Beah Richards photo

Beah Richards

Birth name:
Beulah Richardson
Date of Birth:
14 September 1920 Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA
Beah Richards left her native Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA for New York City in 1950. She would not acquire a significant role on stage until 1955 when she appeared in the off-Broadway show "Take A Giant Step" where she convincingly portrayed an eighty-four-year-old grandmother, without using theatrical makeup. In 1962 she appeared in writer James Baldwin's "The Amen Corner" directed by the noted actor/director/activist Frank Silvera who told Richards "Don't act, just be." She credited Silvera with helping her further develop the subtlety and quiet dignity that distinguished all of her performances. A prolific actress, poet, and playwright, her first authored play was "All's Well that Ends" that delved into the issues of racial segregation. Always ahead of her time, she defined herself as "Black" when the term "Negro" was the preferred ethnic/racial label of Black Americans. Richards would bring her salutary satisfaction with being "Black" and her immense acting talents to the role of the peacemaking mother in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), a role for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Additionally, she appeared in "Purlie Victorious" by Ossie Davis and "The Little Foxes" by Lillian Hellman. In 1988 she won an Emmy Award for her performance in "Frank's Place" (1987). Although stricken with emphysema, she delivered a tour-de-force performance on the ABC legal drama "The Practice" (1997) in 2000; she was awarded an Emmy Award for her performance only a few days before her death: A fitting coda to an exemplary life and career.
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