Diahann Carroll


Actor

About

Also Known As
Carol Diahann Johnson
Birth Place
Bronx, New York, USA
Born
July 17, 1935
Died
October 04, 2019

Biography

A consummate and multi-award-winning performer on film, television, record and stage, Diahann Carroll's life was marked by a series of landmark achievements for black talent, and in particular, black female talent, for over 40 years. She was the first African-American woman to win a Tony for her turn in 1961's "No Strings;" four years later, she made history again with "Julia" (NBC, 1968...

Family & Companions

Monte Kay
Husband
Casting director, TV producer. Divorced.
Sidney Poitier
Companion
Together for nine years; Poitier was married.
David Frost
Companion
Together for three years.
Fredde Glusman
Husband
Las Vegas clothier. Divorced after four months.

Bibliography

"Diahann: An Autobiography"
Diahann Carroll and Ross Firestone (1986)

Notes

"Her singing and her appearance immediately gave me the idea of starring her in a musical in which she would play a chic, sophisticated woman of the world. She would not represent a cause or be a symbol of her race, but a believeable human being, very much a part of a stratum of society that the theatre thus far had never considered for a black actress". --Richard Rodgers about writing "No Strings" for Carroll ("Musical Stages" 1975).

"And I really believe that it was important for me to do 'Agnes of God'. I think that out of 'Agnes of God' came 'Dynasty'. [Lew Erlicht, the head of ABC Entertainment] came to see me in 'Agnes of God' shortly before I closed, and when I closed I was trying to pull myself together again, because for 'Agnes' I was on stage for the entire play, and I began to watch television again, which was not my habit. And I saw 'Dynasty', and I called Aaron [Spelling] and told him that he definitely needed me. I thought it would be very wise to be the first black bitch on television, and to do it properly, not to hedge it. Make sure she was really not likeable, but quite lovely. Well, in the meeting, the gentleman who had the responsibility to say yea or nay, was the one who had seen me in 'Agnes of God'!" --Diahann Carroll in THEATERWEEK, January 1-7, 1996

Biography

A consummate and multi-award-winning performer on film, television, record and stage, Diahann Carroll's life was marked by a series of landmark achievements for black talent, and in particular, black female talent, for over 40 years. She was the first African-American woman to win a Tony for her turn in 1961's "No Strings;" four years later, she made history again with "Julia" (NBC, 1968-1971), the first series to star a black woman in a role other than a domestic servant. She was also the first African-American performer to replace a white actress in a Broadway play with "Agnes of God" in 1983 and the first to play Norma Desmond in the musical version of "Sunset Blvd." Along the way, there were countless honors for her work in television and film, as well as critically acclaimed nightclub appearances and a best-selling autobiography in 2008. Carroll's legendary body of work in nearly every entertainment medium proved her to be among the most acclaimed and more importantly, historically significant African-American entertainers in modern history.

Born Carol Diahann Johnson in the Bronx, NY on July 17, 1935, she began singing at the age of six in the churches of Harlem and began her professional career as a nightclub performer while still attending the prestigious Music and Art High School. She had gained entry into the school on a scholarship from the Metropolitan Opera that she had received at the age of ten. In fact, her voice would open doors for her throughout her career. At 15, she teamed with a friend to audition for Arthur Godfrey's popular "Talent Scouts" radio program; billed as Diahann Carroll, she won the contest and returned for a three-week engagement. The recognition led to her nightclub career, which in turn brought her to Broadway in the Truman Capote-penned musical "House of Flowers" in 1954. That same year, director Otto Preminger selected her to co-star in "Carmen Jones" opposite Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte. A second picture with Preminger - the big screen adaptation of "Porgy and Bess" (1959) - increased her profile and led to numerous singing engagements on television variety shows.

But as with most black performers of the period, Carroll found it difficult to move ahead in Hollywood. She refocused her energies on Broadway, where composer Richard Rogers had created a show expressly for her called "No Strings" (1961), which cast her as a glamorous fashion model who falls for an American novelist while living in Paris. The show earned notices for its color-blind casting - Carroll's co-star and romantic lead was white actor Richard Kiley - and for its portrayal of a black woman as a worldly sophisticate. Carroll made the part her own, and became the first African-American actress to win a Tony Award for her efforts. Two years later, she would add an Emmy nomination to her growing list of accolades for a performance on "Naked City" (ABC, 1958-1963).

