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RIP Diahann Carroll

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Garysb, Oct 4, 2019.

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  1. Garysb

    Garysb Cinematographer

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    [​IMG]



    She also landed an historic Tony Award, plus an Oscar nomination for her performance in 'Claudine.'
    Diahann Carroll, the captivating singer and actress who came from the Bronx to win a Tony Award, receive an Oscar nomination and make television history with her turns on Julia and Dynasty, died Friday. She was 84.

    Carroll died at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer, her daughter, producer-journalist Suzanne Kay, told The Hollywood Reporter.

    Carroll was known as a Las Vegas and nightclub performer and for her performances on Broadway and in the Hollywood musicals Carmen Jones and Porgy & Bess when she was approached by an NBC executive to star as Julia Baker, a widowed nurse raising a young son, on the comedy Julia.

    She didn't want to do it. "I really didn't believe that this was a show that was going to work," she said in a 1998 chat for the website The Interviews: An Oral History of Television. "I thought it was something that was going to leave someone's consciousness in a very short period of time. I thought, 'Let them go elsewhere.' "

    However, when Carroll learned that Hal Kanter, the veteran screenwriter who created the show, thought she was too glamorous for the part, she was determined to change his mind. She altered her hairstyle and mastered the pilot script, quickly convincing him that she was the right woman.

    Carroll thus became the first African American female to star in a non-stereotypical role in her own primetime network series. (Several actresses portrayed a maid on ABC's Beulah in the early 1950s.)

    Her character Baker, whose husband had died in Vietnam, worked for a doctor (Lloyd Nolan) at an aerospace company; she was educated and outspoken, and she dated men (including characters played by Fred Williamson, Paul Winfield and Don Marshall) who were successful, too.

    "We were saying to the country, 'We're going to present a very upper middle-class black woman raising her child, and her major concentration is not going to be about suffering in the ghetto,'" Carroll noted.

    "Many people were incensed about that. They felt that [African Americans] didn't have that many opportunities on television or in film to present our plight as the underdog … they felt the [real-world] suffering was much too acute to be so trivial as to present a middle-class woman who is dealing with the business of being a nurse.

    "But we were of the opinion that what we were doing was important, and we never left that point of view … even though some of that criticism of course was valid. We were of a mind that this was a different show. We were allowed to have this show."

    Julia, which premiered in September 1968, finished No. 7 in the ratings in the first of its three seasons, and Carroll received an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe for her work.

    While recuperating after starring on Broadway in Agnes of God, Carroll had found herself digging Dynasty — "Isn't this the biggest hoot?" she said — and lobbied producer Aaron Spelling for a role on his series.

    "They've done everything [on the show]. They've done incest, homosexuality, murder. I think they're slowly inching their way toward interracial," she recalled in a 1984 piece for People magazine. "I want to be wealthy and ruthless … I want to be the first black bitch on television."

    As the sultry fashionista Dominique Deveraux — the first prominently featured African American character on a primetime soap opera — Carroll played a much edgier character for three seasons on ABC's Dynasty and its spinoff The Colbys, delightfully dueling with fellow diva Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins).



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    NBC/Photofest
    Diahann Carroll starred as nurse Julia Baker for three seasons.



    Carroll made perhaps her biggest mark on the big screen with her scrappy title-role performance in Claudine (1974), playing a Harlem woman on welfare who raises six children on her own and falls for a garbage collector (James Earl Jones).

    The part was originally given to her dear friend, Diana Sands. But when Sands (who had played Julia Baker's cousin on several episodes of Julia) was stricken with cancer, she suggested Carroll take her place.

    "The producers said, 'How can she do this role? No one would believe she could do it," Carroll said. "I remember the headline in the paper: 'Would you believe Jackie Onassis as a welfare mother?' … The very coupling of the name Jackie Onassis and Diahann Carroll is very interesting, if you think about it. Their question was, how do we make anyone believe that she has [six] children? And to be nominated for an Academy Award, to do that, it was the best, the best."

    Carol Diahann Johnson was born in Fordham Hospital in the Bronx on July 17, 1935. Her father, John, was a subway conductor when she was young, and her mother, Mabel, a nurse. She won a scholarship to the High School of Music & Art, where Billy Dee Williams was a classmate.

