RIP Ruby Dee

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mbdrain-ec088A legend has left us today...I met her when I was assigned to be a talent escort for an award show in Los Angeles.  She was wickedly funny, brilliant, beautiful and sharp as a tack.  Her name was Ruby Dee.

Ruby Dee, best known for her role in 1961’s “A Raisin in the Sun”(the play, Poitier and Richards were all nominated for Tonys) and latterly for her Oscar-nominated turn as Denzel Washington’s mother in 2007’s “American Gangster,” passed away Wednesday in New York. She was 91.

Ruby Ann Wallace was born in Cleveland but grew up in Harlem and graduating from Hunter College with degrees in French and Spanish in 1944.

She began her career on the stage, making her 1943 Broadway debut playing a Native in a play called “South Pacific” (not the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical). She was a replacement in the American Negro Theater-produced hit “Anna Lucasta” and toured with the show. Dee appeared in three more plays in the late 1940s that had only brief runs on Broadway, including 1946’s “Jeb.” She first met Ossie Davis, who was playing the title character in “Jeb,” at this time and married him two years later. Off Broadway she appeared in “The World of Sholom Aleichem,” stage managed by Davis, in 1953.

The actress was first married to blues singer Frankie Dee Brown in the 1940s.

Dee’s Oscar nomination in 2008 for her performance as the feisty mother of a Harlem druglord played by Washington in Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” was particularly impressive because the actress made an impression on the Motion Picture Academy with only 10 minutes of screen time. She won a SAG Award for the same performance.

screen-actors-awards-2001Dee and her husband, Ossie Davis (who died in 2005) , who often performed together, were among the first generation of African-American actors, led by Sidney Poitier, afforded the opportunity for significant, dignified dramatic roles in films, onstage and on television. They were civil rights activists beginning in the early 1950s during the controversy over the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Later they were involved in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.

When they were announced as recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004, the center described them as “one of the most revered couples of the American stage, two of the most prolific and fearless artists in American culture. As individuals and as a team they have created profound and lasting work that has touched us all. With courage and tenacity they have thrown open many a door previously shut tight to African American artists and planted the seed for the flowering of America’s multicultural humanity.”

Dee made her bigscreen debut with a prominent role in the all-black musical “That Mine of Mine” in 1946. She starred opposite boxer Joe Louis, playing himself, in 1949 crime drama “The Fight Never Ends,” but she came to prominence with her role in 1950’s “The Jackie Robinson Story,” with the first African-American in Major League Baseball playing himself and Dee playing his wife. She had an uncredited role in Sidney Poitier’s first film, “No Way Out,” the same year.

For seven months beginning in September 1961, Dee and Davis starred on Broadway in the racially charged, Davis-penned satire “Purlie Victorious,” which attracted much controversy for, among other things, its setting: a modern Confederate plantation and  in the 1963 film “Gone Are the Days!,” an adaptation of “Purlie Victorious,”, as well as, the 1967 film “The Incident.”

ruby13n-1-webThe actress first made her mark on the smallscreen in a 1963 episode of “The Doctors and the Nurses,” drawing her first Emmy nomination. During the 1960s she had recurring roles on “Peyton Place” and daytime soap “Guiding Light” while guesting on other programs.

Dee won an Obie and Drama Desk Award in 1971 for her starring role opposite James Earl Jones in the original Off Broadway production of Athol Fugard’s “Boesman and Lena.” She won another Drama Desk in 1973 for her work Off Broadway in Alice Childress’ “Wedding Band.” She played Gertrude in a 1975 Shakespeare in the Park production of “Hamlet” that starred Sam Waterston.

On the bigscreen, Dee appeared in the Davis-directed “Black Girl” in 1972; she starred with Davis in the Davis-penned and -helmed 1976 film “Cool Red,” whose tagline was “A Dynamite Story of African Revolution!” Other films Dee  starred in were with Poitier and Harry Belafonte in Poitier’s “Buck and the Preacher", the  telepic “It’s Good to Be Alive,” about Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella’s recovery from a tragic accident and Spike Lee’s controversial “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.”.

