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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Dorothy Gordon, in part costume for Rudolph Valentino's "In Blood and Sand", c. 1922

Melbourne Spurr

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 24.5 cm x 19.6 cm, image: 23.8 cm x 18.7 cm)

Dorothy Gordon (Jenner) OBE, ‘Andrea’ (1891-1985), actress, dressmaker, stuntwoman, journalist, radio broadcaster and charity fundraiser, grew up on a property near Narrabri and attended boarding school in Sydney before gaining a part as a chorus girl in Girl in a Train in Melbourne in 1912. She returned to Sydney, where in 1915 she established ‘Pam’, a dressmaking shop in George Street. She sold up in late 1916 to head for to Hollywood, where she worked as an extra and a stuntwoman, standing in at least once for Gloria Swanson. She married unsuccessfully, and later laid claim to minor parts in silent films including A Daughter of Luxury (1922), The Chorus Girl’s Romance (1920) and Valentino’s The Sheik (1921). Gordon recalled that she became friends with Valentino and that on one occasion, shortly after parting with her first husband Murray McEwen, she attempted unsuccessfully to seduce him. In 1923 she worked as a production assistant to Cecil B de Mille in The Ten Commandments. Unable to earn a living solely by acting, she took on dressmaking jobs again. She returned to Sydney at the end of 1925 after a second failed marriage, to George Onesiphorus Jenner, whose name she retained. In 1926 she played the lead in Raymond Longford’s Hills of Hate, filmed at Cinesound Studios at Bondi Junction and at Dungog (the film is now lost). She was next a scriptwriter and production assistant on the Australian classic, For the Term of his Natural Life (1927). In 1928 she returned to England and America where she worked as a weekly columnist for the Sydney Sun under the pen-name ‘Andrea’. While working as a war correspondent for the Sun in Hong Kong, she was captured by the Japanese; she spent the rest of the war in Stanley POW camp, where she wrote a diary on lavatory paper. From the late 1950s through to 1972, she was a radio star with daily shows on 2UE, 2GB, the ABC and 2CH successively. She later worked for the Daily Telegraph, the Truth and the Daily Mirror. A Liberal Party supporter, she was accused in parliament of smearing Labor voters as communists, and attracted libel writs from Gough and Margaret Whitlam and Jim Cairns. Jenner worked for the Black and White committee of the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales, the State Meals on Wheels Association and the Wayside Chapel, and was named a life governor of Sydney Hospital. Her ghost-written memoir, Darlings, I’ve Had a Ball!, was published in 1975.

There is a photograph of Dorothy Gordon in Darlings, I’ve Had a Ball! showing her in costume as a Spanish woman for Valentino’s Blood and Sand. In one of the photographs owned by the National Portrait Gallery, Gordon wears elements of the costume; the vendor stated that it is likely that all three images were taken at the same session in the Los Angeles studio of Melbourne Spurr, although the nature of all three photographs indicates that they were intended for private enjoyment, rather than publicity. It is possible that Gordon intended to use them in her campaign to win the attentions of Valentino, who, she claimed, was the only man who ever spurned her advances.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2016

Accession number: 2016.19

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Melbourne Spurr (age 5 in 1922)

Dorothy Gordon OBE (age 31 in 1922)

Related portraits

1. Dorothy Gordon, c. 1922. All Melbourne Spurr.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.