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22 December 2008

Dan Dailey (1915 – 1978) dancer, actor.

++ revised  24/01/11 to incorporate more sources, and to resort the facts chronologically.

Dailey was born and raised in New York City. He appeared in a minstrel show, and then in vaudeville before his first Broadway show in 1937. He was signed by MGM in 1940.

He served in the US Signal Corps during the Second World War and was discharged as a Captain.

In 1946 he was taking Linda Darnell's dresses from the Fox wardrobe department. Howard Hughes made him return them, but gave him a gift certificate for $5,000 at a leading department store.

He was teamed with Betty Grable in Mother Wore Tights, 1947.  He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in When My Baby Smiles at Me, 1948 – also with Grable. It is said that she also lent him some of her screen wardrobe - the best couture that Hollywood had to offer.  Dan became one of the top male leads at Twentieth Century Fox in the early 1950s.

Andre Previn, the composer, tells in his biography how Dailey turned up drunk and in female clothing for the press screening of It's Always Fair Weather in 1954.  Dailey co-starred with Johnnie Ray in There's No Business Like Show Business the same year, and was close to him afterwards. There were rumors that they were more than friends.

He married his fourth wife, Gwen Carter, in February 1955. In June Inside magazine wrote that "After every binge he shows up around the film colony, decked from head to toe in outlandish female attire". In September that year Uncensored ran an article dispelling the rumors that he was a transvestite (which was a way of repeating the stories without being sued).

In January 1957 Confidential ran "The Night Dan Dailey was Dolly Dawn" claiming that he had danced in a pink tulle dress in a New York gay bar the previous March. Betty tried to save Dailey's career by pointing to his wife and family, but his film career was essentially over by that point, although he continued in television into the 1970s.

In 1976, actress cum gossip columnist Joyce Haber was on television promoting her novel about Hollywood, The Users. Asked to dish some gossip, she mentioned that one of the top dancer-actors was a closet transvestite with a costly and beautiful wardrobe that many women would envy.

After the suicide of his only son (from his third marriage), he was an embittered alcoholic. He died three years later, just after he had played boyfriend Clyde Tolson in The Private Files of J.Edgar Hoover, 1977. He appeared in over 60 films.

  • "The Night Dan Dailey was Dolly Dawn". Confidential. Jan 1957.
  • Spero Pastos. Pin-Up: The Tragedy of Betty Grable.  Putnam, 1986: 76-7.
  • Andre Previn. No Minor Chords: my days in Hollywood. Doubleday 1991. Toronto & London: Bantam 1993:64
  • Boze Hadleigh. The Vinyl Closet: Gays in the Music World. Los Hombres Press, 1991:229-30. Republished as Sing out! : gays and lesbians in the music world. Barricade Books 1997,  Robson Books 1999.
  • William J. Mann. Behind the Screen: How gays and lesbians shaped Hollywood. Viking, 2001: 314-5.
  • Darwin Porter. Howard Hughes, Hell’s Angel: America’s Notorious Bisexual Billionaire, The Secret Life of the U.S. Emperor.  Blood Moon Productions 2005: 630.



  1. In the original version of this posting, I claimed that Dailey had committed suicide. A reader asked me where I got that. On rechecking the sources, I find that I was in error. Apologies to readers, and especially to Dailey's family.

  2. Anonymous28/5/10 16:15

    Zagria, you were in error about Mr. Dailey committing suicide? What else are you in error about? Seems to me there's a lot of bitchy in your posting. For some of us, we enjoyed Mr. Dailey and his performances and are content to leave it at that.

  3. I am sorry if the knowledge that Dan Dailey was a real human being disturbs your enjoyment of his performances. I suggest that you avoid any intelligent website and stick to shallow fan material.

    1. We are all 'real human beings'. Does that mean we all need to know every detail about everyone? How boring and pedantic.

  4. Anonymous13/6/11 11:15

    I just watched Dan Dailey in 'Pepe' & was picqued by the diction & facial resemblence to J K Simmons of HBO's 'OZ'. I see that his only son commited suicide & I doubt he was a grandfather in 1955 but could there be some sort of family tie?

  5. I knew nothing of Dan Dailey, except for his brilliant screen work, until I read the fascinating details listed here. Many thanks indeed.

  6. Darwin Porter is hardly reliable if you're using him as a source for some of this information. For example:

    "In 1946 he was taking Linda Darnell's dresses from the Fox wardrobe department. Howard Hughes made him return them, but gave him a gift certificate for $5,000 at a leading department store."

    Linda Darnell was 5 feet, 4 inches tall. Daily was nearly a foot taller, and a hell of a lot thicker as well. There's no way he would've been able to use any of her clothes even if he wanted to. Same goes for the Betty Grable inference. "It is said…", well, who said it? Porter? If so, then it's probably not true.

  7. Danny,
    You have this exploitive and manipulative idiot Darwin Porter sized up perfectly.

  8. The idea that Dan Dailey wore dresses seems to offend many of you. To me it is just an interesting side note, an insight to who he was as a person. But, it does not change my opinion of him as a person or a performer or indeed upset me in any way. If I had known him I think we would have been great friends and I would have enjoyed making custom dresses for him (I work as a theatre costumer). I think it is sad that this aspect of his life seemed to cause him so much pain

  9. I do Not intend my response to your article to be rude in any way.What a terrible article! Very assuming and misleading. Who was your fact checker, if one was used which is highly doubtful. You only print things that are undeniably gossip based or just fabricated rumors, how pitiful! Consider the damage you have done to a talented actor's image and reputation not to mention his family, friends and associates. People like you destroy reputations of so many people and thus degrade the entire actors life and in the process cause undue criticism of the transgendered population, of which I have many dear friends that live as quite happily as themselves in all of society. I spoke with several after showing them your article and most were horrified that an article could be so carelessly written. Please don't consider yourself a writer, you are plainly not a professional writer that does not fact check. As to the response from ImDvine, how could you possibly know "that this aspect of his life seemed to cause him so much pain"? In all my research I have found nothing verifiable that he was in pain about whom he was. Please keep your "articles" in your diary where they plainly belong. What a detriment to professional writers, biographers, and authors. To readers... Please as always do your research, verify sources before you write or comment on someone's life or life style, think of the damage someone uninformed could do to you or your family.
    Thank you,
    The Writer

  10. I have always enjoyed Mr. Dan Dailey's performances in movies and television. One can clearly see in his emotive style-even in shows like Pepe and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour-a depth of deep empathy in character identification. His 20th Century Fox and MGM output speaks for itself. Perhaps a person with this talent would be prone to more effusive personal emotions in regular day to day activities. He may have had his Vices, but today, we are only left to our Devices(cell-phones, etc). This is indeed a situation that would seem to make us the smaller today than he, and others like him, were then.


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