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Fredi Washington, African American actress of Classic Films and Theater

I was thinking somberly on the occasion of the anniversity of the assassination of MLK Jr. yesterday.  Was reminded of Fredi Washington, a figure of the Harlem Rennaissance and beyond.  She played the daughter who denied her ethnicity in the 1930's version of "Imitation of Life" (not the Lana Turner version-- I think it was the one with Claudette Colbert.)

 

The irony is, in real life Fredi Washington could have "passed" for white in films, but firmly declined to do so.  She had light brown hair and blue-gray eyes.  In the eyes of the industry, she was too "light" to play a black person, but it would have been "controversial" to play a white person.

 

Even though she was considered an excellent actress in the theater and films, no doubt her career was limited by her honest decision to be herself.

 

Has anyone here seen her in films other than "Imitation of Life"?

 

By contrast, it has been I think established that Ava Gardner was mixed race, that her family came from a group in North Carolina that was mixed white, black, and native American.  Melungeon?  Lumbee?  I can't remember the proper name for this well-known regional ethnicity...

 

 

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Re: Fredi Washington, African American actress of Classic Films and Theater

I didn't know her, but just googled her, she  was absolutely gorgeous!!!!!! Just beautiful.......That is also interesting about Ava Gardner too......

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Re: Fredi Washington, African American actress of Classic Films and Theater

The first time I saw her was in the original version of Imitation of Life, I think I heard that about Ava Gardner as well which wouldn't be surprising; both women were naturally beautiful and the camera loved them.

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Re: Fredi Washington, African American actress of Classic Films and Theater

Yes, there's a whole fascinating story about early Hollywood and how some actors felt they had to hide their ethnicity, sadly.  The example that is always used is Merle Oberon, whose mother was from India, and so Merle was Eurasian.  She was another incredible beauty and lovely actress-- such a shame that she was "in hiding".

 

Humphrey Bogart may not have known during his lifetime about some of his ancestors, but he came from a patrician New York family that included a prominent family named something like van Salee (?) not sure of the name, but they had African ancestry and were originally Muslim.  The same family contributed to Jacqueline Bouvier's family tree, and not sure if she was aware of that either...

 

There has been persistent discussion that Clark Gable may have been of black, native American and white background;  That's the one claim that I've not seen truly verified, but who knows?  The talk may have been amplified because he was so furious on the set of "Gone With the Wind" that black actors were being accomodated differently than white actors.  He insisted that there be no difference in their treatment.

 

Pretty much everybody agrees, Clark was a good guy!