    At 15, she began to model clothing for black-audience magazines like Ebony, Tan and Jet. Her dad disapproved at first, then began to reconsider when she told him she had earned $600 for a session.

    Her parents drove her to Philadelphia on many weekends so she could be a contestant on the TV talent show Teen Club, hosted by bandleader Paul Whiteman. And then she won several times on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts program, where she first billed herself as Diahann Carroll.

    After enrolling at NYU to study psychology, she appeared on the Dennis James-hosted ABC talent show Chance of a Lifetime in 1953 and won for several weeks. One of her rewards was a regular engagement to perform at the famed Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan.

    Christine Jorgensen taught her how to "carry" herself onstage, she said, and she moved in with her manager, training and rehearsing every day. She soon was singing in the Persian Room at New York's Plaza Hotel and at other hotspots including Ciro's, The Mocambo and The Cloister in Hollywood, The Black Orchid in Chicago and L'Olympia in Paris.

    She soon dropped out of college to pursue performing full time and was brought to Los Angeles to audition for Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones (1954), landing the role of Myrt opposite the likes of Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge.

    At the end of 1954, she made her Broadway debut as the young star of the Truman Capote-Harold Arlen musical House of Flowers. Walter Kerr in The New York Herald Tribune called her "a plaintive and extraordinarily appealing ingenue."

    She was cast to play Clara in Preminger and Rouben Mamoulian's movie adaptation of Porgy and Bess (1959), but her voice was considered too low for her character's Summertime number, so another singer dubbed for her.

    She met Sidney Poitier on that film, thus beginning what she described as a "very turbulent" nine-year romance with him. (Carroll then had her first non-singing movie role, playing a schoolteacher opposite Poitier, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 1961's Paris Blues).

    She would become renowned for her phrasing, partially a result of her studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.

    In 1963, she earned the first of her four career Emmy noms for portraying a teacher yet again on ABC's gritty Naked City.

    Richard Rodgers spotted her during one of her frequent singing appearances on Jack Paar's Tonight Show and decided to compose a Broadway musical for her. After scrapping the idea to have her portray an Asian in 1958's Flower Drum Song, he wrote 1962's No Strings, a love story revolving around an African American fashion model (Carroll) and a nebbish white novelist (Richard Kiley).

    His first effort following the death of longtime collaborator Oscar Hammerstein II, it brought Carroll rave reviews and a Tony Award, the first given to a black woman for best actress in a lead role of a musical.

    Soon after hosting a CBS summer replacement variety show in 1976, she retired from show business and moved to Oakland. Landing the role of Dominique — the half-sister of John Forsythe's Blake Carrington — in 1984 put her back on the map in Hollywood.

    She told the show's writers: "The most important thing to remember is write for a white male, and you'll have the character. Don't try to write for what you think I am. Write for a white man who wants to be wealthy and powerful. And that's the way we found Dominique Deveraux."

    More recently, Carroll had recurring roles as Jasmine Guy's mother on NBC's A Different World, as Isaiah Washington's mom on ABC's Grey's Anatomy and as a Park Avenue widow on USA's White Collar. She also appeared in such films as Eve's Bayou (1997) and on stage as Norma Desmond in a musical version of Sunset Blvd.

    She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Carroll recorded several albums during her career and wrote the memoirs Diahann, published in 1986, and The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, Mothering and Other Things I Learned Along the Way, in 2008.

    She was married four times: to Monte Kay, a manager and a casting consultant on House of Flowers; to Freddie Glusman, a Las Vegas clothier (that union lasted just a few weeks); to magazine editor Robert DeLeon (he died in an auto accident in 1977); and to singer Vic Damone (from 1987 until their 1996 divorce). She also had a three-year romance with talk-show host David Frost.

    In addition to her daughter, survivors include her grandchildren, August and Sydney.
     
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  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    My mother loved Julia, but my father didn't like Diahann Carroll for some reason. Myself, I was lukewarm towards her, but appreciated her as a ground-breaking actress. May she R.I.P.
     
  3. Bob_S.

    Bob_S. Screenwriter

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    I remember her more for her singing than acting and oh so beautiful.
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    I read this sad news when I logged on this afternoon.

    Although I never got to see her on the stage, I always enjoyed her every time I saw her in anything. She didn't get enough credit as a vocal stylist. Look at her solo spot on The Judy Garland Show and then in duet with Judy to see a real pro at work.
     
