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Theresa Harris Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (1)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (4)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Houston, Texas, USA
Died in Inglewood, California, USA  (undisclosed)
Nickname The Beautiful Maid
Height 5' 2" (1.57 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Theresa Harris appeared with more stars of the Golden Era of Hollywood than anyone else. She sang, she danced, she appeared in movies and TV. She graced the screen with her magnetic presence and most times stole scenes from the top stars of the day every chance she got and made a lot of dull films worthwhile. Although stereotyped by receiving only maid roles, Theresa stepped outside the stereotype any chance she got, to show she was glamorous, classy, beautiful, and a true actress. While she often played maids, she always showed dignity, grace, and demanded respect. Theresa didn't exactly fit the mammy/maid stereotype fore she was a petite beauty, a stark contrast from Louise Beavers and Hattie McDaniel, and Theresa was one of the very few black women to not fit that stereotype on screen.

There were quite a few movies in which Theresa got a chance to let her light shine and make you forget her maid costume and see her as a talented actress. In the pre-Code classic Baby Face (1933), she and Barbara Stanwyck had equal screentime, which was rare between black and white actors at that time. Playing Chico, Stanwyck's friend and co-worker, Harris gave a moving and memorable performance that contributed to the film becoming one of the essentials of the classic genre. Theresa was allowed to be sexy, glamorous, and her own person, not simply a servant who jumped at her employer's every beck and call, a rarity for a black actress in a maid part in the 1930s, and a true friendship was shared between Stanwyck and Harris' characters, another rarity. In Professional Sweetheart (1933), Harris played a spunky, sexy maid who teaches Ginger Rogers a thing or two about being "hot", and ends up replacing Rogers as a singer, singing a hot song on the radio that turns on the white male listeners, another shocker and rarity at the time for a black actress. But pre-Code movies usually pushed the envelope, which shows in both 'Baby Face' and 'Professional Sweetheart'. Though Theresa played maid roles most of her movie career, she had showed moments of excellence in many other films such as Hold Your Man (1933), Black Moon (1934), Gangsters on the Loose (1937), Jezebel (1938), The Toy Wife (1938), Tell No Tales (1939), Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), Love Thy Neighbor (1940), Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Cat People (1942), and I Walked with a Zombie (1943), among others.

Theresa was a versatile talent; besides acting, she could sing beautifully and dance divinely, when she had the chance in such movies as Thunderbolt (1929), 'Baby Face', 'Professional Sweetheart', Banjo on My Knee (1936), 'Buck Benny Rides Again', What's Buzzin', Cousin? (1943), and The French Line (1953). When Theresa got the chance to show her beauty and sex appeal, it was often with her screen boyfriend, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson; they were dynamic on screen together in 'Buck Benny Rides Again' and 'What's Buzzin', Cousin?'. In the former, they sing and dance tap, classical, Spanish, and swing in a musical number, "My, My".

Theresa Harris was perhaps the hardest-working woman in Hollywood, appearing in close to 90 films, working at every major studio with most of the big stars. She was respected by studio executives, producers, directors, and co-workers alike, who sometimes went out of their way to get her more lines and screentime. Harris married a doctor and retired from the movies in the late 1950s, living comfortably after having carefully invested the money she made during her career in the films. She was a patient woman who never gave up hope that there would come a time when she would be able to play more than just maid parts. Nevertheless, in every role, she displayed class, dignity, beauty, and true acting talent, not simply the old stereotypes associated with black actors at that time.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Alicia T. (MsLadySoul@aol.com)

Family (1)

Spouse John Robinson (1933 - ?)

Trade Mark (2)

Most of her roles were uncredited
Usually played maid roles

Trivia (4)

Originally went to school to become an teacher, like her mother, and after that studied singing.
The title character in Lynn Nottage's play By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is based in part on Theresa Harris. She is portrayed by actress Sanaa Lathan.
In 1974, she was inducted into the Black Filmmaker's Hall of Fame.
Despite going uncredited in most of her film roles, she was well known to black audiences of the era. Some black theaters would feature her name on the marquee when her films were shown, rather than the names of the films' leading actors.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on the struggles she faced as a Black actress in old Hollywood] I never felt the chance to rise above the role of maid in Hollywood movies. My color was against me. The fact that I was not 'hot' stamped me as either an uppity 'Negress' or relegated me to the eternal role of stooge or servant. I can sing but so can hundreds of other girls. My ambitions are to be an actress. Hollywood had no parts for me

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