Bp8ZUobCEAAbXHBDee picked up Emmy noms in 1979 for her role in “Roots: The Next Generations” and in 1988 for her part in the miniseries “Lincoln,” based on Gore Vidal’s novel. Another highlight of the period was a TV adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in which Dee starred as Mary Tyrone.   She went on to pick up an Emmy in 1991 for her performance in the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” pic “Decoration Day”, in addition to, being nominated for guest roles in 1990 on “China Beach” and in 1993 on “Evening Shade.”

The actress returned to Broadway after a long absence in 1988 with the comedy “Checkmates,” starring with Denzel Washington and Winfield.  In 2001 Dee appeared in two Off Broadway productions, “Ruby’s Eyes” and the Davis-penned “A Last Dance for Sybil.” She received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence at the 2002 edition of the Lucille Lortel Awards, which recognize achievements in Off Broadway theater.

In 2001 Dee and Davis shared a Grammy nomination with others for best spoken-word album for “The Complete Shakespeare Sonnets”; they won in the category in 2007 for “With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together.”

Dee and Davis were awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 1995. At the presentation of their SAG life achievement award in 2001, SAG president William Daniels said: “For more than half a century, they have enriched and transformed American life as brilliant actors, writers, directors,producers and passionate advocates for social justice, human dignity and creative excellence.”

Dee was married to Ossie Davis for 56 years and is survived by their three children: daughters Nora and Hasna and son Guy Davis, an actor, blues musician and choreographer.

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Here is a clip from her brilliant performance in A Raisin In The Sun

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2hWlfvmxos

Carla Renata

Hey My Fellow Movie Lovers...

A Bison, Virgo, devoted daughter, yoga and spinning enthusiasts, graduate of  the "mecca" - Howard University's School of Communications, former publicist, actress, branding influencer and "doggie mom" to an adorably smart-energetic maltese are just a few of the characteristics that make up the essence of me -- Carla Renata.

Formerly of UBNRAdio.com, where I Co-Hosted "On Air With Tony Sweet", this Fall, I will be hosting a new show for Black Hollywood Live owned by E! Correspondent Maria Menounos  and am a freelance contributor for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered.

I absolutely adore talking about all things cinema and it is my sincere hope that although not every opinion I have will or will not be embraced, know that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to share!  Enjoy and see you on the red carpet!!!

2014 Tony Awards Winners!!!

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Hugh Jackman is back baby and in full effect hosting the 2014 Tony Awards!!! Needless to say Neil Patrick Harris wasn't available this year between ending How I Met Your Mother and beginning rehearsals for Hedwig and the Angry Inch.Musical highlights included a number from After Midnight featuring Fantasia, Patti Labelle, Gladys Knight and Dule' Hill. Idina Menzel showed off her "pipes singing a hit from the Broadway musical IF/THEN for which she was nominated this evening and Neil Patrick Harris joined Lena Hall for a fantabulous number from Hedwing and the Angry Inch introduced by RuPaul.

Hugh Jackman, LL Cool J and T.I. doing a rap version the The Music Man....hmmmm.

Jennifer Hudson sang her face-off with the title song from a new musica coming to Broadway called "Neverland".

Here is a list of the big winners and a clip from the show stopping opening number...

Best Play “All the Way" Originating at the Oregon Shakespeare FEstival and championed by Tony winner Diane Paulus was the big winner of a play centering around Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Best Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Best Revival of a Play “A Raisin in the Sun”

Best Revival of a Musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Best Book of a Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre “The Bridges of Madison County”

Best Play “All the Way”

Best Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play Bryan Cranston, “All the Way” After all his success and multipleEmmy wins on "Breaking Bad", started his speech recounting sneaking into the theater to see the second act o f "Hair". To this day he still hasn't seen the second act...lol

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” Making history winning her 6th Tony Award cried her way through her speech thanking her deceased parents for letting their hyperactive daughter explore her creativity. Thanked Lena Horne, Ruby Dee, Diahann Carroll and Bille Holiday for letting her stand on their shoulders.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical Neil Patrick Harris, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Winning his first Tony gave a shout out to the entire production team and his parents.

