Photo credits: Home Box Office (c) HFPA
Portraying legendary actress Dorothy Dandridge in the biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge was for Halle Berry (pictured) was a career move that certainly made Black history in the world of entertainment.
It gave Berry an opportunity to pay homage to the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. It also provided a major boost to Berry’s career in the form of the industry’s most prestigious awards.
On Jan. 23, 2000, Berry won the Golden Globe Award in the “Best Actress” category for a miniseries or motion picture made for television.
The role also earned her a Primetime Emmy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an NAACP Image Award. In addition, Berry was a co-producer of the HBO project and fought hard to make sure the flim was made.
Dandridge’s Oscar nomination was for her leading role in Carmen Jones. Although she lost to actress Grace Kelly, it seemed like the start of something big — it got her on the cover of Life magazine.
Racism, however, prevented Dandridge from achieving the roles and acclaim many believe she deserved.
“If I were Betty Grable, I could capture the world,” she told the New York Times.
Instead, her only other comparable role was that of Bess opposite Sidney Poitier in Porgy and Bess. Dandridge also was challenged by two failed marriages, the birth of a severely handicapped child who required 24-hour care, and significant financial difficulties.
These life adversities caused Dandridge to have a nervous breakdown. Tragically, she was found dead in her home on Sept. 8, 1965, from a barbiturate overdose. She reportedly had only $2 in her bank account (Jones, 2021).
“You have to find a way to be sad on every day, in every scene, in every moment. And always try to hide the sadness. And (then) you’ll get the essence of who she was,” Berry said in her Golden Globe acceptance speech while reflecting on the late beauty’s life.
To keep Dandridge’s pioneering will and spirit alive, Berry broke the door open for black women in film by winning an Oscar in 2002.
She was awarded the accolade for her role in the film “Monster’s Ball.” She was the first African-American woman in U.S. history to win the highly-coveted Academy Award.
In her acceptance speech, Berry paid homage to the pioneering Dandridge, as well as other Black women in Hollywood who paved the way for her to be the star that she is today.
“This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll,” Berry said tearfully.
“It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I’m so honored,” she continued.
Reference: Jones, J. (2021, January 23) This Day in Black History: Jan. 23, 2000. Retrieved from https://www.bet.com/news/national/2014/01/23/this-day-in-black-history-jan-23-2000.html
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.