Thursday, April 28, 2011

Best Black Film Actresses By Decade:1960s

The 1960s saw an explosion of Black female faces on the American cultural scene. The 1950s had introduced the American public to the Black leading lady in the person of Dorothy Dandridge. The 60s prepared the American public for a series of firsts: Diahann Carroll became the first Black woman to star in her own television series with the hit sitcom, Julia and Eartha Kitt became the first Black female superheroine when she took on the role of Catwoman in the iconic television series, Batman. With regards to film, Diahann Carroll was clearly the most successful and lauded Black actress of the decade, landing prominent screen roles throughout the decade. Beah Richards etched her name into cinema history when she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Sidney Poitier's mother in 1967's Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. Indeed, the 1960s saw the beginning of Black women receiving wider recognition and visibility in dignified roles on both the silver and the small screens.

1. Diahann Carroll

In the 1960s, Diahann Carroll was the most successful Black, female star in Hollywood.A triple threat with successful careers on the Broadway stage, as a singer, and in Hollywood,Diahann was a fierce presence who, more than any other Black actress, commanded substantial roles on screen. In 1961,she starred in the classic Paris Blues alongside Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman and in 1967, she co-starred with Jane Fonda in the race drama Hurry Sundown.

2. Diana Sands

Diana Sands' was a fresh, joyous face on the Hollywood scene. With enormous talent and vitality, she rose to instant fame in 1961,starring as the strong-willed, determined, and ambitious Beneatha Younger in the iconic screen adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's celebrated play, A Raisin in the Sun alongside Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Claudia McNeil. She starred in two more films during the 1960s as well as originated the role of Doris Wilgus on Broadway in the play The Owl and the Pussycat, which Barbra Streisand brought to screen in 1970. Tragically, Sands died from cancer at the age of 39 in 1973.

3. Ruby Dee

One half of the most legendary acting couple in history, Ruby Dee has earned the reputation of being one of the finest actresses in the industry.She is also one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement and an outspoken activist on human rights and social justice issues. An accomplished Broadway actress, Dee made a string of movies throughout the 1940s and 50s and earned her highest praise in the defining role of Ruth Younger in the 1961 film version of A Raisin in the Sun opposite Sidney Poitier,Diana Sands, and Claudia McNeil. Her performance as Ruth in the film was Oscar-worthy and is one of the most memorable performances in Hollywood history. After A Raisin in the Sun, she continued to make films during the sixties, her most notable appearances being in the iconic films, Gone Are the Days in 1963, The Incident in 1967, and Up Tight in 1968.

4. Paula Kelly

The multi-talented dancer and actress, Paula Kelley, made her film debut in the 1969 musical Sweet Charity opposite fellow dancers Shirley MacLaine and Chita Rivera. The film, which also starred Sammy Davis Jr., Ben Vereen, and Ricardo Montalban,was nominated for three Oscars and launched Kelly's career in Hollywood, leading to a very prominent career for her during the 1970s.

5. Abbey Lincoln

The legendary jazz singer, Abbey Lincoln was also an actress and one of the most important actresses of the 1960s. Beginning her career as a singer in the supper clubs, Lincoln was quickly discovered by Hollywood, making her screen debut in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It opposite Jayne Mansfield. In 1964, she starred in the politically significant film, Nothing But A Man opposite Ivan Dixon, famously giving up her cherished Afro (a very personal political statement on her part) and adopting a processed look to play the role of Josie. She followed this up with another iconic film, 1968's For the Love of Ivy, starring opposite Sidney Poitier. She received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the film in 1969.

6. Gloria Foster

Best known for her roles in the Matrix, Foster first gained fame as the girlfriend and caretaker of Ivan Dixon's father in the iconic 1964 classic Nothing But A Man. She was prominently cast in two other films during the Sixties, 1964's The Cool World and 1967's The Comedians alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

7. Beah Richards

In the 1960s, Beah Richards personified the dignified Black woman in Hollywood. Appearing in five films that decade, including The Miracle Worker and Hurry Sundown, she rose to her greatest fame playing the mother of Sidney Poitier in the 1967 classic, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner alongside Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film. She also starred in the iconic 1967 film, In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier.

8. Isabel Sanford

Isabel Sanford, who became known to history as Louise Jefferson in one of the most popular sitcoms of all time,The Jeffersons, made her screen debut after a long career on Broadway in 1967 in the role of Tillie, the opinionated maid alongside Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Sidney Poitier in the classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The role made her a star and she subsequently appeared in three more feature films during the 1960s, The Young Runaways, Pendulum, and The Comic.