I particularly loved watching Carole King sing with her musical theater alter ego Jessie Mueller and seeing more "people of color" than ever in the new revival of Les Miserables.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical Jessie Mueller, “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” After doing the running man in her gown with host Hugh Jackman won her first Tony. With hand shaking thanked EVERYONE, especially Carole King.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play Mark Rylance, “Twelfth Night”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play Sophie Okonedo, “A Raisin in the Sun” Won her first Tony gave a shout out to the Broadway community for being so warm and welcoming. She also gave homage to her ancestry of being Jewish, Nigerian and British

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical James Monroe Iglehart, “Aladdin” Winning his first Tony Award gave a stellar performance of "You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like Me". Gave shout out to Disney, saying saying he has wanted to work for them since he was 10 years old" and then kept it real by doing the "praise dance". Love him!!!!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical Lena Hall, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Loved that she gave a shout out to her sister for doing her hair...lol. "Friendship is magic"

Best Scenic Design of a Play Beowulf Boritt, “Act One” Dedicated his Tony to his grandmother...a fellow scenic designer

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Christopher Barreca, “Rocky”

Best Costume Design of a Play Jenny Tiramani, “Twelfth Night”

Best Costume Design of a Musical Linda Cho, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Best Lighting Design of a Play Natasha Katz, “The Glass Menagerie”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical Kevin Adams, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Best Sound Design of a Play Steve Canyon Kennedy, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”

Best Sound Design of a Musical Brian Ronan, “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical”

Best Direction of a Play Kenny Leon, “A Raisin in the Sun” Winning his first Tony Award...said Denzel, Denzel, Denzel is truly an inspiration and thanked his Mom. He went on to say, ..."I look forward to the day when every child in American can have a little theatre in their lives"

Best Direction of a Musical Darko Tresnjak, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” Winning his first Tony Award...thanked his artistic home The Hartford Stage and his Mom (who was a skydiver in WW II)

Best Choreography Warren Carlyle, “After Midnight”

Best Orchestrations Jason Robert Brown, “The Bridges of Madison County”

http://youtu.be/_YRAHf19hO8

The Tony Awards: Throwback to Avenue Q vs Wicked

6608_1176605568035_4071229_nI took one of my annual trips to NYC and chose to see two shows - The Boy From Oz and Avenue Q.  Watching The Boy From Oz, I  remembered having seen Hugh Jackman twice in Australia, in Oklahoma and Sunset Boulevard.  However, his performance in TBFO was the stuff star performances are made of.  Like most of the audience members I encountered on tour and on Broadway with Avenue Q, I thought I was going to see something Sesame Street or Muppet related.  Being a huge fan as a child, I was gleefully surprised when I discovered that this show was kind of like "Sesame Street for Adults".  I laughed 'til I cried and had no idea that almost a year to the day I would be playing Gary Coleman in this Tony Award winning musical. While "Q" was in production to open on Broadway, a documentary (Show Business:  The Road to Broadway) was filmed to chronicle their journey from workshop to the Tony's along with Wicked, Caroline or Change and Taboo and resulted in a very healthy rivalry between Wicked and Avenue Q for the race to win Best Musical.  In honor of the Tony Awards broadcast today, here is a look back at all drama that ensued Broadway that fateful season...

I also want to give a shout out to friends and nominees Adrian Lenox (After Midnight), Anika Noni Rose (A Raisin In The Sun), Sutton Foster (Violet), Anika Larsen (Beautiful : The Carole King Musical), Idina Menzel (IF/THEN), Howell Binkley (After Midnight), Alan Menken (Aladdin), Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County), Michael Mayer (Hedwig and the Angry Inch),  Audra McDonald (Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill), Steve Kennedy (Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill)...Congratulations and Break a leg to all!!!!

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#TB Tonys - 30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #1 - AVENUE Q Vs. WICKED http://ow.ly/xLkBY