Now that was a premiere.
Theresa Harris with Barbara Stanwyck in the 1933 pre-code film, “Baby Face.” Ms. Harris (1909-1985) played a series of maids to nearly every major Hollywood star of the time from Bette Davis and Jean Harlow to Ginger Rogers and Esther Williams. In “Baby Face,” Ms. Stanwyck (1907-1990) played Lily Powers, an ambitious golddigger who later questions her ways (A little bit… Hollywood censors did some tweaking…). Ms. Harris played her best friend and “maid” Chico, who is with her every step of the way as she climbs the ladder of success, one man (or two) at a time. Ms. Harris also was the inspiration behind Lynn Nottage’s play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.” I never post about Theresa Harris without including the haunting quote from her I found in Donald Bogle’s book, “Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood. Bogle described her as “both outspoken and highly intelligent” and noted that she “didn’t mince words about the plight of colored actresses. She told Fay M. Jackson, of the California Eagle in August 1937: “I never felt the chance to rise above the role of maid in Hollywood movies. My color was against me. The fact that I was not ‘hot’ stamped me as either an uppity ‘Negress’ or relegated me to the eternal role of stooge or servant. I can sing but so can hundreds of other girls. My ambitions are to be an actress. Hollywood had no parts for me.” Ms. Harris would later tell the same reporter that she enjoyed working in race movies “because In the picture I have the chance of wearing clothes.” “Clothes” as a gorgeous wardrobe that Black women usually never had a chance to wear in white movies. Photo: Warner Brothers/Photofest.