Thursday, September 11, 2008
Timeless Thursday: Cicely Tyson
The very first line of certain posts can be a bit difficult for me at times. With some posts you know right away how you wanna jump in. The rest is no sweat. But that initial line, yes, it still does a number on me from time to time. The reason for that is how deeply I feel about or the individual I'm posting about or how passionately I feel about the contents of the post. This is one of those posts. I'm experiencing slight conflict as to where to start and feeling a bit pressured with regards to doing justice to the subject. There's so much that I just need to be assured that I can articulate well enough what it is that I'm feeling. But enough of this rigmarole. Cicely Tyson single-handedly made an indelible mark on television and the film industry. The most stupendous thing about it all is that she did it without flurish and fanfane of any kind. She quietly changed the face of the movie industry for women of color. I find this simply amazing to say the least. She has got the sweetest, most pleasant, warmest and humble personality. Isn't it totally astonishing that you know so very little about this woman yet she is so remarkably well known? She's not spalshed all over magazine covers, newspapers, the television or other media. She's not at every red carpet event. She's not even dishing out movies twice per year or even yearly. Yet her success and reputation precedes her wherever she goes. It would be difficult to find many persons who do not know of her or who do not admire and respect the journey and accomplishment she has made throughout her career. Moreover, her success is not based on staying power; hell no! Cicely is one of the most talented actresses to have graced the screen. Her skills speak for themselves. I'm not being conceited when I claim that Cicely Tyson steals any scene that she is in. She does. When she's on screen, you don't even want to so much as blink for fear of missing anything. She is in a class all her own. She really is. She paved the way for so many, especially women of color and she did it without ever losing face. She transforms any character she's given into life. When I think of others with such immense ability, Meryl Streep and Phylicia Rashād readily come to mind. The ease with which Tyson portrays her characters is almost inconceivable. If I were to choose but one word to describe her talent, it would have to be phenominal or maybe prodigious, or astounding. Ah hell, this is not easy. I can't do it; not just one. She is too deserving of so many. Tyson was born to Theodosia and William Tyson, immigrants from a tiny island paradise in the West Indies/Caribbean of Nevis (the twin-island of Saint Kitts and Nevis) on December 19, 1933 and has some 79 film/TV appearances to her credit. She is famous for taking on substantive roles that portray the tremendous strength of women of color. She has portrayed the late Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and Harriett Ross Tubman. Tyson herself has made it known that these are the kinds of roles she's dedicated to accepting/portraying. Her film career spans from 1957 to present. She is best known for her roles in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Roots and King. Her debut movie appearance was in Carib Gold (a film that she has not been credited for). At age 74 (she'll be 75 in just under 3 months) Tyson is still blazing a trail on the big screen as is evidenced by her most recent flims Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Madea's Family Reunion (2006) and Idlewild (2006). Her latest movie Relative Stranger is in post-production phase and no release date has yet been given. The movie also Dana Davis of Heroes fame and Michael Michele of ER fame. In her early years, before taking on acting a photographer for Ebony magazine discovered her and she soon became a popular fashion model. Early television roles included the celebrated East Side/West Side series and the long-running soap opera The Guiding Light. Tyson then became one of the original cast members of Jean Genet's The Blacks in 1961. The Blacks became the longest running Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade with 1,408 performances. The original cast also featured James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Jr., Godfrey Cambridge, Maya Angelou and Charles Gordone. Her career has yielded some 18 award wins with an additional 19 nominations. The wins include: 2 Black Reel Awards for Best Supporting Actress for her roles in The Rosa Parks Story (2002) and A Lesson Before Dying (1999), 3 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special for Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994), Actress of the Year - Special for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) and Best Lead Actress in a Drama for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). Five Image Awards, 1 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, 1 Lone Star Film & Television Award, 1 National Board of Review, USA Award and 1 National Society of Film Critics Award, USA. On 21 August 1997 she received a Star on the The Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was the recipient of the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1982 and in 2005 she was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball. Other accomplishments: Is one of only 7 African-American actresses to receive the Best Actress Oscar nomination. The others in chronological order are: Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett and Halle Berry. The Cicely Tyson High School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, New Jersey was named in her honor. In 1972 she and singer-actress Diana Ross were both nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscars for their performances in Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and Sounder (1972) respectively. This was only the second time in the history of the Academy Awards that African American actresses were nominated in the Best Actress Oscar category. The first was Dorothy Dandridge's nomination for Carmen Jones (1954). Honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem with Arthur Mitchell. Cicely Tyson is as timeless as they come; you really don't get much more timeless than that. I sincerely hope that my attempt at paying tribute to this stalwart has done her justice if even in the slightest. My heart is warmed at the thought of having accomplished that. Incredibly amazing doesn't even begin to describe the woman that you are. I'm honored and at the same time humbled to have had the privilege of attempting to salute you in post.