She studied the craft and a few years later was approached by NBC to guest-star on a number of variety shows, including The Colgate Comedy Hour.
She soon met Frank Sinatra, who became a lifelong friend.
In 1942, when she was 10 years old, her family moved to Burbank, California, where she attended Bellarmine-Jefferson High School, graduating in 1947, at 15 years of age.The previous year, she had won the Sixth Annual Bill of Rights essay contest.She was at her evil best as an unfaithful wife and bank robber in the 1958 "Wild Blue Yonder" episode of Rod Cameron's syndicated television series State Trooper.She starred in two Alfred Hitchcock Hour episodes, "Captive Audience" with James Mason on October 18, 1962, and "Thanatos Palace Hotel" on February 1, 1965.In 1959, Dickinson's big-screen breakthrough role came in Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, in which she played a flirtatious gambler called "Feathers" who becomes attracted to the town sheriff played by Dickinson's childhood idol John Wayne.
The film co-starred Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan.
She then studied at Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles, and at Glendale Community College, becoming a business graduate by 1954.
Taking a cue from her publisher father, she had intended to be a writer.
That same year, she was featured in Cast a Giant Shadow, a war story with Kirk Douglas.
Dickinson's best movie of this era may have been John Boorman's cult classic Point Blank (1967), a lurid crime drama with Lee Marvin as a criminal betrayed by his wife and best friend and out for revenge.
Dickinson went on to create memorable characters in Mike Hammer, Wagon Train, and Men into Space.