Mary Alice should have been a household name. But she wasn't part of White Hollywood.

I first noticed Mary Alice in “Another World”. As the kind and sweet Leticia “Lettie” Bostic, Gilbert Hall’s dorm manager, she stole...

I first noticed Mary Alice in “Another World”.

As the kind and sweet Leticia “Lettie” Bostic, Gilbert Hall’s dorm manager, she stole almost every scene she was in. I’ll never forget the thrilling episode (well, it was for me when I was a kid in elementary school) when Kim Reese had unprotected sex and feared she might get pregnant. Lettie found out what had happened, and she was so exasperated that she had a moment of anger ― surprising anyone watching the show, I’m sure ― and yelled at Kim. Lettie immediately apologized for her outburst and regained her composure. She then got busy doing her job and looking after Kim, who, despite one mistake, wasn’t a bad kid.

I didn’t know that at the time; I was too busy worrying that Kim was actually pregnant (the worst possible outcome for my young brain – I didn’t know anything about STDs yet). Thinking of this scene as an adult, however, I marvel at Mary Alice’s acting. Her reach, her control, the way she expresses herself with her eyes. The way even after her apology, you can still see she’s worried.

This woman was amazing.

Alice died last week at the age of 85. Looking back at her career now, I see that she was often given scenes like this – and she crushed them every time. Alice was an amazing actress. If she were white, she would have been as sought after for roles as Meryl Streep and as Oscar nominated as Cate Blanchett. She could have had a career as Dame Judi Dench, working well into her twilight years with roles that allowed her to show off her considerable talents.

But no, Mary Alice was a black woman, and even though she won a Tony, was nominated for another, and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, she rose to prominence at a time when black women, especially dark-skinned black women, were marginalized in Hollywood. And so she never got the kind of attention she deserved. Viola Davis noted many times that black women don’t have the freedom or get the same opportunities as white women. Countless great black performers fell victim to this state of affairs.

Until the 1990s, black women were excluded from mainstream success. If you were Lena Horne or Diahann Carroll, working in Hollywood at that time, the best you could do was roles in movies made by and for black people. If you got a role in a big movie, it was often a supporting role with limited space for you to show off some acting talent. Then, in the 90s, the resounding success of actors like Halle Berry and Angela Bassett allowed black women to start playing roles in mainstream movies, but not very much. There were countless black women who had the talent to star in big movies, but they always tended to be relegated to supporting roles – or, if you were fair-skinned, you might be cast as the love interest. of a white star. If you were dark-skinned, those opportunities rarely presented themselves, even in films by black filmmakers.

Cicely Tyson and Trina Parks (the first Black Bond girl) are examples of black women who most likely would have had better careers had their skin been lighter. Even Whoopi Goldberg — who won two Golden Globes, a Tony, and one of two Oscars she was nominated for — never really tasted mainstream success. She should have roles now, in her sixties. Instead, the best she could do was co-host a daytime talk show. Her acting and acting skills demand more, but she’s a black woman working in a racist Hollywood.

Mary Alice was the same way.

She was an incredibly talented performer whose career never turned out the way it should have. Alice should have had an easy path to fame after her gripping portrayal of Effie Williams in ‘Sparkle’. Failing that, she should have gotten lead roles after playing Suzie in “To Sleep with Anger.” Instead, she found work in TV movies and shows, all of which she carried with grace and poise. She had what it took to be a star, but she was forced to watch less talented white artists rise to fame while she was left behind.

Alice worked steadily from the mid-1970s until 2005, when she retired. The biggest crime of it all was that her highest-profile film role, closest to mainstream success, was playing the Oracle in “The Matrix Revolutions,” a role played by the late Gloria Foster in previous “Matrix” episodes. “. The Wachowskis saw in Alice what other white filmmakers never did. They knew she had the gravity and the grace to play such an important role. And honestly, she’s the best thing about this movie. Looking back on her performance, it’s shocking to think that was her last film role. Mary Alice deserved better.

White people reading this might have to google her to find out who she is. But I’m willing to bet black people at least know his face, even if they don’t know his name. She was, as Michael Harriot defined the term, blackfamous.

We’ve known her from “Beat Street” to “Malcolm X” and everything in between. And many, of course, will remember her from “A Different World” — a show she disappeared from, with little explanation, after season two.

It seems to be a running theme among black women in Hollywood: they’re there long enough to hold a space, to disappear just before we can remember their name. Mary Alice was an actress whose talents demanded a better career. Hollywood just couldn’t make room for him.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Mary Alice should have been a household name. But she wasn't part of White Hollywood.
Mary Alice should have been a household name. But she wasn't part of White Hollywood.
Newsrust - US Top News
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