Actress Angie Dickinson proved strong women have a place on the small screen and the American workplace when she stepped into the iconic role of Pepper Anderson, an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department, in the groundbreaking show, “Police Woman.”
Dickinson’s stint in “Police Woman” began in 1974, just as the feminist movement was at the political forefront. Her strong-willed, competent character helped demonstrate to America that men and women could work together without romantic entanglements.
“Well, it’s surprising now because we realize how ridiculous it was, but at that time it seemed very logical to find that women were as good as men in any way. When we all grew up, I guess [women] were nuns and … teachers,” she says.
Dickinson embraced a character that exuded sex appeal and brains in equal measure. But she eschewed the sex kitten image of contemporaries such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, favoring roles that meshed well with her one-of-the-guys real-life persona. She even disallowed the studio to lighten her naturally dark hair beyond a honey blonde shade. She reveled in a character that made her a household name.
“It was simple … I loved being a heroine. And I loved that she was allowed to be sexy and still a hero,” says Dickinson of her character, Pepper Anderson.
Dickinson grew up in North Dakota and became interested in acting after she placed well in a beauty contest. After studying the craft for a few years, Dickinson won several guest star appearances on NBC’s “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” where she met famed crooner and actor Frank Sinatra. The two became lifelong friends, and Dickinson would play Sinatra’s wife in “Ocean’s Eleven,” a crime caper flick. Dickinson became a staple on many popular shows, including “Gunsmoke,” “The Virginian,” The Fugitive” and “Dr. Kildare.”
In the course of her career, Dickinson won a Golden Globe for her work on “Police Woman,” and she racked up several Emmy Award nominations. Because of the popularity of this groundbreaking crime drama, Dickinson paved the way for numerous female-lead crime dramas, including “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Bionic Woman” and “Cagney and Lacey.”