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He was so important, because he was so powerful when I got to meet him.” In 1960, Dickinson played the estranged wife, Beatrice, of Sinatra’s Danny Ocean in the Las Vegas caper film and by that time she was the gal pal of the Rat Pack, the one woman they would let in the room, who could beat them at poker and tell a bawdy story.“The part of Bea Ocean is too small for a star, so I was lucky to get it,” she says.“It was my first show, my first step onto a professional stage. I had come from work in a fill-in job, and I stepped on the stage, and there were Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante, working.I just walked in and thought, Oh my God, this is what I want to be a part of.”That’s one reason she believes that “the most important man in my life was Frank.
Cast as a flirtatious saloon girl, she likes to please men, or, in this case, The Man (John Wayne, as Sheriff John “T for Trouble” Chance).“You’re going to have to say you want me.” There’s a similar self-assurance in all the characters she has played—what one critic called “a quasi-liberated, pre–Women’s Liberation woman.”Hawks, who also discovered Lauren Bacall, first noticed Dickinson in an episode of which he watched at the suggestion of his elegant wife, Slim Keith.But when he chose Dickinson, Slim remarked, “Really?I’m surprised.” And Hawks replied, “That’s what I wanted you to say.” Dickinson wasn’t exactly a newcomer: she had already appeared in seven films and had played the female lead, “Lucky Legs,” in Sam Fuller’s 1957 melodrama As a Eurasian good-time girl whose marriage to Gene Barry is derailed by the birth of her Chinese baby, Dickinson at 25 is stunning and her confidence borders on bravado. He taught my mother how to run a Linotype, and they had that big roller—everybody working on that,” Dickinson recalls.She was born in the North Dakota prairie town of Kulm (pronounced “Kulum”), settled by Germans, and then moved to the even smaller town of Edgeley. Frank Baum, who wrote used Edgeley to describe the edge of the world,” Dickinson says, “and it wasn’t Kansas, it was North Dakota.” It was “smaller than small, and then again, it was the Depression.” Her parents published two newspapers when Angie and her two sisters, Janet and Mary Lou, were growing up: the “My father, Leo Henry Brown, really was talented—he could write. Like many of his generation, Angie’s father lied about his age to get into the navy at the outset of the First World War.
They divorced in 1960, and she went to work as a secretary at an airplane factory.