Articles: Major Studios Shun Dandridge Bio




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Jeff Usry
Special To

  The more things change in Hollywood, the more they stay the same.

  Historically, the majority of American movies have always cast black actors in non-functional roles. However, during the past 10 years, black actors like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes have started receiving larger mainstream parts and accolades in an industry that has historically embraced segregation.

  Halle Berry, 32, (Executive Decision '96) like Jackson and Washington is an exception. Berry has the starring role in HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (Aug. 21).

  Dorothy Dandridge, like all black actors of her day, had to scratch and crawl for decent film roles in the 1940s and '50s. She was the first black woman nominated for an Oscar for best actress -- for Carmen Jones ('54).

  But have things really changed?

  Berry, who doubles as the movie's executive producer, had been pitching Dandridge's story for six years to the four major networks to no avail.

  Underling Berry's six years of "relentless" pitching, when the major networks launch their fall schedules in September, there won't be any black character leads in their prime time schedules -- a move which prompted harsh criticism from both the NAACP and Berry towards the networks.

  "You can't beat a skunk in a skunk fight," Berry told the London Free Press. "Why bang on that door and make yourself miserable? Go to where the doors are open. Go to cable. To outlets that want to have us on TV."

  Chris Albrecht, president of HBO original programming, told the London Free Press that 23 percent of HBO subscribers are African-Americans, so HBO is eager to produce shows with black appeal.

  Albrecht adds that the major networks want shows with black appeal too. However, mainstream broadcasters are in economically-challenging times, and they program to the audience they believe advertisers want -- overwhelmingly white.


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