People tend to say the same two things about Dorothy Dandridge (“She was so beautiful!” “Her life was so tragic!”) Well, she was definitely beautiful (by most counts on the inside and out) and she did endure tough challenges in her life, but she was also a relentless hard worker. When she was not rehearsing for one of her nightclub performances, she was studying acting and dance and constantly working to create more opportunities for herself in Hollywood. At one point in the 1950s, she teamed up with Nat “King” Cole to pitch a television series where they would play a married couple (“small time” entertainers trying to catch a break in show business). It is our loss that they were turned down all over town (can you imagine watching clips of that today?!) In this photo, Ms. Dandridge is rehearsing with the great composer, arranger and vocal coach Phil Moore in March 1951. Mr. Moore also coached, arranged and/or wrote songs for Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Pearl Bailey, Ava Gardner, Diahann Carroll, Johnny Mathis and The Supremes.
The brilliant dancer, choreographer and activist, Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), performing her work, “Afrique,” circa 1962. Ms. Dunham formed Ballet Nègre, one of the first black ballet companies in the United States in 1930 and, along with African dance, studied dances from Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti as a part of her anthropological fieldwork. She studied at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1936. Photo: Roger Wood, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Back in 2008, before Lupita Nyong’o attended the Yale School of Drama, she starred in “Shuga.” Shuga was a Viacom production aired on MTV Kenya. Check out the first full episode of Shuga set in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi.
Nyong’o plays Ayira, a waitress hustling to rise up the social ladder — and we do mean hustling. The series was part of MTV Kenya’s Staying Alive Ignite! initiative, a series of shows and announcements that tried to take sex in the age of the African AIDS crisis seriously. Here, Nyong’o’s character flirts with whomever she wants, whenever she wants, using her brains and beauty to create a better life for herself. The character verges on unsympathetic, which is thrilling to watch
Today I saw Dead Man (1995, jimjarmusch) I miss old school, underground, trying-to-distance-himself-from-21-Jump-Street Johnny Depp. I love that Jarmusch makes films that only he could make. Really liked the score, which was played live by Neil Young as he watched the footage. My attention wavered a lot but it always came back.