Women and Mixed Race Representation in Film

Eight Star Profiles

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About the Book

This book uses a black/white interracial lens to examine the lives and careers of eight prominent American-born actresses from the silent age through the studio era, New Hollywood, and into the present century: Josephine Baker, Nina Mae McKinney, Fredi Washington, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Lonette McKee, Jennifer Beals and Halle Berry. Combining biography with detailed film readings, the author fleshes out the tragic mulatto stereotype, while at the same time exploring concepts and themes such as racial identity, the one-drop rule, passing, skin color, transracial adoption, interracial romance, and more. With a wealth of background information, this study also places these actresses in historical context, providing insight into the construction of race, both onscreen and off. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Valerie C. Gilbert has researched for more than 15 years in preparation for writing this book. She is a graduate of the University of Washington’s BFA program in photography, and MA program in communication. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Valerie C. Gilbert
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 302
Bibliographic Info: 54 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6338-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4473-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction 3
1. Josephine Baker: From Exotic Savage to Creole Queen 13
2. Nina Mae McKinney: Dichotomy of a Hollywood Black Woman 39
3. Fredi Washington: Paradox of Black Identity 66
4. Lena Horne: Separate and Unequalled 89
5. Dorothy Dandridge: ­Star-Crossed Crossover Star 134
6. Lonette McKee: Mixed Race Heroine Remix 160
7. Jennifer Beals: White But Not Quite 195
8. Halle Berry: Imitation of Dorothy Dandridge 217
Chapter Notes 257
Bibliography 279
Screen Title Index 281
Subject Index 285

Book Reviews & Awards

This is an in-depth and fascinating study of the treatment of multiracial people in American society, as seen in the careers of the actresses Josephine Baker, Jennifer Beals, Halle Berry, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Lonette McKee, Nina Mae McKinney, and Fredi Washington. Gilbert spent more than 15 years working on this book, and her extensive research is apparent on every page. Each actress profile combines a biographical sketch and a thorough and perceptive discussion of each woman’s career as it was influenced or directed by their race. Gilbert’s work goes far beyond a nuanced celebrity profile; she also offers a clear picture of the ever-changing nature of race and racism in the United States over the last 100 years. In the #MeToo era, as American society increasingly confronts the needs for social and cultural transparency and justice for the marginalized, works like these are important links to the history of American biases and prejudices along gender and racial lines. VERDICT An excellent and thought-provoking look at racial representation on screen and in American society. –Library Journal