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Author Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS WARRIOR - Harry Belafonte  (Read 92 times)
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« on: June 23, 2008, 10:33:15 pm »

He studied drama in a New York group that included Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger and Walter Matthau and was soon taking his first steps to becoming America's first black superstar. At a time when blacks in the south could not eat at the same food counters or sit on the same bus seats as whites, in 1953 he broke through the race barrier to win a Tony award for his role in the Broadway play Almanac. His singing had originally paid for his acting classes, but soon the music took over. When Calypso, his third album featuring his trademark song Banana Boat Song (Day-O), was released in 1956, it was No 1 for 31 weeks and became the first LP to sell more than a million copies. He had signed for RCA at the same time as Elvis Presley, but the Graceland lifestyle wasn't for him. "I could have made $2bn or $3bn - and ended up with some very cruel addiction - but I chose to be a civil rights warrior instead."

Belafonte was a pioneer in movies and television, too. In 1957, he appeared in Island in the Sun, in which there were

Joan Fontaine

hints at an affair between him and Joan Fontaine. A scene in which the two kissed was taken out, but even the suggestion of interracial sex caused controversy in the south. Some states talked of banning the film, and the Ku Klux Klan threatened to bomb any cinema that showed it.

Eleven years later, Petula Clark, who was at the height of her popularity, invited Belafonte to appear on a primetime television special on NBC and the two sang a duet during which Clark touched Belafonte's hand. The show's sponsor, Plymouth Motors, said the gesture would upset southern viewers and wanted it cut. But Clark owned the rights and, after talking to Belafonte, said the performance must be shown intact or not at all. It is believed to be the first time two people of different races made friendly physical contact on US television.

Off screen, Belafonte married his second wife, Julie, in 1957. A dancer and actress, she has appeared in films with him and been active in the arts and politics in her own right. In 2001, the two of them set up the Harry and Julie Belafonte Fund for HIV/Aids.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2008, 11:57:27 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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