This Day in Black History: Jan. 23, 2000

Portraying legendary actress Dorothy Dandridge in the biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge was for Halle Berry an opportunity to pay homage to the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. It also provided a major boost to Berry’s career in the form of the industry’s most prestigious awards. On Jan. 23, 2000, she won the Golden Globe Award for best actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television.

The role also earned her a Primetime Emmy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an NAACP Image Award. In addition, Berry was a co-producer of the HBO project and fought to ensure it got made.

Dandridge’s Oscar nomination was for her leading role in Carmen Jones. Although she lost to actress Grace Kelly, it seemed like the start of something big, including the cover of Life magazine. Racism, however, prevented Dandridge from achieving the roles and acclaim many believe she deserved.

“If I were Betty Grable, I could capture the world,” she told the New York Times.

Instead, her only other comparable role was that of Bess opposite Sidney Poitier in Porgy and Bess.
Dandridge also was challenged by two failed marriages, the birth of a severely handicapped child who required 24-hour care and significant financial difficulties that led to a nervous breakdown. She was found dead in her home on Sept. 8, 1965, from a barbiturate overdose and reportedly had just $2 in her bank account.

“You have to find a way to be sad on every day, in every scene, in every moment. And always try to hide the sadness. And (then) you’ll get the essence of who she was,” Berry said in her Golden Globe acceptance speech.

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