Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Mildred Washington- The Sensation of the West

Mildred Washington...What a lady!

Mildred was always called scintillant...which mean sparkling...and she was that.

Mildred Washington was a beauty full of poise, spark, grace, spunk and charm.

In the late 1920s and early 1930, Mildred was the sensation of the West. Mildred was a movie star and dancer/director/producer of Sebastian's Cotton Club in California. The Cotton Club in New York was the popular club of the East as Sebastian Cotton Club was of the West.

Mildred was becoming a well-known World-Wide star until her continuous success and life was cut short by a tragic fall during an earthquake in L.A. in 1933.

Mildred Washington was born in 1905. Not much is very known of her early years but obviously she was brought up in a rich, ambitious, religious household steeped in education, and being and becoming. Mildred was brought up in California. She graduated from Los Angeles High School where she was an honor graduate and valedictorian. She had two years at the University of California at Los Angeles. She also studied at Columbia University. She married and had a baby girl. During her last year in school, she had learned to dance under Carolyn Snowden(another sensation of the West). Mildred chose the theatrical profession as the best means of self-support, but kept close contact with the religious and intellectual side of life.

Mildred was a real artist...she was beauty, loving, poetic, deeply sincere and sympathetic in her performances on stage and screen and she was the same off stage and screen, as well. Her face was always lit with happiness as her happy feet bucked and winged, shimmyed and swinged which made the audiences and people she worked with, love and admired her. She was a real sweetheart.

Mildred was truly an artiste, which showed in her cultural interest. Mildred spoke fluent French and Spanish, in perfect manner and diction, indicating that she had a sound working knowledge of those two languages.

Mildred was a great reader...when she read aloud classics, she was a rollicking madcap before her audience. She gave the same excitement and enthusiasm with her reading as with her dancing and acting. As she read aloud suspense, romance, and shakespeare, she showed every emotion, gesture, and expression as she read each word with heart-felt sincerity as though she was the character she was reading about. She devoured the best literature between shows and in her leisure hours. Many said she accumulated one of the largest libraries owned by any performer in the West. Mildred was one of the few Blacks who owned property in Pasadena.

Mildred had formerly worked on the Fanchon and Marco circuit, had been featured on "Lucky Days" and "Struttin Sam." From 1924 until 1932 she was employed with Sebastian's Cotton Club and was the stage director there until her death.

During 1926, she blossomed into a multi-talented star and she lived up to all predictions and through many stage and screen successes as well as producer at Sebastian's Cotton club for over two years, she became famous all over the West. She lived up to a star allright. Her star was as bright as the ones in the night sky. She was well-rounded to near perfection in her varied talented and accomplishments as an actress, producer and entertainer.

Mildred became a movie star during the early talkie years. She only appeared in a hand full of films and in few scenes but her comedic charm and naturalability and spunk wasn't easily missed. She was irresistibly likable and to her credit she made you look beyond the maid suit and held her own against and shined as bright as the leading white stars such as Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Bing Crosby, Nancy Carroll and others demonstrating her natural knack of comedy, winning personality, and hot dances. Even without any lines, she glowed, not easily overlooked. In some films, she even outshine the white leading stars in her few scenes on screen. Her many parts in motion pictures attest her cleverness.

Mildred appeared in "The Shopworn Angel"(1928), "Tenderfeet"(1928), "Hearts In Dixie"(1929), "The Thoroughbred" (1930), "The Blonde Venus" (1932), "Bed of Roses" (1933), "Morning Glory" (1933), "Torch Singer" (1933), "Only Yesterday" (1933), "Too Much Harmony" and "White Woman" Mildred, of course, had on a maid's outfit playing a maid's role but she made you overlook that stereotypical outfit and made you see her talent. She never acted like the common Black maid on screen, her sense of humor, charm, delightful presence made Blacks proud and never thought of her as a disgrace or stereotypical. Mildred's spunk, happy-go-lucky demeanor helped cheer up the often sad whites ladies she often worked for on screen. Where would they be without their trusty servant/friend? Sometimes, Mildred was the only entertaining figure on screen. Mildred was different from many other Black maids on screen. Mildred wasn't homely, didn't weigh 300 pounds, and didn't speak in dialect. Mildred and Theresa Harris was the only attractive Black women who played maids but stepped outside that maid uniform with dignity and grace with their talent.

Though, Mildred had a few scenes in the movies, she ate it up with her talent. She took advantage of it. She brought more to the screen then asked of her. She had fun, and it showed.

The last films Mildred appeared in was "Torch Singer" which starred Claudette Colbert. Mildred played Carrie, a maid and friend. Mildred was wonderful in this movie. All her talent and personality came together in this role. Her sense of humor, energy, fun-loving, sympathy, sexiness, grace, and essence...was also all she was off screen, showed in this movie. She danced, she laughed, she cried, she joked. In her scenes she shined just as much as the star Claudette Colbert. Mildred and Claudette had great chemistry together. Mildred went out the same as she came into Show Business with a bang.

During the tragic earthquake in the spring of 1933, Mildred developed appendicitis when she fell running for cover from Grauman's Chinese Theatre. She died on a Thursday afternoon at the White Memorial Hospital. The death was caused by peritonitis following an operation for appendicitis. Mildred was 28 years old.

Mildred's passing and burial brought to view the comradeship and kindred feeling of the real trouper of Mildred. Those short nine days she was confined in White Memorial hospital she kept her usual cheerfulness she kept all about her encouraged and happy, she even was encouraging her visitors more then they were her...until the very hour that the Grim Reaper struck.

Practically every stage, screen, and night club performer of the Black race and quite a few whites stars came to pay their last respects to the little wonder girl of the West, who always had a smile and kind word for all in the profession and outside it. Orchids and gardenias predominated in the many beautiful and expensive floral pieces they tendered, as all knew their were her favorite.

Many have said there was never a talented, bright entertainer as Mildred in the West and I found no one had anything but kind words to say about Milly as her friends called her and looked at her as a perfectionist without even trying hard in her talent. Everyone came natural to Milly and she treated everything natural.

Mildred was someone never forgotten with her many admirers and friends. Even Hollywood found it hard to find a replacement for Mildred. Mildred's death was another shock to the Black community of stage and screen. They already loss Florence Mills, Evelyn Preer-a dear friend of Mildred, and now Mildred Washington. But their memories and her movies lives on.

There's no doubt in my mind had she lived she would of achieved more greatness. Probably would of became the 2nd black woman to star in a film, if not in show business she would of became a successful black in education or business. That's just the type of person she was. She was just meant for success.

Anyone who ever have the honor of seeing Mildred in the movies and I'm sure you would fall in love with her as I have. If you get a chance seek out her movies.

Enjoyed Mildred Washington's story, Come Home to the Main Page for stories and introductions of other unsung Black Beauties and Talents of Stage and Screen!