March 6, 2023
Photo by: (Left) Hattie McDaniel by Bettmann/Getty Images. (Middle): Josephine Baker by Gaston Paris/Roger Viollet via Getty Images. (Right): Ethel Waters by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Image.
As we reflect on the wins in film and television, there are countless women that have changed the game forever in monumental ways!
And, TV One cannot thank them enough!
As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s take the proper time to honor these titans that have changed the film and television industries for the better.
1. Hattie McDaniel
During a time when the height of racism was prevalent in Hollywood, Black actresses such as Hattie McDaniel who was the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role in the film Gone with the Wind, helped paved the way for generations of Black actors to provide representation on screen.
Despite the negative stereotypes that McDaniel played, she fought against Hollywood’s racism and sexism to show up in the spaces of motion picture to help open up doors for Black actresses in the future.
2. Lena Horne
Lena Horne was already poised to become a star at the age of 16!
She was a triple threat and Hollywood producers took notice of her good acting, singing, and dancing skills.
The Brooklyn native later signed with MGM Studios, although she was cast in minor roles and frequently separated from her white co-stars. However, this didn’t stop Lena Horne from becoming an icon within the film/television industry.
3. Ethel Waters
Legendary actress, Ethel Waters was a diverse and gifted talent who became the second African American actress to be nominated for an Oscar, following Hattie McDaniel.
When composer Irving Berlin gave Waters a lead role in his Broadway production of As Thousands Cheer, she made history as the first African American woman to perform on the Broadway stage.
Regardless of color, she quickly rose to become one of the top paid Broadway actors. Her success on Broadway propelled Waters into a career in film and then television.
She made an appearance in the Vincente Minnelli-directed all-black movie Cabin in the Sky, which starred Lena Horne.
4. Dorothy Dandridge
Prior to her Hollywood career, Dorothy Dandridge was a nightclub singing phenomenon.
Throughout the 1940s, she had roles in movies that emphasized both her acting and musical talents as well as, increasingly, her breathtaking attractiveness.
In fact, Dandridge expertly transformed herself into an earthy bombshell to land her desired breakthrough role in the 1954 movie adaptation of the all-black Broadway musical Carmen Jones.
As a result of her star-making performance, Dandridge went on to become Hollywood’s first mainstream Black sex symbol, and the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award in a leading role.
5. Josephine Baker
The phenomenal Josephine Baker became the first Black woman to star in major motion pictures during her silent film career in France after dominating vaudeville, Broadway, and the prestigious Parisian revue circuit with her acting, dancing, and singing skillset during the freewheeling Jazz Age.
In addition to all of her professional achievements, as an actress Baker made effective use of the influence that came with her fame.
During the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, she used her connections with officials and members of café society to gather crucial intelligence to support the French Resistance.
She also carried sensitive information to the Allied Forces while on tour throughout Europe.
We thank these amazing, trailblazing women for paving the way for generations of amazing actresses that followed in their steps!
Who is your favorite actress that changed the film/tv industry? Let us know in the comment section below!
Like TV One on Facebook and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter.