Theresa Harris: Television & Film Actress of the 1930s

1 Posted by - August 18, 2023 - Black History, History, LATEST POSTS

Theresa Harris was one of the most remembered faces to hit television and film during her day. Not only was she an actress but she was a singer and dancer.

Harris was born on December 31, 1906, in Houston, Texas, just hours shy of being a New Year’s baby. Her parents, Isaiah and Mable Harris, both were sharecroppers from Louisiana. By the age 11, her family moved to Southern California and after After graduating Jefferson High School, she studied at the UCLA Conservatory of Music and Zoellner’s Conservatory of Music. She then joined the African American musical comedy theater troupe, the Lafayette Players.

Her big acting career break came in 1929, she made her film debut in Thunderbolt, singing the song “Daddy Won’t You Please Come Home”. During the 1930s, she was given roles playing maids to fictitious Southern belles, socialites and female molls played by such actresses as Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Sylvia Sidney, and Frances Dee. Many of these parts often went uncredited. She also played the roles of blues singers, tribal women, hat check girls, and prostitutes.

Harris went on to play numerous uncredited roles throughout the 1930s including films such as Horse Feathers (1932), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Mary Stevens, M.D. (1933) and Morning Glory (1933). She also played Bette Davis’s maid Zette in the film Jezebel (1938).

In the 1939 movie, Harris was finally given credit for her role as Ruby, the wife of a murdered man in “Tell No Tales”. Harris played an emotional scene with Melvin Douglas at the funeral.

During the 1950s, Harris appeared several times on television on such shows as Lux Video Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Letter to Loretta. She made her last film appearance in an uncredited role in The Gift of Love in 1958. Theresa Harris died on October 8, 1985.




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