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  5. Jonathan Perregaux

    Jonathan Perregaux Screenwriter

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    We’ll always have “The Star Wars Holiday Special”!
     
  6. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    In tribute, from O-R ABC Dynasty (fifth-season, 1984-85 [from fifth-season, first-volume DVD from CBS Home Entertainment])...

    diahanncarrolldynasty.
     
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  7. Robin9

    Robin9 Producer

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    Yes, I do too. I have her marvellous album Fun Life and play it frequently. I also have the cast album of Richard Rodgers' No Strings where she played the female lead and sang The Sweetest Sounds. A very talented woman.
     
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  8. Message #8 of 14 Oct 6, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
    MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    During the height of her Dynasty fame, she appeared on Webster as herself, and the outfit she wore put Susan Clark's to shame. That is probably my first memory of her.

    And she'd already proved her mettle as a singer years before her TV series roles, holding her own against the great Judy Garland:

     
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  9. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    There are very few people who redefined their mediums. When it comes to television, it can legitimately be said that there was television before Diahann Carroll, and there was television after Diahann Carroll. "Julia" changed who could headline a primetime television series, and how they could be portrayed. A show that was made possible by the civil rights movement, and a show that refused to grapple with the issues raised by the civil rights movement.
     
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  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Good points!
     
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  11. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    They alluded to the Vietnam War by having her husband die off-screen in it. It seemed like a lot of shows with dead parents coincided with it.
     
  12. Message #12 of 14 Oct 8, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2019
    Garysb

    Garysb Cinematographer

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    A remembrance by the actor who played Cory, Julia's son, Marc Copage From The NY Times



    Diahann Carroll Was the Only Mother I Knew

    My real mother left me when I was a toddler. And then, at age 5, I was cast as Corey Baker on “Julia.”



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    Marc Copage, right, with Diahann Carroll.CreditCreditEverett Collection
    By Marc Copage

    • On Friday morning, when I woke up to 97 new notifications on Facebook, I knew something was up. They turned out to be condolences over the death of actress Diahann Carroll, who played my mother on the TV show “Julia.” She was the only mother I had ever really known.

    The show premiered over 50 years ago and was nominated for multiple Emmys. From the ages of 5 to 8, I played Julia’s son, Corey Baker. Julia was a groundbreaking character; she was the first African-American woman on a television series to star as a professional, rather than in the stereotypical role of a servant.

    I find it funny and a bit ironic that in real life the kid who played her son grew up to become a waiter serving the crowd of celebrities I used to be among.

    My parents, who were both actors, separated when I was 6 months old. Eventually my father, who didn’t approve of how I was being raised, assumed full custody. My mother moved to Europe, where she found some professional success. I believe I was 2 the last time I saw her. It was my father’s agent who thought I’d be right for a role on a new Fox TV show. I was 5.

    She had a daughter named Suzanne. And though I began to regard Suzanne as my real sister, the feeling was not mutual. Who could blame her? Had Ms. Carroll been my real mother, I would not have wanted to share her, either. I didn’t understand how unhappy the arrangement made Suzanne until I read Ms. Carroll’s memoir “Diahann: An Autobiography.”

    “Eventually I had to confront the reason for Suzanne’s anger and begin to remove myself from Marc,” she wrote. “‘Suzie’s my real daughter,’ I explained. ‘And you’re my television son. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you very much. I do. But when the day is over, you must return to your home and I want to do to the same.’ It was such a painful moment. Marc couldn’t understand what was wrong and was terribly hurt.”

    Ms. Carroll taught me to always be punctual and a person of my word, as she was. She came to the set on time for each show, completely prepared. She was polite to everyone and always careful about her diet. She would let me know if I started to get a little too pudgy. The producers would give me Bazooka bubble gum, but she would give me carob snacks that she thought were much healthier.

    After three years and 86 episodes, “Julia” was canceled in 1971. The official word was that Ms. Carroll and the show’s creator, Hal Kanter, wanted to move on. The show had put a great deal of stress on Ms. Carroll. By age 9, I was being called a “has-been.”

    Ms. Carroll tried to keep in touch with me, and I made a guest appearance on one of her television specials. I did sketches with Dick Van Dyke, who was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and another sketch with Bill Cosby who, well ... not so nice.

