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Richards, Beah (1920–2000)

stage role film speaks

RICHARDS, BEAH (1920–2000). Actress, writer. She was born Beulah Richardson in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She graduated from Dillard University in 1948 and decided to leave the segregated South to pursue acting. Her initial training at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego helped prepare her for a 50 year career that would combine stage, movies, and television, while often playing feisty character roles and strong matriarchs. She moved to New York City in the early 1950s to take on the grandmother role in the stage production of Take a Giant Step , and reprised her role in the 1959 film version. Richard’s screen debut was as a maid in The Mugger , 1958. She received Emmy Awards for her guest appearances on CBS’s Frank’s Place , 1988, and ABC’s The Practice , 2000. She received an Oscar nomination for supporting actress for her role as Mrs. Prentiss in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner , 1968. Other film roles include Hurry Sundown , 1966; In the Heat of the Night , 1967; and The Great White Hope , 1970. Television guest appearances include ER, The Bill Cosby Show , and Roots: The Next Generation . Further stage work includes James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner , and a Lincoln Center revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes . She has written three books: One is a Crowd, A Black Woman Speaks , and A Black Woman Speaks and Other Poems . Adapting her writings for the stage, she went on tour with An Evening with Beah Richards . Her last film role was in Beloved , 1998. Richards received the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and was once married to artist Hugh Harrell. Actress Lisa Gay Hamilton has produced and directed Beah: A Black Woman Speaks , 2003; a documentary on Beah Richards’ life and achievements.

Filmography: The Miracle Worker , 1962; Gone Are the Days! , 1963; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner , 1967; A Dream for Christmas , 1973; Roots: The Next Generation , 1979; A Christmas Without Snow , 1980; Sophisticated Gents , 1981; As Summers Die , 1986; Acceptable Risks , 1986; Drugstore Cowboy , 1989; Inside Out , 1991; Beloved , 1998.

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