Nightclub performances and guest appearances on television filled up the majority of Carroll's career in the early to mid-'60s. She also enjoyed a successful run as a recording artist with several albums of jazz and pop standards. Her stints on film remained sporadic - there was a reunion with Preminger on the overheated "Hurry Sundown" (1967) and a little-seen turn in "The Split" (1968), a Jim Brown vehicle based on a novel by Donald Westlake. Television would instead soon provide the next historic chapter in Carroll's career with "Julia."

A modest sitcom about a widowed nurse (Carroll) who juggles her career and personal life with equal amounts of poise and good cheer, "Julia" courted controversy from its very first episode. As the first television series to star a black actress in a role that did not require her to clean up after whites, it made NBC executives nervous over its potential to divide audiences along color lines. As it stood, the show was far too interested in presenting an entertaining half-hour of television to truly offend anyone - though some black audiences were rankled at Julia's lack of socio-political savvy. The show was a Top 10 hit in its debut season and won a Golden Globe in 1970. However, a drop in the ratings, combined with Carroll's weariness with off-screen debate over the series, led to her ending her contract with the network and the series' cancellation in 1971.

Carroll returned to features in 1974 as the decidedly unglamorous "Claudine" (1974), a single mother struggling to raise her children while tentatively exploring a romantic relationship with a kindly garbage man (James Earl Jones). Carroll's gritty, funny performance brought her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, but she followed this with a return to television for "The Diahann Carroll Show" (ABC, 1976). The variety program lasted less than a season, so she returned to singing while returning to TV for "Roots: The Next Generation" (ABC, 1979) and the Maya Angelou autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (CBS, 1979). In 1983, Carroll made headlines when she replaced Elizabeth Ashley in the Broadway production of "Agnes of God." Once again, Carroll was the first African-American actress to achieve such an accomplishment.

Renewed interest in Carroll over "Agnes of God" brought her back to television as its first black "bitch" (in her words) on "Dynasty" (ABC, 1981-89). Decked out in an appropriate armor of glamorous fashion, she tackled the improbable role of Dominique Deveraux, half-sister to Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) and all-around thorn in the side of the show's resident queen bee, Alexis Colby (Joan Collins). Carroll's tenure on the program ran from 1984 to 1987 and included guest spots on the short-lived "Dynasty" spin-off, "The Colbys" (ABC, 1985-87).

Touring as a solo performer and with her third husband, entertainer Vic Damone, occupied most of the 1980s and 1990s for Carroll, though there were occasional returns to acting throughout the decade. She played the socialite mother of Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy) on several episodes of the Bill Cosby-produced "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993), and donned extensive makeup to play a centenarian and Civil Rights activist in "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" (CBS, 1999). In 2000, she played Natalie Cole's mother in "Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story" (NBC, 2000), and won a 2005 Image Award for her role on Showtime's "Soul Food" (2000-04) in its third season.

Carroll made her first film appearance in nearly two decades in "The Five Heartbeats" (1991) as the wife and co-manager of the eponymous R&B vocal group. Six years later, she essayed a voodoo priestess in the critically praised independent feature "Eve's Bayou" (1997). In the midst of this flurry of activity came her historic appearance in 1995 as Norma Desmond in the Canadian production of the musical "Sunset Blvd." Carroll was again the only black actress to ever tackle the demanding role.

In 2006, Carroll began the first of many appearances on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ), starring as the overbearing mother of Isaiah Washington's Dr. Burke, which earned her an Emmy in 2008. The year 2006 also marked her return to the New York nightclub scene with a stint at Feinstein's, which earned her rave reviews and SRO audiences. The author of Diahann: The Autobiography in 1986, she penned her second memoir, The Legs Are the Last to Go in 2008. The tell-all tome reached The New York Times bestseller list that year.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky (2012)
Herself
Sing Your Song (2011)
Herself
Patricia Cornwell's The Front (2010)
Patricia Cornwell's At Risk (2010)
Livin' For Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2000)
The Courage to Love (2000)
Jackie's Back! (1999)
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (1999)
The Sweetest Gift (1998)
Mrs Wilson
Eve's Bayou (1997)
A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Lethal Lifestyle (1994)
The Five Heartbeats (1991)
Color Adjustment (1991)
Herself
Murder in Black & White (1990)
Sister, Sister (1982)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing (1979)
Vivian
Death Scream (1975)
Claudine (1974)
The Split (1968)
Ellie
Hurry Sundown (1967)
Vivian Thurlow
Goodbye Again (1961)
Singer
Paris Blues (1961)
Connie Lampson
Porgy and Bess (1959)
Clara
Carmen Jones (1955)
Myrt

