Born: March 27, 1921
Died: July 3, 2000
Harold Lloyd Nicholas (March 27, 1921 - July 3, 2000) was an American dancer specializing in tap. He was the younger half of the world famous tap dancing pair the Nicholas Brothers, known as two of the world's greatest dancers. His older brother was Fayard Nicholas. Harold was married to actress Dorothy Dandridge from 1942 to 1951.
Nicholas was born to drummer and orchestra leader, Ulysses Domonick, and pianist, Viola Harden in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By the age of three, his older brother Fayard enjoyed sitting in the audience of the black vaudeville theater where his parents performed, enraptured by the great performers on stage. Immersed in show business, when the Nicholas' added a second son to the family, seven-year-old Fayard insisted that the child be named after his idol, Harold Lloyd, the silent screen comedian. Soon after Harold was born the two brothers began dancing. They quickly gained acclaim for their elegant acrobatic moves and mastery of tap. When Fayard turned 16 and Harold 9, they had made their first appearance at the legendary Cotton Club in New York City. They were popular immediately.
Soon after the Nicholas Brothers became an immediate success their reputation grew. He and his brother Fayard were established superstars at Twentieth Century Fox with their astounding dance numbers in the studios musicals features the two brothers began appearing in musical films with Eubie Blake. They performed in vaudeville, on Broadway, in nightclubs, on television, and in movie musicals. Harold appeared in more than 50 feature films, including The Big Broadcast (1936), Down Argentine Way (1940), Tin Pan Alley (1940), and Sun Valley Serenade (1941) which features the show stopping Chattanooga Choo Choo tap dance number performed by Harold, Fayard, and Dorothy Dandridge.
Fred Astaire told the brothers that their dazzling footwork, leaps and splits in the Jumpin' Jive dance in Stormy Weather (1943) produced the greatest movie musical number he had ever seen. In the number, the brothers dance on a piano and leap over performing musicians. The Nicholas Brothers' Hollywood career began after movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn spotted them in a nightclub and cast them in Kid Millions (1934). The two became big film stars despite racial restrictions at the time prohibiting speaking parts and scenes with white co-stars. Their last film together was 1948's The Pirate, in which Gene Kelly danced with them, breaking the color barrier. Harold went on to work as a solo artist, moving to France and touring as a singer and dancer. He appeared in the French film L'Empire De La Nuit (1964).
Harold Nicholas, like his brother, was married more than once. His first marriage, in 1942, was to the celebrated actress, singer, and dancer Dorothy Dandridge. Together they had a daughter, Harolyn Suzanne, who was born with severe brain damage. This prevented her from speaking or even acknowledging her parents. Their marriage lasted nine years, ending in 1951.
Harold Nicholas returned to America occasionally to do shows with his brother. He also appeared in the films Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Tap (1989). His final cinema appearance was in The Five Heartbeats (1991). Carnegie Hall sold out for a tribute to him and his brother in 1998, who were both present. By that time he had been living on New York's Upper West Side, where he lived for approximately twenty years with his third wife Rigmor Alfredsson Newman, a producer. He died on July 3, 2000 at the age of 79 from heart failure.
Harold was inducted into the National Museum of Dance C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame in 2001, along with his brother Fayard Nicholas.