue to be a part of her work in 1969, when she starred in Young Billy Young with Robert Mitchum, and in Sam Whiskey, where she gave a young Burt Reynolds his first on-screen kiss.

In 1971, she played a lascivious high school teacher in the dark comedy Pretty Maids All in a Row with Rock Hudson. One of her best-known and most sexually provocative movie roles became the tawdry widow Wilma McClatchie from the Great Depression romp Big Bad Mama (1974) with William Shatner and Tom Skerritt.

Police Woman

Dickinson returned to the small screen in March 1974 to play lead in an episode of the critically-acclaimed hit anthology series Police Story. That one guest appearance proved to be so popular that NBC offered Dickinson her own television show which became a ground-breaking weekly police series called Police Woman; it would be the first successful hour-long dramatic tv series to feature a woman in the title role. At first, Dickinson was reluctant to accept the role, but agreed to do the tv show when she decided she wanted to be a household name.

In the series, she played Sgt. Leann "Pepper" Anderson, an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Criminal Conspiracy Unit. The show became a significant hit, even reaching Number One in many countries in which it aired during its first year. It would run for four seasons and Dickinson would win a Golden Globe award, and receive Emmy nominations for three consecutive years.

Co-starring on the show was Earl Holliman as Sergeant Bill Crowley, Andersen's commanding officer, along with Charles Dierkop as investigator Pete Royster and Ed Bernard as investigator Joe Styles.

The series ran from 1974-1978. The same year the show ended, Dickinson reprised her Pepper Andersen character on the television special Ringo, co-starring with Ringo Starr and John Ritter. She also parodied the part in the 1975 and 1979 Bob Hope Christmas Specials for NBC. She would do the same years later on the 1987 Christmas episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live.)

The success of Dickinson's Police Woman television show resulted in a number of female-starring series like Charlie's Angels, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, and Cagney and Lacey during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, the Los Angeles Police Department awarded Dickinson an honorary doctorate, which led her to quip, "Now you can call me Doctor Pepper."

The 1980s

After appearing in the TV mini-series Pearl (1978), Dickinson returned to the big screen in Brian De Palma's thriller Dressed to Kill (1980). The role earned her a 1981 Saturn Award for Best Actress. The film featured Dickinson in a 35-minute sequence, dialogue free, being stalked through the maze of a New York museum and ending shockingly with her character's brutal murder.

She took a less substantial role in 1981's Death Hunt, reuniting her with Lee Marvin, and also appeared in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. Earlier that year, she had been the first choice to play the character Krystle Carrington on the television series Dynasty but she turned it down; the role instead went to Linda Evans.

After nixing her own Johnny Carson-produced prospective sitcom, The Angie Dickinson Show, in 1980 after only two episodes had been shot because she didn't feel she was funny enough, the private-eye series Cassie & Co. became her unsuccessful attempt at a TV comeback. She then starred in several TV movies such as, One Shoe Makes it Murder (1982), Jealousy (1984), A Touch of Scandal (1984), and Stillwatch (1987). She also had a pivotal role in the highly rated mini-series Hollywood Wives (1985), based on a novel by Jackie Collins.

On the big screen, Dickinson reprised her role as Wilma for Big Bad Mama II (1987) and completed the TV movie Kojak: Fatal Flaw, in which she was reunited with Telly Savalas. She co-starred with Willie Nelson and numerous old buddies in the 1988 TV western Once Upon a Texas Train.

Dickinson hosted the December 12, 1987 Saturday Night Live.

1990s to Present

In the 1993 ABC miniseries Wild Palms, produced by Oliver Stone, she was the sadistic, militant sister of Senator Tony Kruetzer, played by Robert Loggia. That same year, she starred as a ruthless Montana spa owner in Gus Van Sant's theatrical film Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

In 1995, Sydney Pollack cast her as the prospective mother-in-law of Greg Kinnear in the romantic comedy Sabrina starring Harrison Ford, a remake of the Billy Wilder classic. She also played Burt Reynolds' wife in the thriller The Maddening and the mother of Rick Aiello and Robert Cicchini in the National Lampoon comedy The Don's Analyst. In 1997, she also seduced old flame Artie (Rip Torn) in an episode of HBO's The Larry Sanders Show called "Artie and Angie and Hank and Hercules."

