Dorothy Stratten’s Playboy Modeling & Acting Career

dorothy stratten

Getty May 1980: Canadian model and actor Dorothy Stratten (1960 - 1980) smiles as she stands in front of a life-size photograph of herself, during a reception honoring her with the 'Playmate Of The Year' title, Playboy Mansion West, Los Angeles, California. Stratten wears a gold halter top. She was murdered by her husband in August of that year. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)

Dorothy Stratten was on the brink of stardom when she was murdered by her estranged husband, Paul Snider, who was fueled by jealousy and felt entitled to a share of her financial success.

She was a teenager working at Dairy Queen in Vancouver, British Columbia when she was discovered by Snider, who was known as “the Jewish pimp.” He would later become her husband, and then her killer. He arranged for professional photos of Stratten and sent them in for Playboy’s model search, according to a November 1980 article from The Village Voice. She had quick success with Playboy and began acting in a series of films and TV shows.

She had a role in They All Laughed, a film starring Audrey Hepburn. It was on that movie set that Stratten would meet Director Peter Bogdanovich and begin an affair. Snider caught wind of the affair and killed her and himself August 14, 1980, 16 months after they were married. She was 20.

They All Laughed was released in 1981, after her death. Galaxina, another film that featured Stratten, was released in theaters the day she died and quickly pulled for a later release, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article from September 20, 1980. In Galaxina, she played “the most perfect robot in the galaxy.”

Stratten’s story will be featured on ABC’s 20/20 at 9/8C October 18, 2019.

Here’s what you need to know:

Dorothy Stratten’s Modeling Career Began When Snider Discovered Her Working at Dairy Queen in Vancouver

Dorothy Stratten, born Dorothy Hoogstraten, was working at a Dairy Queen when Paul Snider “discovered” her. He was looking for women who could make him money, the Village Voice reported. He was known as “the Jewish pimp.” Snider made a series of failed attempts at making women famous and securing financial success from their efforts. Stratten found Snider and his promise of wealth appealing.

Stratten’s father was a Dutch immigrant who abandoned his family when she was a young child, according to The Village Voice. After her father left, the family barely had enough money to get by. This made Paul Snider appeal to her, even though he seemed brash.

“Dorothy had floated along like a particle in a solution,” the article said. “There had never been enough money to buy nice things. And now Paul bought her clothes. He gave her a topaz ring set in diamonds. She could escape to his place, a posh apartment with skylights, plants and deep burgundy furniture. He would buy wine and cook dinner. Afterwards, he’d fix hot toddies and play the guitar for her. In public he was an obnoxious braggart; in private he could be a vulnerable, cuddly Jewish boy.”

Snider arranged for professional photos to be taken of Stratten, and sent them into Playboy for the Great Playmate Hunt of 1978.

Dorothy Stratten Became the First Playmate of the Year for the 1980s & Soon Landed Roles in Film

Dorothy Stratten found quick success with Playboy. She was discovered during the Great Playmate Hunt of 1978, and became a playmate in 1979. She became Playboy’s first “Playmate of the Year” for the 1980s. The June issue of the magazine called her “one of the few emerging film goddesses of the new decade,” according to a December 1980 issue of The Village Voice.

Stratten had bit parts in movies and TV shows. She had a brief walk-on role as a bunny in Americathon, a 1979 satire film, she earned a small, running part as a “roller nymph” in Skatetown, USA, a 1979 comedy film. She played “the most perfect woman in the universe” in an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and “the most perfect robot in the galaxy” in Galaxina, according to the Village Voice. She also played a role as the object of actor Richard Dawson’s affection in an ABC-TV special filmed at the Playboy mansion, according to her IMDB profile.

Her IMDB profile says:

Dorothy Stratten’s story was brief, glorious and tragic. She was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten on February 28, 1960 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She grew up in a rough neighborhood in Vancouver, but kept out of trouble and went through the motions of school. While not a beauty as a child, nor early teen, Stratten came into her own out of high school and attracted the attention of Paul Snider, a promoter and wannabe star. He started dating her and after seeing an advertisement for Playboy’s 25th Anniversary Playmate search in 1978, convinced her to pose for photos. Playboy saw the potential in Stratten and flew her out to Los Angeles, California, where she became a candidate. Although she lost out to Candy Loving, Stratten was made a Playmate in the August 1979 issue of Playboy. Soon after, she was pressured into marrying Snider, who had a Svengali-like influence on her.

The profile describes her as a rising star.

“Playboy has not really had a star,” Stratten’s agent, David Wilder, told The Village Voice in 1980. “They thought she was going to be the biggest thing they ever had.”

She had qualities that suited her for various roles, according to the 1980 feature. Her role in Americathon called for “a playmate type.” Skatetown, USA called for “a beauty who could skate,” and Stratten matched the bill. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Galaxina asked for “a woman who was so beautiful that no one could deny it.”

“A quality like Dorothy Stratten’s comes by once in a lifetime. She was exactly what this town likes, a beautiful girl who could act,” Wilder told The Village Voice.

Stratten Had a Role in They All Laughed Alongside Audrey Hepburn & Was Being Considered for Other Promising Roles

Dorothy Stratten was cast for a role in They All Laughed, directed by Peter Bandagnovich and starring Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara. John Ritter also had a role in the film. It was on the film set that Stratten would meet Bandagnovich, and  they began an affair.

The movie is a comedy about a group of detectives who are both following and being followed by a group of beautiful women, according to IMDB.

They All Laughed was released in 1981, after her death. Stratten also played a role in a 1980 satire, Galaxina. It was released the day after she died, and quickly pulled from theaters, according to a September 20, 1980 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She played “the most perfect robot in the galaxy.”

“The Last Playmate: Her name was Dorothy Stratten and she was just 20 years old when she was shot to death by her estranged husband last month,” the 1980 article said. “The science-fiction satire film in which she starred, Galaxina, opened the day after she was killed, but it was quickly withdrawn, and now comes word that it will be released in November.”

That same day, she had a meeting scheduled with Producer Martin Krofft, who was considering her for a role in The Last Desperado, according to a September 2, 1980 article in the Detroit Free Press.

Either Galaxina or They All Laughed could have been Stratten’s first big break if she had lived to see their releases. Although her part in They All Laughed was not a starring role, it was expanded because the filmmakers were impressed by her look and talents, according to The Village Voice. She had many other offers shortly before her death. She was asked to play one of Charlie’s Angels, and she was also approached about playing Marilyn Monroe in a made-for-TV film.

READ NEXT: Dorothy Stratten’s Cause of Death: Learn More About the Playmate’s Brutal Murder

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