Emmy-nominated screenwriter Dorothy Cooper Foote was born in Vermillion, SD in 1911. She was also a USD alum who graduated in 1933 with a degree in journalism. After moving to California she soon began to work her way up the ranks at Universal Studios. Under the name Dorothy Cooper, she wrote such films as “On an Island With You,” “Small Town Girl,” “A Date With Judy” and the TV shows “Father Knows Best,” “My Three Sons,” “Gidget,” “Love on a Rooftop,” “The Flying Nun” and “Hazel.” Ms. Foote was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the Robert Young TV series “Father Knows Best.” She was also nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award as the co-writer of the Esther Williams film “On an Island With You.”
Dorothy wrote the first episode for Father Knows Best and won a number of awards for the series, including the Sylvania Award for outstanding achievement in creative television technique. She would also receive two Emmy Award writing nominations and win the Television-Radio Writers Award for An Old Flame, the best script for episodic comedy in 1959-1960.
Dorothy Christy Wright was born on September 30, 1911, to Harry and Jessie (Christy) Wright in Vermillion, South Dakota. Her father was the Vermillion postmaster and their family resided at 415 East Clark Street, across from Slagle Hall. This eventually became the home of University of South Dakota political science professor, Dr. William O. Farber. While attending USD, Dorothy majored in journalism, was a member of the Chi Omega sorority and edited the Wet Hen, a campus humor magazine. She gained notoriety on campus for creating the “Kissable Lips” contest.
Dorothy graduated from USD in 1933 and moved to California where she began working as a telephone operator at Universal Studios. Dorothy then showed initiative four years later by writing a letter to Val Paul, a producer, stating that she was interested in writing. Her bold attempts to get a promotion were successful. She was an extra in the 15 episode movie serial, Flaming Frontiers(1938), starring Johnny Mack Brown. Soon after, she was appointed as an assistant script editor. Dorothy moved her way up the studio ranks and eventually began to write screenplays for movies. Her first motion picture screenplay was A Date with Judy (1948), an MGM musical in Technicolor starring Jane Powell, Wallace Berry, Carmen Miranda, and Elizabeth Taylor. This was followed by four other musicals starring Esther Williams, June Allyson, Van Johnson, Jimmy Durante, and Ricardo Montalban–On an Island with You(1948), Small Town Girl (1953), Duchess of Idaho(1950), and Rich, Young and Pretty (1951).
With the advent of television in the 1950s, Dorothy began to write screenplays for television sitcoms. She wrote the pilot episode for Father Knows Best, and won numerous awards for this series including the Sylvania Award for outstanding achievement in creative television technique. She received two Emmy Awards and won the Television-Radio Writers Award for her work on An Old Flame as the best script for episodic comedy in 1959-1960. Dorothy also continued to write for such sitcoms as My Three Sons, Hazel, Gidget, Love on a Rooftop, and The Flying Nun during the 1960s.Dorothy returned to Vermillion in 1964 when the University of South Dakota named her honorary marshal for the Dakota Days parade. After retiring in the late 1970s, she remained active by writing two musical plays (This is Heaven? and Scots on the Rock), working with charitable organizations, serving as a judge for screenwriters’ contests, and acting as a consultant on various manuscripts for other writers.
Dorothy was married three times; her first marriage to G. Leslie Cooper and her second was to Paul R. Cerf. On October 6, 1956, she wed Robert “Bob” Foote, a prominent Los Angeles surgeon and medical school professor. Dr. Foote was a graduate of Alfred University in Alfred, New York and received his medical degree from the College of Medicine of the State University of New York in Brooklyn. They had several homes including residences in Bakersfield, Malibu, Dana Point, and Palm Desert in California. They particularly enjoyed sailing on their boat, The Libertine.Dorothy loved dogs, and throughout her life canines were always her constant companions. In the 1970s and 1980s, she and her husband owned Great Danes, the last of which was named “Rhett Butler.” Dorothy (Wright) Cooper Foote died on at the age of 93 on November 26, 2004, at her home in Palm Desert. Her husband, Dr. Robert Foote, passed away on April 5, 2002.
Text taken from an online exhibit done for the Archives and Special Collections by Gayla Koerting. Images by Danielle Loftus.