Unsung Black Actresses of Stage and Screen

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On this page I will be introducing unsung black actresses of stage and screen who are unsung but it's not their fault, many researchers, writers, historians, and movie fans have chose to overlook them for many reasons, one being, maybe their not important enough by their standards to be remembered, another reason being too lazy and staying in their comfort zone only remembering a choosen few who've been written and talked about already. It's unfortunate these ladies arent given recognition and honor for their contributions to cinema as actresses and helping in dispelling myths about black women and actresses on screen on their initiative by being "actresses" not black actresses. Who cares who they did movies for, whether they had a white audiences or not, its about the talent and beauty and these ladies had it and should be remembered alongside many black and white classic movie stars. When it comes to black actresses, people tend to be picky about who should be remembered, yet no one's picky with white actresses many white actresses are remembered not a few. There's many unsung great black actresses yet to be discovered, no one took the time to research their lives and careers, mainly because it may be difficult, but it's worth it and I'm glad to introduce to you these gorgeous, talented true actresses.

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Vivian Baber - This exotic gorgeous lady was such a graceful actress of stage she was often compared to a young Bette Davis. Her art of expressions, gestures, body language and attitude was precise and excellent. She was a very fine actress of the stage and on screen appearing in 2 films. She was quite something to behold on stage. She starred on screen in "Harlem" and "The Black King." On stage she starred in various popular shows, "Sweet Chariot," "Savage Rhythm," "Shuffle Along of 1933," and "On Whitman Avenue."

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Francine Everett - is one of few who gained the title "movie star" in Black Cinema outside of Hollywood. She was the best, a very fine actress! Her beauty could rival any in Hollywood. She became a familiar face on screen to black audiences. She became the type of actress, they wanted to see a black actress be... beautiful, someone they could relate to, versatile, and she was that. She played everything from Shakespeare, girl next door, vicious seductress but through it all, she maintained a grace, feminity, and likeable quality about her and sexiness that was innocent. Francine's beauty was as stunning as her talent. She was called the most beautiful woman in Harlem and arguably in movies. Her perfect face was a map of gestures, attitudes, and emotions that she perfectly expressed without words. You hurt when she hurt, smiled when she smiled. Even if Francine was the only watchable one in a movie, she was able to carry a movie on her own and make others look good also. She gave good performance from beginning to end in all her movies, movie audiences watched than and now because of her spark and passion she displayed in her parts. She appeared in 7 Black Cinema movies, "Keep Punching," "Paradise In Harlem," "Big Timers," "Stars on Parade," "Dirty Gertie From Harlem," "Tall, Tan, and Terrific," and "Ebony Parade, "2 Hollywood movies, "Lost Boundaries" and "No Way Out" and over 100 soundies which were like music videos.

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Suzette Harbin - Strikingly beautiful Suzette Harbin with a beautiful shade of brown skin was quite a unique actress. She won a beauty contest which gained the way for a movie career. She's most remembered for her roles in "The Foxes of Harrow," "Look Out Sister," and "Bomba and the Jungle Girl." She became a star through the movie "The Foxes of Harrow," her wonderful performance in the controversial film made her a movie star within the black community. She played the role of a beautiful slave girl who would rather die than bring her child up in slavery. She was praised for being the first to play such a role and not be stereotypical. She was praised in many black publications, even gracing the cover. In the mid- 1940's, she was one of many black hopefuls who flooded to Hollywood but she was one of the few who attain significant roles in films not degrading mammies and maids. She was one of the few blacks allowed to be beautiful and not the big, homely maid. She became the successor to Lena Horne who was the most used in pictures. Studios saw a lot of potential in Suzette. She was able to adapt to any role given her, she had many likable qualities as an actress, easy going, alluring, a face that tells a story, also as an actress she showed she didn't have to be over the top to be dramatic and emotional and she always won over audiences with her trademark million dollar smile. There was something special about Suzette Harbin, she didn't have to do much to keep movie watchers interested. She's a lady you will not forget once you see her. She appeared in "To Have and Have Not," "Look Out Sister," "The Foxes of Harrow," "The Pirate," "The Sky Dragon," "Destination Murder," "Skirts Ahoy!" "Lydia Bailey," "Bomba and the Jungle Girl" and TV appearance in "Wagon Train."

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Theresa Harris - She appeared with more stars of the Golden Era of Hollywood then anyone. She graced the screen and made a lot of "dull" movies worthwhile. She was an attractive Black woman who had many talents of singing, dancing, and acting who could steal scenes away from the top white stars. She often played maids but always with dignity and grace. Her best work was in the pre code era of Hollywood, when she had more lines to say and more to do. But afterwards Blacks were more often seen but not heard. Theresa always taught her white bosses how to sing, dance, be sexy and was always more of a friend than a common maid and Theresa did this on her own. Her best performance was in Professional Sweetheart, which starred Ginger Rogers. They had a lot of screen time together, singing and dancing and showing her how to be "hot." Other best work of her's was Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck, "Buck Benny of Hollywood" where she gave a wonderful speciality number with Eddie Rochester, "I Walked with a Zombie," where she gave another memorable performance among many others where her jubilant, upbeat character proved her to be a true actress regardless of the maid suits, she made you look beyond that but at her, her maid suit didn't stop her from being an actress though in many roles she wasn't assign to act she insinutated herself. She never played the maid she was suppose to have played, she always deliverd her lines with spunk and a touch of glamour and class. Theresa appeared in independent black cast films where she got to show some of her talents. But those films were few. She was the hardest working woman in Hollywood who worked at every major studio, with most of the big stars, and was respected by studio heads, producers, directors, and her co-workers. She appeared in 69 movies and made 2 tv appearances.

