Vale: Diahann Carroll

Pioneering US actress Diahann Carroll, best known for Julia and Dynasty, has died.

Pioneering US actress Diahann Carroll, best known for Julia and Dynasty, has died, aged 84.

She died at at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer.

Carroll was the first African American woman to star in her own TV series, Julia, from 1968 – 1971.

Premiering at the height of the civil rights struggle, Julia, with its decidedly apolitical, middle class heroine, was attacked by militants for being too lenient to the white community. But Carroll persevered, and the series proved popular in its three-season run, opening doors to other series led by African Americans.

“I really didn’t believe that this was a show that was going to work,” she once said. “I thought it was something that was going to leave someone’s consciousness in a very short period of time. I thought, ‘Let them go elsewhere.’

“We were saying to the country, ‘We’re going to present a very upper middle-class black woman raising her child, and her major concentration is not going to be about suffering in the ghetto.'”

Carroll made her TV debut on The Red Skelton Show following a Broadway career and appeared on other variety programs fronted by Steve Allen, Garry Moore, Jack Paar and Danny Kaye, as well as on The Ed Sulivan Show.

As the sultry fashionista Dominique Deveraux — the first prominently featured African American character on a primetime soap opera — Carroll played a much edgier character for three seasons of Dynasty and its spinoff The Colbys, delightfully dueling with fellow diva Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins).

Her other TV credits included Peter Gunn, Naked City, From the Dead of Night, Roots: The Next Generation, A Different World, Lonesome Dove: The Series, Grey’s Anatomy, Diary of a Single Mom, and White Collar.

Films included Paris Blues, Goodbye Again, Hurry Sundown, The Split, Claudine -becoming only the fourth black actress to be nominated for the best actress Oscar- The Five Heartbeats, Eve’s Bayou, Peeples and documentary 1 a Minute.

There were also recordings and nightclub appearances.

Carroll was inducted into the US Television Hall of Fame in 2011.

Source: Variety, Hollywood Reporter

5 Responses

  1. i too remember watching reruns of this show on TV as a child. I probably did not see another African American person on tv at all other than her. “Julia, with its decidedly apolitical, middle class heroine,..
    i actually think maybe that’s exactly what made it work, as in all demographics tuned in to see an ordinary woman who happened to be black, just going about her life as a nurse & mother. Diahann being easy on the eye would no doubt have helped too.

  2. Your first word says it all David, Pioneering. Diahann paved the way for two generations of actors. She was a beautiful presence on screen . I recall watching ‘Julia’ whilst home sick as a child. She was quite the panacea.

  3. Yes, Diahann Caroll certainly provided a positive message for her American audiences as well as for African Americans and lets not forget those who were her fans overseas too, it provides a good message even today with the return of the American social underclass to some recent American shows where Mexican/Russian drug cartels, gangsters and crime ridden ethnic communities and rabid racism become the focal point of police procedure stories. Bill Cosby was also criticised when his career was at it’s peek during the 80’s for his middle class lifestyle comedy.

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