Dorothy Dandridge & Other Colored Beauties

Discussion in 'Movies' started by ClassyCo, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. ClassyCo

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    Dorothy Dandridge, a talented and beautiful performer, was the first colored person to achieve an Academy Award nomination for a leading role for her work in Carmen Jones (1954). Her career entered a gradual, but continuous decline thereafter. She only made a handful of films, few noteworthy, but none to the bar that had made her an overnight star in 1954.

    Any fans of Miss Dandridge, or any other colored beauties? Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker, Nina Mae McKinney?

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    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
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  2. Snarky's Ghost

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    "colored" ??
     
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  3. Angela Channing

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    Have I time travelled back to the 1950s?
     
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  4. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Fan

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    I knew someone would have something about the wording I chose. I honestly figured that it didn't matter which way I went that it would have persecuted. I guess I was right there. If either of you prefer a different phrasing, feel free to change it. If not, overlook it and let's continue our discussion.
     
  5. Snarky's Ghost

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    "persecuted"...?
     
  6. ClassyCo

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    Or questioned, or targeted, for choosing a preferred phrasing that might be more popular with some. So yes...
     
  7. Angela Channing

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    So why did you chose that wording when you could just have easily have chosen something that would be less offensive?

    Not at all, you could have made this thread about black and mixed heritage actresses and that wouldn't have been a problem, in fact a thread celebrating the work of black actresses would have been very interesting. However, you seem to have deliberately chosen a term that is widely considered as being racist which suggests your intention was as much to offend as it was to discuss the performers.
    I will never overlook terminology that I consider to be racist. "Coloured" implies that the normal or default skin colour for humankind is white and other races should be defined in relation to that so if you are not white you are coloured. Surely all races are equal and should have an identity that is independent of other races? The reverse would be calling white people pale faces.

    By the way that's not your only mistake, the first and only black actress to win a best actress Oscar was Halle Berry in 2001. Dorothy Dandridge never won, although many thought she deserved to win the year she was nominated for Carmen Jones but in the 1950s Hollywood often overlooked many talented "coloured" performers as they would have been referred to back then.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  8. ClassyCo

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    My intent was never to be offensive. As I said, I felt that not matter which word I chose someone wouldn't like it. Can this thread by deleted where I can start a new one?
     
  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    It sort of seems a shame to lump a lot of actresses together just because of their skin colour. There again, if it's a discussion about the careers black actresses were able to carve out at a time of great prejudice and the roles they were offered, then that could be interesting.
     
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  10. ClassyCo

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    And that's what I started this thread for: to discuss the careers of those ladies that were wrongly cast aside because of their skin color and weren't given the opportunities that used them to their fullest potential.
     
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  11. ClassyCo

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    And my "other mistake" about Dandridge and her Oscar nomination has been corrected. That was a simple typo. I'm assuming you have none of those? Probably not.
     
  12. Snarky's Ghost

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    I don't think there's any need to delete the thread and start over -- through the '50s or even '60s the word "colored" was accepted, just as "person of color" is now. We were just enquiring about it's usage here.

    BTW: for someone who often starts out her threads telling people how she wants them to post and what tone to take, you could be a wee bit less thin-skinned when people question your wording, too.
     
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  13. ClassyCo

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    I apologize for over-reacting as I did. It's just I debated with myself as to which word/phrase to use, and I was a little upset when I thought I chose the best one and it was still questioned.

    But, in moving on, I'd like to have all this scrapped and start discussing the actresses now.
     
  14. Snarky's Ghost

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    I think it's fine. And different terms are PC or not in different places at different times.
     
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  15. ClassyCo

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    Dorothy Dandridge was a beautiful and talented performer. She started out as a singer, but gradually started appearing in small roles in films around 1935. She was usually billed as a part of the Dandridge Sisters trio (consisting of Dorothy, her sister Vivian, and Etta James), but would occasionally have solo outings. By the early 1940s, she was mostly a solo act, especially in films. She was the trio's breakout star, and she was featured in a series of successful films throughout this era. Her first prominent role was as Queen Melmendi in Tarzan's Peril (1951), starring Lex Barker in the titular role. Two years later, she had the starring role of a dutiful teacher in MGM's all-black production of Bright Road (1953), which despite good notices, was a flop.

    Her star-turn came when she was cast as Carmen Jones in 1954, beating out (as I've heard) both Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt. It was an all-black Technicolor musical, casting Dorothy in the title role, a seductive femme fatale who ultimately destroys and her lover, played by Harry Belafonte. The film was a resounding success, and she was nominated for an Oscar. She eventually lost the trophy to Grace Kelly. In February 1955, she signed a three-movie deal with 20th Century-Fox starting at $75,000 a film. (Her contract apparently could have been renegotiated after each film.) She was approached with supporting roles in The King and I and The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, two of the studio's most-publicized forthcoming productions. Darryl Zanuck, the head of the studio, hoped that by casting Dorothy as a "second" in these hopeful successes would ensure her continued success in more leading roles within the next few years. He began planning to remake all-black versions of The Blue Angel and Under Two Flags, both with Dorothy as the female lead. Dorothy, however, took the advice of her then-lover, the Australian Otto Preminger (who directed Carmen Jones), and subsequently turned down the roles in The King and I and The Lieutenant Wore Skirts. (She was replaced by Rita Moreno in both roles, and both films were major successes.) Zanuck, angered by Dorothy's refusal to accept roles, passed on any chance to remake The Blue Angel or Under Two Flags.

    Preminger took over Dandridge's life for a period of time, insisting she accept only starring roles, a bad miscalculation considering the lack of leading roles for a black actress in the 1950s. She returned to the clubs for the next few years, before finally turning up in Island in the Sun (1957), in which she played an Indian drug store clerk who has a romance with a white man. The storyline also involved other interracial subplots, and despite numerous script rewrites because of Production Code objections, the film was a hit. The following year, she skated through a slave revolt in Tamango, and was a decoy used aboard an ocean liner in The Decks Ran Red. Both films achieved only minimal success. Porgy and Bess (1959) was to be her "return" to the mainstream, but it wasn't to be. The film's negative stereotyping wasn't favored among the black community. It suffered rewrites, production delays, high budget costs, and at the time of its release, it was failed critically and financially. It was her final major film.

    Her career continued downward thereafter. She had a few more acting credits, but none were noteworthy. She died in 1965, aged forty-two, under questionable circumstances. Suicide was a probable cause of her death according to some theories, while the coroner's report said she died of a rare bone marrow deficiency.

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  16. ClassyCo

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    Josephine Baker was the first black performer to obtain international prominence. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she was raised poor. She worked for wealthy families to help make ends meet, but she was often abused well in their care. She started street dancing as a teenager, before finding work on the stage. During the 1920s, jobs in show business for black performers were almost non-existent. Within a few years, she had boarded a ship for Paris. It was there she made her initial splash in 1925. Baker, known famously as "La Baker", caused quite a scandal with her topless banana dance, and she became the highest-paid black performer in the world. She had a string of stage successes. She was the first black actress to star in a major film, Zouzou (1934), but this, as well as her other films, did not find success outside of Europe. In 1935, after a decade-long absence, she courageously returned to the U.S. to headline a revival of Ziegfeld Follies, in which she got equal billing with Fanny Brice. Her reviews were poor, with critics complaining that her "small" voice couldn't fill the spacious theatre, while others were more brutal, questioning why such a woman (in reference to her skin color) appeared in such a revue. Within weeks, she was replaced by Gypsy Rose Lee. Baker was humiliated and never performed inside the U.S. again. Her career continued successfully on the stage in lavish performances until her death in 1975.

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