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Ethel Moses - Once called one of the most beautiful women in the world, dancer turned actress, should have been an actress in the first place, she had the allure, mystery, and magnetism qualities naturally that made her so appealing. She appeared in 7 films, A Cab Calloway short at the Cotton Club where she appears as one of the girls Cab Calloway sings "Lady with a Fan," "Cab Calloway's Jitterbug Party," Oscar Micheaux films - "Temptation," "Underworld," "God's Stepchildren," "Gone Harlem," and "Birthright."

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Hilda Simms - this gorgeous lady was the epitome of an actress... stunningly beautiful, graceful, and a zest for acting that would leave one speechless. Hilda will always be known as the original Anna Lucasta, the hit Broadway play in the mid 1940's of the same name. She was an actress who's acting was colorless, she was one of the few who made people look at her as an actress not just a black actress. She appeared in films "The Joe Louis Story," and "Black Widow," and TV appearances on "The Philco Television Playhouse" and "The Nurses."

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Mae Turner - This attractive actress is one of the top 5 female greats of Black Cinema. She was the crueliest of femme fatales, so evil that many gave her the name, big, bad Mae Turner. Her performances were so realistic that many thought she was really who she was playing. She was a trained actress who appeared on the stage before screen. In the late 1930's, she stole scenes and hurt many prides on screen, making her sometimes the only talented of the cast of the movies. You may hate her but you'll love to watch her. She appeared in "Two Gun Man From Harlem," "Spirit of Youth," "Life Goes On," and "Am I Guilty?"

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Dorothy Van Engle - is the first Black actress of glamour, class, sophistication, intelligence, elegance and classic beauty on screen. Her sweet, easy going disposition often took audiences mind off the sometime offensive work of Oscar Micheaux. She only appeared in 4 movies but she's one the most memorable of Black Cinema. Dorothy Van Engle didn't play the stereotypical roles most black actress played...fast, promisicous, tempermental, wild and reckless. Dorothy was always loving, understanding, strong but feminine, intelligent but not a know-it-all, ambitous but not conniving, beautiful but not stuck up. She was the girl next door, someone you seem to have known your whole life. Dorothy's naturability carried all her films, she didn't become her parts, she made her roles become apart of her, who she really was. She is one of the most beautiful of cinema, all cinema. Dorothy appeared in 4 of Oscar Micheaux movies, "Harlem After Midnight," "Murder In Harlem," "God's Stepchildren" and "Swing."

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Fredi Washington - One of the tops of actresses of all races. It's really a crime this actress isn't given the due deserved. The main quality of her as an actress was her believeability, she displayed her roles so vividly that she could make a person hate or love her. She had an aloof quality to her acting where she gave watchers a little here and a little there, she knew what to give and when to give from beginning to end, she was powerful even with very little. She made you seek her out, figure her out, the more interested you became, the more she revealed but always leaving something to the imagination. She is one who once you saw, you never forgot. Her light skin complexion made others want to hold her back but she still had a great career. Even to this day, Fredi isn't mention unless it's about her looks, give the woman what she always wanted... people to pay more attention to her talent than her skin color. Fredi starred in "Black and Tan," "The Emperor Jones," "Mills Blue Rhythm Band," "Imitation of Life," "Ouanga," and "One Mile From Heaven." Her stage appearances were in "Sweet Chariot," "Singin' the Blues," "Run, Little Chillun," "Mamba's Daughters" and "How Long Til Summer."

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Marguerite Margaret Whitten - Pretty, demure versatile Marguerite Whitten a.k.a Margaret Whitten was a wonderful, natural actress never overbearing. She had a sweet, likable presence on screen. An actress of many grade A Black Cinema movies, she was one of many Black women who showed a different image of blacks in movies; sophistication, intelligent, and sweet she was. One of the few black actresses who had the "girl next door" image. In Black Cinema, she appeared in "Spirit of Youth," "Two Gun Man From Harlem," "Mystery In Swing," and "Mr. Washington Goes to Town" which were popular with Black movie audiences where she was always a lovely lady to her leading men Herb Jeffries, Monte Hawley, Joe Louis, and Mantan Moreland. In Hollywood movies, Margaret played the role of a maid but still maintained a delightful presence not disgracing herself or black moviegoers. In Hollywood and Black Cinema movies her warmth in her voice, gestures and eyes never cease to be overlooked. Her Hollywood appearances were "The Toy Wife," "Bad Boy," "Way Down South," "King of the Zombies," "Let's Go Collegiate," "Cadet Girl," "Sleepytime Gal," and "After Midnight with Bostone Blackie."

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Izinetta Wilcox - This woman only appeared in one movie, "Moon Over Harlem," the best and most watched of Black Cinema. Nothing is really known about her but her realistic, natural performance in Moon Over Harlem was exceptional and it made her the most watched but most unknown actress. She played the part of Sue in "Moon Over Harlem," a young, naive, sweet girl who's stepfather is in love with her, she fights off his advances without telling her mother because of her fear of being disowned. She did more in this one film than most do in many.