Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Black History Month "Pearl Bailey"

Pearl Mae Bailey was an  American black actress and singer. After appearing in vaudeville, she made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946. She won a Tony Award for the title role in the all-black production of Hello, Dolly! in 1968. Born in Southampton County in southeastern Virginia  to Ella Mae Ricks and Joseph Bailey, and reared in the Bloodfields neighborhood of Newport News, Virginia. Pearl  made her stage-singing debut at age 15. She began by singing and dancing in Philadelphia’s black nightclubs in the 1930s. This was on the suggestion of her brother Bill Bailey that  she enter an amateur contest at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia. She won the amateur song-and-dance contest and was later offered a job there for 35 dollars a week but the show closed in the middle of the engagement and she never go paid, She later entered another contest at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem New York City. From there she decide to pursue a career in entertainment. During world war two Pearl  toured the country with the USO, performing for American troops. After the tour, she settled in New York. Her solo successes as a nightclub performer were followed by acts with such entertainers as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. In 1946, Bailey made her formal Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman. and continued to tour and record albums in between her stage and screen performances. Early in the television medium, Bailey guest starred on CBS's Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town. In 1954 her film credits were quite impressive she took the role of Frankie in the film version of Carmen Jones, and her rendition of "Beat Out That Rhythm on the Drum" is one of the highlights of the film. Other credits include  the role of Maria in the film version of Porgy and Bess, starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. the role of "Aunt Hagar" in the movie St. Louis Blues, alongside Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, and Nat King Cole. She starred in the Broadway musical House of Flowers. During the 1970s she had her own television show, and she also provided voices for animations such as Tubby the Tuba (1976) and Disney's The Fox and the Hound (1981). She returned to Broadway in 1975, playing the lead in an all-black production of Hello, Dolly!. She earned a B.A. in theology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in 1985, at age 67. She married jazz drummer Louie Bellson in London on November 19, 1952. A republican, she was awarded the Bronze Medallion (New York City award. In her later years Bailey wrote several books: The Raw Pearl (1968), Talking to Myself (1971), Pearl's Kitchen (1973), and Hurry Up America and Spit (1976). In 1975 she was appointed special ambassador to the United Nations by President Gerald Ford. Her last book, Between You and Me (1989), details her experiences with higher education.rd) in 1968 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 17, 1988. Pearl passed away at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia on August 17, 1990. 
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