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Fluellen, Joel (1911–1991)

actor’s hollywood screen town

FLUELLEN, JOEL (1911–1991). Actor, activist. This renowned character actor of stage and screen was born in Monroe , Louisiana . When a racial incident in town jeopardized his safety, a young Fluellen hopped a freight train to Chicago , and eventually migrated to New York . After becoming involved in the theater, he was invited out to Hollywood by Louise Beavers who was impressed after seeing his stage work. As a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild (S. A. G.) beginning in 1937, he started out as an extra earning $7.50 a day. He later became a member of the Actor’s Lab in Los Angeles . After 10 years with the Actor’s Lab, he formed the Negro Art Theater . Fluellen drafted one of the first resolutions at S. A. G. that demanded better treatment and more opportunities for its black members and was later labeled "guilty by association" and placed on the infamous Hollywood Blacklist during the 1950s McCarthy Era. To get through this difficult time, he supported himself by making and selling ceramic pottery and custom-made hats, doing interior decorating, and running his own catering business. Fluellen also served as Paul Robeson ’s personal driver whenever he came to town. His major film work includes roles in Porgy and Bess , 1958; A Raisin in the Sun , 1961; The Learning Tree , 1969; and The Great White Hope , 1970. He spearheaded the push to get his good friend Dorothy Dandridge a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and succeeded with the help and support of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Fluellen was at one time married to early screen icon Nina Mae McKinney.

Filmography: The Jackie Robinson Story , 1950; Porgy and Bess , 1958; Run Silent, Run Deep , 1958; A Raisin in the Sun , 1961; The Learning Tree , 1969; The Great White Hope , 1970; A Dream for Christmas , 1973; Man Friday , 1975.

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