    With my earnings from the show, my father and I moved to a middle-class and predominantly white neighborhood in the early 1970s. I was called the N-word a handful of times. When I played Little League, the opposing team would chant, “Pitcher stinks, catcher’s worse, look at the Fudgsicle playing first.” I was playing first.

    The decade after high school, I started taking acting seriously. I screen tested for “One Life to Live” with Ola Ray, a Playboy centerfold. Blair Underwood was the actor I was up against. He got the part.

    In 2010 I saw him at a party I was working as a cater-waiter. Ebony magazine was honoring celebrities who had graced its covers over the years. I had been on Ebony covers. But my job for the evening was to serve and clean up after the other celebrities. Mr. Underwood and Ms. Carroll were among the honored guests. I felt embarrassed about approaching Diahann and purposely stayed out of her sight. I had thought waiting tables was a job I would do for a summer or two in my 20s. Yet that night, at age 48, and until last year, I was still waiting.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cater-waiter. It’s an honest profession. There are upsides. I’ve stood just feet away as Stevie Wonder, Sting, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz, Elton John and Katy Perry performed. I’ve tasted the finest foods prepared by famous chefs from around the world. Whenever I come across an entitled celebrity at one of these events, I remember how I was once one of them. I’m in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian, part of our national archives. How many people can say that?

    I ran into Ms. Carroll a handful of times over the years and she was always kind. I have acted intermittently in the years since “Julia” — “Cop Rock,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Sanford and Son” and “The Kid” — though less in the last 10 years.

    Then in the fall of 2017, Ms. Carroll and I signed photographs next to each other at an autograph show near LAX airport. When I got there, one of the organizers informed me Diahann was suffering from dementia. This was the first I’d heard of it. There were no apparent signs as far as I could tell. She looked great as usual, in a black and gold outfit. She did not approve of what I was wearing. My sweatpants and bandanna look were not up to her standards. She was never shy about voicing her opinions to me, as a mother would.


    Image





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    With Ms. Carroll at the autograph show in October, 2017. She did not approve of this outfit.CreditHollywoodshow
    We had a delightful time signing together. Before I left she gave me her phone number and we made plans to have dinner.

    A few weeks later, I picked her up at her apartment in West Hollywood. We dined at an expensive restaurant that she suggested down the street. She looked beautiful and well turned out as always. And you better believe I dressed up this time.

    Ms. Carroll enjoyed her fine wines from time to time and we shared a carafe or two that evening. She told me her cancer had come back. I showed her an old picture I found of me and Suzanne at a pool party during our “Julia” days. She asked for a copy and talked about her grandchildren. She was happy her granddaughter shared her good fashion sense.

    After four divorces, she told me that marriage was overrated, but when I did find that special someone I must bring them over so that she could meet them and give her approval.

    She offered career advice, suggesting I hire a publicist, reminding me that I should be proud I was one of television’s first black child stars. She also generously asked, “What can I do to help you?” When I told her I was writing a memoir, she told me to call it “Television’s First Black Child Star.”

    I wanted the evening’s dinner to be my treat, but she insisted on picking up the tab. I was relieved she did, because that bill amounted to almost half my monthly rent. On the car ride back to her place, we sang along to Tony Bennett’s version of “There Will Never Be Another You” on my playlist.


    After dropping her off and driving home, I realized she had put her keys in my doggie bag. I called her as soon as I found them. “You need to bring me those keys right now, young man. I can’t get into my home without them.” At 1 a.m., I drove 40 minutes back to her. When I arrived, she was in the lobby waiting for me. We hugged and kissed goodbye. That would be the last time I would see her.

    The last time I spoke with Ms. Carroll on the phone, I told her I loved her. The loss has hit me hard.

    “Did you wish your mother Diahann a happy Mother’s Day?” people asked me over the years. I would remind them that she wasn’t my real mother. She only played my mom on TV. I’m not quite sure at what point Ms. Carroll stopped being my mother in my mind.

    And I’ve always wondered if my real mother knew I was on a groundbreaking television show where an actress played the role my real mother didn’t want. For three wonderful years, I was lucky that Diahann did.
     
  13. Matt Hough

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    Thanks for sharing. That was lovely.
     
  14. Kevin Hewell

    Kevin Hewell Cinematographer

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    She was such a lovely and talented woman.

    Plus, she gave Alexis a good bitch-fight.
     

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