During the first decade of the new millennium, Dickinson played an alcoholic, homeless mother to Helen Hunt in Pay it Forward (2000); the grandmother of Gwyneth Paltrow in the drama Duets (2000) and the mother of Arliss Howard in Big Bad Love (2001), co-starring Debra Winger.

Having appeared in the original Ocean's Eleven (1960) with good friends Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, four decades later she made a brief cameo in the 2001 remake with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

An avid poker player, during the summer of 2004 she participated in the second season of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown. After announcing her name, host Dave Foley said "Sometimes, when we say 'celebrity,' we actually mean it."

Dickinson is a recipient of the state of North Dakotamarker's Roughrider Award.

In 1999, Playboy Magazine ranked Dickinson #42 on their list of the '100 Sexiest Stars of the Century'. And in 2002, TV Guide ranked her #3 on their list of the '50 Sexiest TV Stars of All Time', behind Diana Rigg and George Clooney (who tied for #1).

More recently, Dickinson starred in a Hallmark Channel film, Mending Fences, that premiered in July 2009.

Personal life

She was married to Gene Dickinson, a former football player, from 1952 to 1960. She was romantically linked to Frank Sinatra, whom Dickinson called "the most important man in my life" and with whom she shared "a very comfortable relationship" on and off for ten years. They remained friends until his death in 1998. She was also linked to actor David Janssen (whom she called "A great date and a great love"), and allegedly to President John F. Kennedy, although she has chosen not to address those rumors.

Dickinson was married to Burt Bacharach in 1965, and they remained married for fifteen years, until 1980. Dickinson temporarily put her career on hold, although she did appear in the occasional picture such as the western The Last Challenge (1967) with Glenn Ford and the comedy Some Kind of Nut (1969).

Their daughter, Lea Nikki, known as Nikki, was born a year after they were married, in 1966. Nikki was born three months prematurely, which resulted in chronic health problems including visual impairment, and she was later diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Burt penned the song, Nikki, for his fragile young daughter. Angie declined many roles in order to focus on caring for her daughter. Nikki's parents eventually placed Nikki at the Wilson Center, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescents located in Faribault, Minnesotamarker. Nikki remained there for nine years. Later, Nikki studied geology at California Lutheran Universitymarker, but her poor eyesight prevented her from pursuing a career in that field.

On January 4, 2007, Nikki committed suicide in her apartment in the suburb of Thousand Oaksmarker, north of Los Angeles. She was 40. In a joint statement, Dickinson and Bacharach said: "She quietly and peacefully committed suicide to escape the ravages to her brain brought on by Asperger's... She loved kitties, and earthquakes, glacial calving, meteor showers, science, blue skies and sunsets, and Tahiti. She was one of the most beautiful creatures created on this earth, and she is now in the white light, at peace." A fan wrote that he had met Nikki and her mother three years prior to her death, at a party celebrating the birthday of the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. The fan wrote: "She was a big fan of astronomy, and loved looking through telescopes... I brought a telescope to Ray's party and showed her and Angie Mars and the Andromeda galaxy. Nikki was fascinated. She had a genuine, child-like sense of wonder about the sky. Angie couldn't have been sweeter or more gracious. I'll never forget that night. This is really sad news."

Reference in song

Angie Dickinson is referred to in a song, "Putting The Damage On", by American singer-songwriter Tori Amos.

Award nominations

Emmy Awards

Nominations in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series :

  • 1975 - Police Woman
  • 1976 - Police Woman
  • 1977 - Police Woman

Golden Globe Awards

Golden Globe Award wins Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Drama Series :

  • 1975 - Police Woman

Nominations in the category of Best TV Actress - Drama :

  • 1976 - Police Woman
  • 1977 - Police Woman
  • 1978 - Police Woman


Features: Short Subjects:
  • Down Liberty Road (1956)
  • The Rock (1967)


  1. Angie Dickinson Biography (1931-)
  2. "Biography for Don Siegel" retrieved September 3, 2009
  3. Angie Dickinson - Overview - MSN Movies
  4. Asperger's syndrome: The ballad of Nikki Bacharach, The Independent, January 08, 2007
  5. Burt Bacharach's daughter commits suicide, The Washington Post, January 5, 2007
  6. Burt Bacharach, Angie Dickinson's Daughter Commits Suicide, January 08, 2007, Fox News

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