9. Cicely Tyson

Over the years, Cicely Tyson has earned a reputation as one of the most regal actresses in the entertainment industry. During the 1960s, Tyson made a name for herself on television and also scored a number of film roles as well, beginning with 1966's A Man Called Adam. Appearing in two more films that decade, her most notable role came as Portia in the film adaptation of Carson McCullers' novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

10. Eartha Kitt

The sexy, sultry, and consummate seductress, Eartha Kitt got her start in the early 40s as a dancer in the Katherine Dunham troupe and rose to fame as a singer in Paris in the years following World War II. In the 1960s, Kitt became a legend in the role of Catwoman in the iconic Batman television show. She also appeared in three films that decade, Saint of Devil's Island in 1961, Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1965, and Synanon in 1965.

Honorable Mentions:
Leslie Uggams
Claudia McNeil
Estelle Evans

The 1950s

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Response to the Birther Issue

It is time we stop privileging white capitalist patriarchy in this society.The world is tired of white male bullshit and ain't gonna take much more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best Black Film Actresses By Decade:1970s

The 1970s were a wonderful decade for Black filmmakers with the onslaught of Blaxploitation and an all around revolution, building off of the 1960s, in the ways that Blacks were heard, seen, and thought of in the public mind. In that vein, hundreds, perhaps thousands of films were made by Black directors and Black actors, both male and female,gained greater visibility. The following are the top ten Black actresses of that decade.

1. Diahann Carroll

The magnificent Diahann Carroll was the brightest Black star in the universe for most of two decades from the 1950s to the 1970s. Carroll made her film debut in 1954 in the legendary Dorothy Dandridge vehicle Carmen Jones in the role of Myrt and made her Broadway debut that same year in the Truman Capote play House of Flowers. After winning a Tony Award in 1962 for the Broadway play, No Strings, her career hit a new high when she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the film Claudine in 1974.

2. Diana Ross

Former lead singer of the most successful girl group in history, The Supremes, Diana Ross burst into the 1970s with ambitions towards a successful film career as well. She recognized these ambitions with a string of successful films in the 1970s beginning with 1972's Motown classic, Lady Sings the Blues, the powerful biopic in which the life of the legendary Billie Holiday was brought to screen. For her performance in the role of Billie Holiday, Diana Ross was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1972. Ross followed up the success of Lady Sings the Blues with two more classic films, Mahogany,in 1975 and The Wiz, the Black version of The Wizard of Oz in 1978. All three of these films were wildly successful in the 1970s, with the first two putting Motown and Berry Gordy on the scene as producers of films.

3. Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson began her career as a television star in the 1960s. By the 1970s, she had developed a successful film career as well. She established herself as a movie star in 1972 when she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the role of Rebecca Morgan in the film Sounder. Her other noted film from that decade was 1978's A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich.

4. Pam Grier

Pam Grier was one of the queens of cinema in the 1970s, rightfully earning her title as the Queen of Blaxploitation. In the 1970s, Pam Grier personified the tough, assertive, ass-kicking Black woman who commanded respect and dealt punishment to those who refused to give her props. Beginning the decade with a bit role in the radical film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Pam Grier headlined two films in the women-in-prison genre in 1971, Women in Cages and The Big Doll House. In 1972, Grier starred in the cult classic, Black Mama, White Mama and another women-in-prison film, The Big Bird Cage. With 1973's Coffy and 1974's Foxy Brown Grier established herself as the Queen of Blaxploitation, with Coffy wildly beating Tamara Dobson's Cleopatra Jones at the box office, which was released the same year. Grier enjoyed a string of successful films in the Blaxploitation genre during the 70s, enjoying tremendous popularity until the genre died out in the early 1980s.

5. Rosalind Cash

Rosalind Cash's was one of the most prominent and recognizable Black faces in popular culture during the 1970s. Making her film debut in 1971's Klute with Jane Fonda,Cash appeared in a series of films throughout the decade. In 1974, she was cast as the female lead in Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby's hit film Uptown Saturday Night. Her other major film roles that decade came in 1974's Amazing Grace alongside Moms Mabley and Slappy White and 1975's Cornbread, Earl, and Me alongside Moses Gunn and Laurence Fishbourne.

6. Paula Kelly

Making her film debut in 1969 in the fabulous musical brought to screen,Sweet Charity, alongside best friends Shirley MacLaine and Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly entered the 1970s as one of the most prominent actresses on television, the Broadway stage, and on film. In 1971, she was prominently cast in the hit film, The Andromena Strain and in 1973 she starred in the prominent Black film, The Spook that Sat by the Door. In 1974, she starred in the Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby classic Uptown Saturday Night.

