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*Georgette Harvey was born on this date in 1884. She was a Black actress.
From St. Louis, MO, as a little girl with a coffee-brown complexion and a deep contralto voice, she found singing in the church choir and the compliments of the elders and sisters of that church a little tame. So Harvey went “bad” and became a theatrical performer. In the early 20th century, there was still an attitude attached to such activities; no respectable female would associate with show folks. They were all of the loose morals. They walked home alone at night. They exhibited themselves for money. They showed their ankles (clad in silk at that), and they used rouge.
Harvey had definite ideas about the world's ways and worked her way to New York. When she arrived, the Negro had reached new heights of popularity on the stage. Marshall’s was catering to a Brown Bohemian world, most of which was either then or later to become famous. Williams and Walker, Aida Overton, Abbie Mitchell, James R. Europe, and Ella Madison were celebrated personalities. In her mind and determination, Georgette was already adding her name to the list.
She organized a group of six girls, and they did a song and dance turn of very high sorts. She played Snow White in a dramatic production, and as she sang, her exceptional voice was recognized. She and her five girls went abroad to England, France, Germany, Belgium, and then back to America. Vaudeville had become an accepted form of American entertainment by then; she and her troupe soon became known and in demand. She administered with an iron and an autocratic hand.
So by 1911, she was the leader of an exceptionally fine group of singers. Each of whom, besides working perfectly in chorus with the rest, was a soloist. It was about this time that she returned to Europe to even greater glories than before, to the various halls of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Scandinavian countries. Harvey and her troupe became favorites of the people who mattered, rare and exotic delicacies to be savored only by the noble palate. Harvey was an excellent businesswoman. She took full advantage of the exciting strangeness that her color and that of her troupe afforded this sybaritic elite.
She had her American solo debut on stage on Oct. 10, 1927. In American cinema, she played Old Mandy in the 1934 movie Chloe, Love Is Calling You, and as LuLu in Social Register. She is perhaps most famous for creating the role of Maria in the original 1935 Broadway production of George Gershwin`s opera Porgy and Bess. Other roles she had in Cinema were 1939 Back Door to Heaven, where she played Mrs. Hamilton, and as a Maid in The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair Harvey’s last performance was in Lost in the Stars, an original, musical, tragedy that ran from Oct 30, 1949, to July 1, 1950. Georgette Harvey died on Feb 17, 1952, in New York, NY.
Writings of Richard B. Nugent
Ca. 1939, (Written for the Federal Writers’ Project.