Black History: A Woven Fabric

Bea Arthur & Marlene Warfield

Welcome, welcome back, hi! I am going to post with Black History in mind as this is February. When I started this blog my focus was on my father, a Black man. It was his biography as opposed to being about Black history. In writing Eddie’s story it was not possible to only write about other Black people. I wrote about how Eddie succeeded during a time when Blacks had to struggle to come up in a world that included White people. History is about, to my mind, the story of Life before the Present. And my father’s story is definitely Black history. The sitcom Maude is a part of Black History, too.

I have begun researching a book about the TV sitcom Maude, staring Bea Arthur, from the 1970s. Connecting this show with Black History never crossed my mind until a few days ago when I received a request regarding a woman who played the third maid during the 1977-1978 seasons of Maude. Her name is Marlene Warfield and she is a Black woman. Ms. Warfield is alive and well and enjoying life well away from the spotlight these days, as are others I’ve tried to contact who were associated with the show. During my research, I have become fascinated with Ms. Warfield’s involvement in the entertainment business. It is just amazing to me when I discover new information about people that ought to be shared with others, in my opinion, simply because of the inspiration it could provide. Which is why I wrote my father’s story. Happily, a lot of these people happen to be Black.

James Earl Jones tells off a former paramour, Marlene Warfield, in the play, “The Great White Hope” on Oct. 10, 1968. Location is unknown. (AP Photo)

Before appearing on Maude, Ms. Warfield won the Clarence Derwent Award in 1969 for Outstanding Broadway Debut Performance for the role of Clara in The Great White Hope, which she reprised in the 1970 film version. The Clarence Derwent Awards are theatre awards given annually by the Actors’ Equity Association on Broadway in the United States and by Equity, and the performers’ union, in the West End in the United Kingdom. Clarence Derwent (23 March 1884 – 6 August 1959) was an English actor, director, and manager. His will stipulated that two $500 prizes were to be given out annually to the best individual male and female supporting performances on Broadway and a £100 prize to the best supporting performances in the West End according to an online site History for Sale.

Her co-star was Mr. James Earl Jones. James Earl Jones was so good in this movie that I hated him in real life for the next few years. What a movie! He actually won a Tony award in 1969 for his role in the play. Of course my younger readers may remember James Earl Jones was the voice of “Luke, I am your father.”

Ms. Warfield appeared in many more roles on TV and in movies, such as Across 110th Street (1972), Network (1976) written by Paddy Chayevsky, she played Laureen Hobbs with Faye Dunaway and William Holden (ooh la la), Maude, The Jeffersons, Little House on the Prairie, Perry Mason, In The House, and ER.

Black History is woven into our lives. Sometimes we have to search for it. In the case of my father, Eddie Green, born in 1891, though he became a a well-known personality by the time of his death in 1950, his presence had somehow been overshadowed and hidden from recognition-until I wrote the book: Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer. My Black History for sure.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. 🙂