7. Debbie Morgan

Debbie Morgan, an acclaimed television actress, was one of the most celebrated Black actresses of the 1970s. Appearing in the 1971 classic film, Mandingo, she made her name during that decade playing Elizabeth Harvey in the legendary miniseries, Roots.

8. Irene Cara

A prominent singer and actress, Irene Cara saw her most prominent film in 1976's hit film, Sparkle in which she played the title character. Building off of the success of Sparkle, she went on to star in the iconic television miniseries,Roots.

9.Lonette McKee

Lonette McKee saw her rise to fame in 1976 when she costarred with Irene Cara and Mary Alice in the hit film, Sparkle. With the success of Sparkle, she went on to enjoy a prominent career in the 1980s and 1990s.

10. Nell Carter

Nell Carter is one of television's most iconic figures, having carved out her place in history with the 1980s hit sitcom, Gimme A Break. Accomplished as an actress on Broadway,on television, and in film, Carter established herself as a superstar with her film debut in 1979's blockbuster rock musical,Hair.

Honorable Mentions:
Leslie Uggams
Mary Alice
Tamara Dobson

The 1960s

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Black Film Actresses By Decade:1980s

The 1980s were an interesting time in terms of growth of opportunity for Black Actresses in Hollywood. At the same time, however, there were still limits and glass ceilings that Black women faced in the movie industry. As opposed to the 1990s and the 2000s, only a slim few Black actresses consistently headlined major films in Hollywood. A lot more found themselves in Made for TV films. This list takes that into account while at the same time trying to remain in the realm of Hollywood cinema and film. With that in mind, here are the top ten Black actresses of the 1980s.

1. Alfre Woodard

Alfre Woodard best known as the mother, Carolyn, in Spike Lee's Crooklyn held court in the 1980s as one of the premier actresses of that decade. Landing an Oscar nomination for her performance as Geechee in 1983's CrossCreek, she was also a strong contender for the role of Miss Sophia in The Color Purple and made splashes across the small screen with major roles in Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere. Starting off the decade in Robert Altman's film HealtH, she then delivered a powerful performance in the 1982 screen adaptation of Ntozake Shonge's celebrated Broadway play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enuf. In 1986, she portrayed Winnie Mandela in the HBO film,Mandela.

2. Lynn Whitfield

The incredibly talented Lynn Whitfield, who brought Josephine Baker's life to the screen in 1991's The Josephine Baker story, was one of the most visible and lauded Black actresses of the 1980s. Beginning the decade with a powerful performance in the screen adaptation of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf, she became highly visible with major television roles on Hill Street Blues,Cagney and Lacy,Miami Vice, and St. Elsewhere. In 1989, she added a major credit to her name with her portrayal of Ciel in Oprah Winfrey's television miniseries,The Women of Brewster Place. She also appeared in two other major films of the decade, Silverado in 1985 and Jaws: The Revenge in 1987.

3. Lonette McKee

Lonette McKee, who has made her career portraying the struggles of African American women of mixed heritage, was one of the most visible and successful Black actresses of the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1989, she appeared in four feature films, The Cotton Club in 1982,Brewster's Millions in 1985, 'Round Midnight in 1986, and Garden of Stone in 1987, a major feat in a decade where even the most celebrated of Black actresses, such as Cicely Tyson, were relegated to the realm of Made for TV movies and the occasional sitcom. McKee scored a major credit in 1989 when she portrayed Lorraine, a lesbian school teacher, in Oprah Winfrey's celebrated miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place.

4. Whoopi Goldberg

It could be argued that Whoopi Goldberg was the most commercially successful Black actress of the 1980s with three blockbuster hits in that decade, The Color Purple, Jumpin' Jack Flash, and Clara's Heart. 1985 was a pinnacle year in Whoopi Goldberg's career with her defining role as Celie in The Color Purple and her subsequent Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

5. Oprah Winfrey

The reigning Queen of Daytime Television and the wealthiest Black woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey made her own indelible mark on Hollywood in the 1980s. Hand-picked by Quincy Jones to play the character of Sophia in 1985's The Color Purple, Oprah etched that character and her own image into the public mind, setting herself up to become one of the most powerful people in the world. After landing an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Color Purple and appearing as the mother of Bigger Thomas in 1986's screen adaptation of Richard Wright's novel, Native Son, Oprah set up her own production company and produced the most celebrated miniseries of the decade, The Women of Brewster Place, starring herself, Jackee, Lynn Whitfield, Lonette McKee,Robin Givens, Mary Alice, Cicely Tyson, and Paula Kelly.

