Dorothy Hale (1905 - October 21, 1938) was an American socialite and aspiring actress who committed suicide by jumping off a building in New York City. Hale was considered a remarkably beautiful woman with less remarkable talents who was introduced to high-society and luxury living. Her husband's death, followed by several unsuccessful relationships, left her financially dependent on her wealthy friends. Artist Frida Kahlo created a famous painting based on the incident entitled The Suicide of Dorothy Hale.
Hale married fresco, mural and society portrait artist Gardiner Hale in 1927, and continued moving in creative and expensive social circles. During this west coast period she socialized with artists Miquel and Rosa Corvarrubias, Frida Kalho and photographer Nickolas Muray.
Hale repeatedly yet unsuccessfully tried to find work as an actress. In 1932, an acquaintance with Samuel Goldwyn led to an uncredited role in Cynara, as well as a minor role in Catherine the Great (1934). Her screen tests were dubbed a failure.
Early in 1933, Noguchi and Hale took a Caribbean cruise where he was introduced to many of her wealthy and influential friends from New York; many of them commissioned portraits, including Luce for a sculpture bust. Noguchi traveled to London and Paris with Hale, hoping to find more patrons. Noguchi had begun a portrait sculpture of Hale, but it was never finished and its present location is unknown.
In 1934, Hale and Luce accompanied Noguchi on a road trip through Connecticut in a car Noguchi had designed with Buckminster Fuller, the Dymaxion car. The threesome stopped to see Thornton Wilder in Hamden, Connecticut, before going on to Hartford to join Fuller for the out-of-town opening of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thompson's Four Saints in Three Acts.
By 1937, Hale was involved in a serious romance with Harry Hopkins, WPA administrator and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s top adviser. Anticipating a "White House wedding" Hale moved into Hampshire House, a 27-story apartment building at 150 Central Park South, and began putting together a trousseau, but Hopkins abruptly broke off the affair. Luce said in later years that the White House was not happy about the Hopkins/Hale engagement rumors, and that may have been the cause of the break. The gossip columnists who had been reporting the engagement rumors played up the cruel jilting, causing Hale great embarrassment. Hopkins would eventually marry Lou Macy, a close Roosevelt associate.
In 1938, another benefactor and abandoned suitor, Bernard Baruch, advised Hale that, at 33, she was too old for a professional career and that she should look for a wealthy husband. Baruch even gave her $1,000 with the instructions, "... to buy a dress glamorous enough to capture a husband."
Hale became despondent over her stalled career, constant debt, and unhappy love life.
After attending the theater, Hale returned to her home — a one-room apartment with a kitchenette on the 16th floor of Hampshire House — at about 1:15 am, leaving a large number of friends partying at the 21 Club. She apparently spent the next four hours at the typewriter composing farewell notes to friends: one to Baruch expressing regret at not taking his advice; and one to her attorney, instructing how her estate and burial were to be handled.
At 5:15 am on October 21 1938, Hale threw herself out of the window of her apartment. She was found still wearing her favorite Madame X femme-fatale black velvet dress with a corsage of small yellow roses, given to her by Noguchi.
Though the New York Times covered her death, accordingly, Hopkins believed that Baruch had used his influence to mute the reporting of Hale's suicide and diffuse his involvement in the affair.
In his interview for the Herrera book on Frida Kahlo, Noguchi would say of Hale:
"She was very beautiful girl, all my girls are beautiful. I went to London with her in 1933. Bucky (Buckminster Fuller) and I were there the night before she did it. I remember very well she said, 'Well that's the end of the vodka. There isn't anymore.' Just like that you know. I wouldn't have thought of it much, except afterward I realized that that's what she was talking about. Dorothy was very pretty, and she traveled in this false world. She didn't want to be second to anybody, and she must have thought she was slipping."