Little-Known Black History Fact: Evelyn Preer
Date: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 4:48 am
By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show
Born in 1896, Evelyn Preer was one of the first African-American actresses to transition into Hollywood films with sound. Preer had been called the hardest-working woman in show business.
After convincing her stern, religious mother to let her study acting, Preer was discovered by the "father of black film," Oscar Micheaux. She landed her first big appearance in Micheaux’s film "The Homesteader," which was about a depressed black wife whose husband left her for a mulatto woman he believed to be white. After her remarkable performance, Preer would be cast in serious roles, uncharacteristic of black women in film of the time. She would become part of the renowned Lafayette Players acting troupe.
Preer's success as an actress led her to productions where she performed with Duke Ellington and Ethel Waters. By the 1920s, she was a crossover actress, breaking onto the big screens of white theaters, while still making history on Broadway. Preer was the first actress to star in a black non-musical play for Broadway, "The Chip Woman's Fortune." Micheaux and Paul Robeson simply called her "the best."
Race relations were tough in the entertainment business for Preer. In some films, she would only be allowed to be the voice of white actresses singing in white films. Yet, due to her light complexion, she would have to wear dark make-up in some performances so the audience would know she was black.
Preer met her husband Edward Thompson when they were both acting with the Lafayette Players in Chicago. They married in 1924 while in Nashville, Tennessee.
In April 1932, Preer gave birth to her only child, a daughter Edeve Thompson. Developing post-childbirth complications, Preer died of double pneumonia on November 27, 1932 in Los Angeles, at the age of 36.
Her husband, Edward Thompson, continued as a popular leading man and "heavy" in numerous race films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. He died in 1960. Their daughter entered Catholic holy orders and is known as Sister Francesca Thompson. She is an assistant dean at Fordham University, New York.
When Preer died at age 36 from post-partum illnesses and double pneumonia in 1932, her legacy was left in a number of hit jazz records, in Hollywood films, Broadway productions and an unknown number of voice-overs of which her voice was given the face of a white actress.
|Born||Evelyn Jarvis |
July 16, 1896
Vicksburg, Mississippi, United States
|Died||November 27, 1932 (aged 36) |
Los Angeles, California, United States
(1924–1932) (her death)
(Courtesy of blackamericaweb & wikipedia)
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