6. Jennifer Beals

Jennifer Beals burst out onto the Hollywood scene as the star of the 1983 surprise hit film, Flashdance, which grossed over $100 million dollars worldwide and was number three at the box office that year, behind Return of the Jedi and Terms of Endearment. Flashdance, was her only major film during the decade, but with this film she established herself and the film into the cultural iconography of American cinema.

7. Margaret Avery

Margaret Avery etched her name into pop culture with her unforgettable performance as Shug Avery in 1985's The Color Purple alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. She along with Oprah and Whoopi were the three Black women nominated for Academy Awards in 1985.

8. Irene Cara

Irene Cara was a major star of the 1970s and 80s, modeled somewhat in the fashion of Donna Summer, a double threat with both an amazing music career(she received the Oscar in 1983 for Best Song for "What a Feeling"-the theme song to the hit film Flashdance and won several Grammy awards) and a lauded career as an actress. Her appearance in the iconic film, Fame in 1980 as Coco Hernandez, lands her on this list. Unfortunately, after Fame, Cara never appeared in another major film.

9. Debbie Allen

Debbie Allen, the dancer, choreographer,director, actress makes this list for her memorable performance as Michelle, one of the wives of Richard Pryor in his 1986 biopic, JoJo Dancer Your Life is Calling. The scene of her dancing on stage at the nightclub is one of the most sensuous scenes in cinematic history and the car scene with Pryor is also quite memorable. Allen also appeared in the 1980 hit film, Fame as well as in the television series of the same name.

10. Rae Dawn Chong

Daughter of comedian and actor, Tommy Chong, Rae Dawn Chong enjoyed a very rewarding career as a film actress in the 1980s, starring in fourteen feature films between 1980 and 1989. Her most memorable roles that decade came in 1985's The Color Purple in the role of Squeaks/Mary Agnes and in 1986's Soul Man playing opposite C.Thomas Howell.

Honorable Mentions:
Robin Givens
Paula Kelly
Phylicia Rashad

The 1970s

Best Black Film Actresses By Decade: The 1990s

The 1990s were a great time for Black actors and Black moviegoers looking for representations of Black images on screen. From the visions of Spike Lee and John Singleton being translated onto the big screen, to the prominence of talented Black actors in Hollywood, the 1990s were a decade of a thriving Black Hollywood. The top ten Black actresses of that decade were

1. Whoopi Goldberg

Starting off the decade with an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as psychic Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, Whoopi dominated Hollywood in the 1990s, even enjoying a brief time as the highest paid actress in the industry. Following the success of Ghost, Whoopi scored several times throughout the decade with powerhouse dramatic roles as Odessa Carter in The Long Walk Home, Mary Masembuko in Sarafina,Corrina Washington in Corrina, Corrina and her depiction of Myrlie Evers in 1996's Ghosts of Mississippi for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. In the midst of creating such meaningful and powerful dramas on screen, she also starred in some amazing comedies including, Soap Dish and the box-office-busting megahits Sister Act and Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, two of the highest grossing films of the decade. Whoopi finished out the decade with another notable performance as the best friend in the film adaptation of Terri MacMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Over the years, Whoopi has far exceeded every measure of success in the entertainment industry, proving herself not only in Hollywood, but on Broadway and in other venues as well. Whoopi Goldberg is one of the most successful entertainers in the world, having earned the rare distinction of winning the EGOT (meaning every major entertainment award in every category-Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony)-something that has been accomplished by only a handful of entertainers throughout history.

2. Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett is one of the most talented actresses to ever appear on film. This Yale graduate made a name for herself in the movie industry nabbing role after juicy role portraying images of strong, powerful Black women on screen. Beginning with her first notable role as the concerned mother, Reva Devereaux in John Singleton'sBoyz in the Hood, she engraved her name into cinema history with her portrayal of Civil Rights icon Betty Shabazz in Spike Lee's Malcolm X and scored an Oscar nomination for her depiction of Tina Turner in 1993's What's Love Got to Do With It. Bassett further entrenched her name into cultural memory of the decade with her crafting of the character Bernadine in 1995's Waiting to Exhale and her performance as Stella in 1998's How Stella Got Her Groove Back, both major vehicle's depicting the lives of Black women. Throughout her career, Angela Bassett has portrayed several significant Black women in American history on screen including Betty Shabazz, Tina Turner, Katherine Jackson, and Rosa Parks.

