Birthday: July 3, 1913
Died At Age: 52
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Dorothy Mae Kilgallen
Born in: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Famous as: Journalist
Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Females
Spouse/Ex-: Richard Kollmar (m. 1940–65)
father: James Lawrence Kilgallen
mother: Mae Ahern
siblings: Eleanor Kilgallen
children: Jill Kollmar, Kerry Kollmar, Richard Kollmar Jr.
Died on: November 8, 1965
place of death: New York City
City: Chicago, Illinois
Cause of Death: Drug Overdose
U.S. State: Illinois
education: Erasmus Hall High School,The College of New Rochelle
Who was Dorothy Kilgallen?
Dorothy Mae Kilgallen was an American journalist and a television personality. A popular face on television, she was best known for being one of the panelists on the game show ‘What's My Line?’ for almost fifteen years. She was also famous for her column ‘The Voice of Broadway’, which was syndicated to over 140 daily newspapers. She occasionally commented about politics in her columns and also shared her views on organized crime in the country. Over the course of her journalistic career, which started when she was just eighteen years old, Dorothy gained popularity for her outspoken nature. She also had her fair share of controversies. She was involved in a controversy with the legendary American singer cum actor Frank Sinatra after she wrote a feature story on him titled ‘The Frank Sinatra Story’. She later got involved in a bigger controversy with the Sam Sheppard murder trial case, which according to her had “serious flaws” and was not a fair trial. She also put her thoughts about the Kennedy assassination and Warren Commission's report of the case on paper. Apart from these high profile cases, she had worked in other cases too, including the trials of Anna Antonio in 1934 and the 1935 trial of German-born carpenter Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was convicted of the abduction and murder of a 20-month-old child.
Childhood & Early Life
Dorothy Mae Kilgallen was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 3, 1913, to Mae Ahern and former newspaper reporter James Lawrence Kilgallen. She had a younger sister named Eleanor who passed away in 2014.
She moved to New York City with her family as her father was posted in the city by his employers, International News Service. She went to Erasmus Hall High School and later enrolled in The College of New Rochelle, where she completed two semesters before opting to drop out and follow a career in journalism.
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After deciding to pursue a career in journalism, Dorothy Kilgallen bagged a job at the ‘New York Evening Journal’ which was owned by the Hearst Corporation, the parental company of her father’s employers International News Service.
In 1936, she took part in the ‘race around the world’ which would allow her and her competitors, fellow journalist Bud Ekins of the ‘New York World-Telegram’ and Leo Kieran of the ‘New York Times,’ to use only the means of transportation available to the general public.
She came second in that race, only behind Bud Ekins, who completed the race in 21 days, 3 days earlier than Dorothy. She wrote about all her experiences of that 24-day-long journey in her book ‘Girl Around The World’, which later became an inspiration behind the plot of the movie ‘Fly-Away Baby’, directed by Frank McDonald.
Dorothy Kilgallen faced her first legal trouble when she was sent a libel suit by Constance Campbell Bennett, a very famous actress who was also amongst the highest paid actors in motion pictures. Kilgallen had written a column on her while living in Hollywood, which stated the actress was losing her popularity and facing a decline in her career.
She then started her journey with the ‘New York Journal-American’, writing her own daily column ‘Voice of Broadway’ which mostly carried articles on show business and pop-culture gossip. Occasionally, she would publish her notions on organized crime as well as politics, and in no time her writing became so popular that it was syndicated to 146 newspapers via King Features Syndicate.
In 1950, Dorothy Kilgallen became a part of a game show that aired on CBS television network. She was one of the many panelists and became very popular among the fans.
She wrote several articles in daily newspapers on the Kennedy assassination case and its handling by the Warren Commission. She was very skeptical of the commission’s dealing with the case and the outcome of the reports. She managed to gather a copy of Jack Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission and published it on the front page of Journal American’s 1964 August edition.
Dorothy Kilgallen earned considerable popularity as a panelist of the popular television game show ‘What's My Line?’ She was part of the show for over fifteen years and shared screen time with other panelists like Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis, and Hal Block. She joined in 1950 and went a long way with the show until her death in 1967.
She made a name for herself as a journalist with her daily column ‘Voice of Broadway’ in the ‘New York Journal-American’. Her column was eventually syndicated to over 140 newspapers and mostly contained gossip and show business-related articles. She would also write occasional articles on politics and organized crimes in the country.
Controversies & Scandals
Dorothy Kilgallen had faced her fair share of controversies throughout her career, the major one being the Sam Sheppard murder trial. She openly criticized the outcome of the trial which found the accused guilty of bludgeoning his wife to death at their home and stated that the prosecution had many flaws. She also wrote about the trial and her sharp criticism of the nature of handling the case drew much attention. Eventually, her columns were dropped by a newspaper.
Awards & Achievements
Dorothy Kilgallen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard and was one of the first 500 people to receive stars on the walk of fame according to the archives of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
Dorothy Kilgallen married American stage, radio, film and television actor Richard Tompkins Kollmar on April 6, 1940, and had three children with him.
She was found dead in her five-story Manhattan townhouse on November 8, 1965. The postmortem ruled out any chance of a heart attack, a possibility raised by her father, and stated fatal combination of alcohol and barbiturates to be the reason.
A huge mass gathered at St. Vincent Ferrer, where her funeral was arranged. Notable personalities like Joseph E. Levine, Bob Considine, Joan Crawford, John Daly, Arlene Francis, and Ed Sullivan were in attendance.
In January 1966, an investigation was launched to determine if there was any foul play in her death. However, it was closed after eight months as no evidence of foul play was found.