By Charlene B. Regester
9 actresses, from Madame Sul-Te-Wan in start of a country (1915) to Ethel Waters in Member of the marriage (1952), are profiled in African American Actresses. Charlene Regester poses questions about winning racial politics, on-screen and off-screen identities, and black stardom and white stardom. She unearths how those girls fought for his or her roles in addition to what they compromised (or did not compromise). Regester repositions those actresses to focus on their contributions to cinema within the first 1/2 the 20 th century, taking an educated theoretical, ancient, and significant method. (2011)
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Extra resources for African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960
The mainstream press also did not mention her appearance in Drums of Love; the New York Times and Variety in particular ignored her. The African American press not only verified her contributions to this 1928 film, it also castigated studio officials for editing her role from the film: “None other than D. W. Griffith himself called for her to act in Drums of Love, and she responded only to have the editor of the film . . clip her dancing. ”93 In the year following Drums of Love, Sul-Te-Wan graced the screen in Thunderbolt (1929), a gangster drama involving the police who hunt and capture a leading criminal, a capture that is achieved through the assistance of a dog.
The African American press, though, covered black actors extensively during this period, despite their insignificant roles, and frequently mentioned Sul-Te-Wan’s screen performances and gave notice to her work in the industry regardless of its prominence. In comparison, the mainstream press was more preoccupied with covering the actors in primary or starring roles, who more often than not were white actors in this early period of the cinema industry. Despite rare occasions when the mainstream press recognized SulTe-Wan for her minimal contributions to films, as was the case with The Narrow Street, her continued exclusion from such reports persisted.
74 Claudette Colbert is cast in the leading role as Barbara Clarke, who stands accused of practicing witchcraft. 75 Tituba’s blackness becomes a link to evil and because of the black female’s inescapable association with evil, Tituba, when juxtaposed to (that is, used as a shadow for) Clarke, becomes all the more symbolic of the occult. m a d a m e s u l - t e - wa nâ•… · â•… 33 While the film’s alleged misrepresentation of history may have disturbed the African American press, the press nevertheless applauded Sul-Te-Wan’s performance.
African American actresses: the struggle for visibility, 1900-1960 by Charlene B. Regester