3. Robin Givens

Robin Givens' career thrived in the late 80s and early 90s, suffering a major decline after her divorce from Mike Tyson and seeing a major come back in 2008 with her appearance in Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys. In the early 90s, however, Robin Givens' was the star to watch, as her stardom headed straight to the top of the industry, placing her above almost every other Black actress in the business. Two roles, her appearance as Imabelle in A Rage in Harlem and her performance as Jacqueline Broyer in Boomerang placed her at the top of the heap as far as Black actresses are concerned. Her portrayal of the savvy, competitive and emotionally detached go-getter opposite Eddie Murphy's playboy who got played in Boomerang was permanently etched into public memory. With that one role, she dominated early 1990s Hollywood and held rank as far as Black actresses are concerned.

4. Lela Rochon

Sweet and sultry are the words that define the image that Lela Rochon created for herself on film throughout the 1990s. Schmoozing off from her role as the sultry Sunshine in 1989's Harlem Nights, she splashed into the 1990s with a memorable cameo role in 1992's Boomerang as the naive dog lover with bad feet, Christie. Rochon followed that up with the role that cemented her reputation as an actress and etched her into the cultural pathos, the high-powered executive with man problems, Robin Stokes in 1995's commentary on Black women's lives, Waiting to Exhale. She finished off the decade with a major role in Mr. and Mrs. Loving, the screen adaptation of the love story between the interracial couple responsible for ending miscegenation laws in the United States and with another notable role as the wife of Frankie Lymon in Why Do Fools Fall in Love.

5. Halle Berry

The illustrious Halle Berry has been a marvel on screen ever since her first notable role as the crackhead Vivian in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. Throughout the 90s, Halle built momentum in her career, starting with her praiseworthy performance as Angela in Boomerang and building on that as she gained laurels for her performances in Alex Haley's Queen, The Flinstones,B*A*P*S,Bulworth,and Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Her acting career in the 1990s culminated in her winning the Emmy Award for the HBO film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, the story of Dorothy Dandridge,who was the first Black actress to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Halle Berry has proven herself to be one of the most formidable and most bankable actresses in the business. One of the highest paid stars in the world, she is the first Black actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture.

6. Vivica Fox

For a time, no one was hotter in the world of Black Hollywood than Vivica A. Fox. She was Foxy Brown and a bit more. Playing Will Smith's leading lady in his 1996 blockbuster hit,Independence Day,Vivica sprang onto the Hollywood scene grasping major role after major role in Set it Off,Booty Call,Batman and Robin, the epic Soul Food, and Why Do Fools Fall in Love. After the late 90s, her career fell into a major slump, but picked up briefly with 2001's Two Can Play that Game and 2003's Kill Bill: Vol.1.

7. Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams is one of the most versatile and successful people in the entertainment industry. Williams began her career by winning the Miss America pageant and being crowned as Miss America for 1984, holding the distinction as the first African American to hold the title. From that vantage point, Williams set off on a successful music and film career, scoring several major hits in the 1980s and 1990s and keeping momentum in her career up to the present day. Two roles defined her career as one of the most successful actresses of the 1990s, her performance as Francine Hughes in 1997's Hoodlum and her noteworthy performance as Teri in the Black epic, Soul Food.

8. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston carved out for herself a solid film career in the 1990s appearing opposite some of the most popular leading men of the decade including Kevin Kostner in 1992's blockbuster hit The BodyGuard and Denzel Washington in 1996's The Preacher's Wife. All three of her films that decade were popular and have become classics. Had she chosen, she could have matched the success of her music career with her career in film. As it stands, she has still made an indelible mark on cinema and earned her place as one of the top actresses of the 1990s.

9. Lonette McKee

Lonette McKee came into the 1990s with an already solid career built off of two decades of compelling performances such as 1976's Sparkle, 1984's The Cotton Club, and 1989's Oprah vehicle and miniseries The Women of Brewster Place. McKee laid her claim to 1990s cinematic history in two roles,as the avenging wife, Drew in 1991's Spike Lee classic, Jungle Fever and as Louise Little, the mother of Malcolm X, in Spike Lee's epic film, Malcolm X.

10. Lynn Whitfield

Building on a solid career established in the 1980s, Lynn Whitfield emblazoned her image into cinema history with her praiseworthy, Emmy-winning performance as Josephine Baker in the 1991 HBO biopic The Josephine Baker Story, based on the life of Josephine Baker. Whitfield scored again twice in the 1990s with her portrayal of Roz Batiste, the troubled wife and mother in 1997's Eve's Bayou and as the wealthy,scorned wife and mother in 1998's The Wedding opposite Halle Berry.

Honorable Mentions:
Loretta Devine
Janet Jackson
Alfre Woodard

The 1980s