On this day in 2000, Halle Berry wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her portrayal of the actress Dorothy Dandridge in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Dandridge, the star of 1954’s Carmen Jones, was the first African-American performer to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actress category. In 2002, Berry became the first African American to win the Best Actress Oscar, for her performance in Monster’s Ball.
Dorothy Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, she performed in a touring act with her sister. Her feature film career began in the mid-1930s. While she made a number of movies, her roles were fairly limited due to her race. In 1954, Dandridge appeared in the movie musical Carmen Jones, which was directed by Otto Preminger and featured an all-black cast that included Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll. Dandridge received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the title role. (At the time, only one African American woman had ever received an Academy Award: Hattie McDaniel won in the Best Supporting Actress category for 1939’s Gone with the Wind.) Dandridge lost the Oscar to Grace Kelly, who won that year for her performance in The Country Girl. Dandridge endured a number of tragedies in her personal life and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. She died on September 8, 1965, at the age of 42, from an accidental drug overdose.
Dandridge was largely forgotten by the entertainment industry until the 1980s, when prominent black actresses began to speak publicly about her legacy. In 1999, Halle Berry portrayed Dandridge in the HBO biopic. Berry, who was born on August 14, 1966, in Cleveland, Ohio, is a former beauty queen whose breakout film role was her portrayal of a drug addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991). She went on to star in such movies as Losing Isaiah (1995), Bulworth (1998), X-Men (2000), Die Another Day (2002) and Gothika (2003). Berry received the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the wife of an executed murderer in Monster’s Ball (2001), co-starring Billy Bob Thornton. She remains the only African-American actress to win the award.