Monday, August 14, 2017

On Halle Berry

Blow out the candles and make a wish, Halle Berry.  Make a wish for good Hollywood scripts to come your way.  Today, the gorgeous Hollywood history maker turns 51.  I feel that one of her biggest breakthroughs after years on on-camera work came when she had the opportunity to play the late, great Dorothy Dandridge in a biopic for HBO.  Dorothy Dandridge broke through Hollywood's color barrier and became the first Black woman nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.  Her well-deserved nomination came for 1954's musical drama, CARMEN JONES co-starring Harry Belafonte.  The favorite to win was Judy Garland for her sensational screen comeback in the 1954 remake of A STAR IS BORN.  Judy and Dorothy lost to Grace Kelly for THE COUNTRY GIRL.  Despite her sizzling, charismatic, Oscar-nominated performance in 20th Century Fox's CARMEN JONES, the lovely and talented Dorothy Dandridge did not get another top Hollywood lead role opportunity until 1959's PORGY AND BESS.  Her lack of opportunities were because of her race.  PORGY AND BESS was her last film.  Halle Berry won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for 1999's INTRODUCING DOROTHY DANDRIDGE.  For her dramatic performance in 2001's MONSTER'S BALL, Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress.
That was Halle Berry's first and, so far, only Oscar nomination.  She was the first and, so far, only Black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress.
Viola Davis is now the most Oscar-nominated African American actress in Hollywood history.  She has three nominations to her credit.  This year, she won Best Supporting Actress for FENCES.

Whoopi Goldberg and Octavia Spencer are now tied with two Oscar nominations to their credit.  Whoopi won Best Supporting Actress for GHOST and Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for THE HELP.

No African American actress in Hollywood history has more than three Oscar nominations.  No African American woman other than Halle Berry has taken home the prize for Best Actress.

As I've written before, talented white actresses are lucky because they've had more opportunities from Hollywood. 26-year old Jennifer Lawrence has one Best Actress Oscar and four Oscar nominations to her credit.  Amy Adams has five Oscar nominations.  Julia Roberts has four nominations and one Best Actress Oscar win -- like Jennifer Lawrence.  Yep.  Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence had more opportunities and Oscar-nomination luck than Black actresses who got one Oscar nomination and then turned to TV for work because Hollywood offered no script opportunities  -- Cicely Tyson, Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, Diahann Carroll and Taraji P. Henson are some of those actresses.

Halle Berry worked with a woman director to make what I feel is her best film after her historic Oscar win.  She plays a middle-class suburban widow with children.  David Duchovny played the charitable, loving husband who meets an untimely death early in the film.  Benicio Del Toro plays the husband's best friend, a recovering junkie who tries to help the widow.  She's pretty much paralyzed with grief.  She had her prejudices towards the friend.  Susanne Bier directed 2007's THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE.
If you're a Benecio Del Toro fan -- like I am -- this is a must-see movie.  He's excellent in it. Ironically, the weekend THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE opened, the West Coast was devastated by a huge, destructive fire that topped the national headlines.  In that long portion of Southern California, folks were more concerned with protecting their homes than heading to the cineplex to see a movie.  THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE sort of got lost in the fire itself.

Susanne Bier's film is worth a look.  Halle Berry does a fine job as the troubled suburban mother.  And she was the perfect choice to play Dorothy Dandridge.  She deserved those awards.  It's a crime that the extremely talented Dorothy Dandridge had such a limited film career because of Hollywood's lame racial attitudes.

Let's wish Halle Berry a very Happy Birthday -- and let's wish her good Hollywood scripts and steady employment.  She deserves both.

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