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Dorothy Cooper-Foote papers

Identifier: MS-040

Content Description

The Dorothy Cooper-Foote papers are divided into six series: Correspondence, Printed Materials, Ephemera, Media, Photographs and Negatives, and Oversize. The Correspondence series contains business letters between Dorothy and producers or other screenwriters. There is significant correspondence between the Footes and the USD Foundation regarding scholarships and the campaign to “Save Old Main.” A majority of the personal letters are between Dorothy and her parents, Harry and Jesse Wright. Incoming and Outgoing correspondence are combined in the folders. The Printed Materials series consist of appointment books, party invitations, screenplays, newspaper clippings, and manuscripts. The Ephemera series contains two plaques and awards. The Media series consists of a cassette recording of Scots on the Rock: A Musical Fantasy and a video tape of A Touch of Heaven. The Photographs/Negative series’ consist of individual, family, career, and group photographs. There are also images of Dorothy as a script editor behind the scenes at MGM and Universal Studios. There is another image of Robert Foote standing in the middle of the devastation at Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. In addition, the collection contains many photographs of her dogs. The Oversize series consists of her father’s high school diploma, a poster, and a scrapbook.


  • 1906 - 2004


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research without restrictions. Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting. Advance notice may be needed to retrieve items for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

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 residence was at 415 East Clark Street, across from Slagle Hall, which eventually became the home of University of South Dakota (USD) political science professor, Dr. William O. Farber. Dorothy majored in journalism while attending USD, was a member of the Chi Omega sorority, and edited the Wet Hen, a campus humor magazine. She gained notoriety for creating the “Kissable Lips” contest while on campus. Some administrators, state regents, and faculty took offense to the contest, stating that it violated rules of ethics and morality for the time period. She 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, and the bold move to get a promotion was successful. She was an extra in the 15 episode movie serial, Flaming Frontiers (1938), starring Johnny Mack Brown. She was soon appointed as an assistant script editor. Dorothy moved her way up the studio ranks, and eventually she began to write screenplays for movies. Her first motion picture screenplay was A Date with Judy (1948), a MGM musical in Technicolor starring Jane Powell, Wallace Berry, Carmen Miranda, and Elizabeth Taylor that was soon followed by four other musicals starring such notable celebrities as 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 Award writing nominations and won the Television-Radio Writers Award for An Old Flame, 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 the honorary marshal for the Dakota Day 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 two marriages were to G. Leslie Cooper and Paul R. Cerf. She then married Robert “Bob” Foote, a prominent Los Angeles surgeon and medical school professor, on October 6, 1956. 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. The couple set up residences in Bakersfield, Malibu, Dana Point, and Palm Desert in California, and 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 died on April 5, 2002.


10 Linear Feet ((13 document boxes, 3 photograph boxes, 2 flat oversize boxes, 1 cold storage box) )

Language of Materials



This collection contains mainly material related to Cooper-Foote's career writing scripts for television and movies and contains correspondence with her alma mater the University of South Dakota.


The Dorothy Cooper-Foote papers are divided into six series: Correspondence, Printed Materials, Ephemera, Media, Photographs and Negatives, and Oversize.
Dorothy Cooper-Foote papers
Gayla Koerting
2007 May
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository