I am desperate to get away from today’s news, which takes away my pleasure from finishing my latest book and pursuing information for my next book. So I decided to post about something that could perk me up. And I discovered that WordPress has reworked posting section. Let’s see if I can figure it out. Just so you know this is not a younger picture of me, though she is pretty. This is Theresa Harris. An American film actress, singer and dancer, born in 1906. I came across her while searching for something pleasant to write about.
TCM (Turner Classic Movies) had a pre-code movie showing in September and seems that this young lady played a major role in this era and after this era, but received almost no attention despite her skills. Theresa Harris attended Jefferson High School, studied at UCLA and studied also at the Zoellner’s Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles (the most celebrated musical organization in the West which devotes its energies exclusively to the highest class of chamber music) in the early 1920s before joining the Lafayette Players, an African American stock theater that performed at places like the Ebell Theater from 1928-1932.
Ms. Harris began her acting career in movies in 1931. Over her career, she appeared in at least 90 films, the last one in 1958. The pre-code years were good years for her as an actress because she played substantial roles that showcased her acting abilities. However, as time went on she was relegated to roles as a maid, or a bystander or a hat check girl.
In one of her pre-code movies, Baby Face (1933) she was Chico, friend of Barbara Stanwyck’s character. In Hold Your Man (1933) with Jean Harlow, she had a featured role as Lily Mae Crippen (uncredited). However, in 1936 she appeared as an angel (uncredited) in The Green Pastures, starring Rex Ingrahm, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and Clarence Muse (also an angel) and Ernest Whitman. The last three gentlemen were also friends of my father, Eddie Green. In 1938 she was Zette, (credited) the maid in Jezebel with Bette Davis.
By the 40s most of her roles varied as to how important they were to the plot in how the role was listed and whether she received credit or not, but by now they were mostly maid roles, as in The Velvet Touch (1948) as Nancy (credited) with Rosalind Russell, or Miracle on 34th Street (1947-a good year) as the Walker’s maid. (uncredited), or The Big Clock (1948) as Daisy the Stroud’s maid (uncredited), with Ray Milland. Ms. Harris made over 30 movies in the 1940s. And at least 52 movies in the 1930s.
In 1950 she was Esther (credited) in The File on Thelma Jordan with Barbara Stanwyck. She continued to make more movies until 1958. Obviously, somebody liked her style. In those days, as it seems to be, still, today, if you were Black and wanted to get ahead in the profession you had to work extra hard and then some, especially if you were not willing to give up your principles. Ms. Harris was well aware that the color of her skin meant that she would not get much of a chance to rise above the level of maid in Hollywood, post pre-code. In her words: “I never had the chance to rise above the role of maid in Hollywood movies. My color was against me anyway you looked at it.”
She managed to get a few small good roles and she even appeared on television. She lasted three decades in the movie world. No scandals. No bitterness. But she knew the reality of the times she was just doing what she loved to the best of her ability. The thing that really impressed me is that during all of these years, she invested the money she made, and when she retired she was quite comfortable, thank you.
I salute her for her courage, her stick-to-it-tiveness and for being a role model of how to be successful for ones self.
I do hope this publishes correctly and does not look all willy-nilly. Thanks, for stopping by.
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