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky (2012)
Other
Sing Your Song (2011)
Other
Color Adjustment (1991)
Other

Cast (Special)

TV's Most Memorable Weddings (2003)
TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV (2003)
The 34th NAACP Image Awards (2003)
Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television (2002)
Interviewee
NBC 75th Anniversary Special (2002)
Dynasty: The E! True Hollywood Story (2001)
Interviewee
Sammy Davis Jr.: The E! True Hollywood Story (2001)
Interviewee
The Trumpet Awards (2001)
Host
Intimate Portrait: Holly Robinson Peete (2000)
Narrator
Stars Over Mississippi, With Prince Edward (1999)
Dorothy Dandridge: Little Girl Lost (1999)
Porgy and Bess: An American Voice (1998)
Intimate Portrait: Diahann Carroll (1998)
Interviewee
The 29th NAACP Image Awards (1998)
Presenter
An All Star Party for Aaron Spelling (1998)
Motown 40: The Music Is Forever (1998)
Small Steps, Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood (1998)
50 Years of Television: A Celebration of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Golden Anniversary (1997)
The 50th Annual Tony Awards (1996)
Performer
The All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade (1995)
Special Appearance (Toronto)
50th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1993)
Presenter
The 47th Annual Tony Awards (1993)
Performer
19th Annual Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (1992)
Host
Sunday in Paris (1991)
Gladys Knight's Holiday Family Reunion Concert (1991)
A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1991 (1991)
Celebrate the Soul of American Music (1991)
Host
Sinatra 75: The Best Is Yet to Come (1990)
Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration (1990)
Christmas in Washington 1989 (1989)
America's Tribute to Bob Hope (1988)
Broadway Sings: The Music of Jule Styne (1987)
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1987)
The 39th Annual Emmy Awards (1987)
Performer
Golden Globe Awards (1987)
Performer
Bob Hope's All-Star Super Bowl Party (1986)
Walt Disney World's 15th Birthday Celebration (1986)
George Burns' 90th Birthday Special (1986)
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
The 37th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards (1985)
Performer
Bob Hope's Comedy Salute To the Soaps (1985)
George Burns' How to Live to Be 100 (1984)
Christmas in Washington 1982 (1982)
Guest
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Women I Love - Beautiful but Funny (1982)
Bob Hope Special: Hope, Women and Song (1980)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's All-Star Birthday Party (1979)
Telly... Who Loves Ya, Baby? (1976)
The Flip Wilson Special (1974)
Jack Lemmon -- Get Happy (1973)
20th Century Follies (1972)
The Diahann Carroll Show (1971)
Host
The Anthony Newley Show (1971)
The Man in the Moon (1960)
Crescendo (1957)
Guest

Music (Special)

Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration (1990)
Song Performer
Christmas in Washington 1989 (1989)
Song Performer
Broadway Sings: The Music of Jule Styne (1987)
Song Performer ("I Fall In Love Too Easily" "Just In Time" "Time After Time")
Walt Disney World's 15th Birthday Celebration (1986)
Song Performer ("I Can'T Get Started")

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000)
Jirimpimbira: An African Folk Tale (1995)
Narration
From the Dead of Night (1989)
Roots: The Next Generations (1979)

Life Events

1941

Began singing at age 6 with her Harlem church choir

1945

Won a scholarship from the Metropolitan Opera at age 10

1953

Won another TV talent show appearance which earned her a week's engagement at the Latin Quarter nightclub

1954

Screen debut opposite Dorothy Dandridge as the femme fatale in Otto Preminger's all-black, updated movie version of "Carmen"

1954

Broadway debut as the virginal protege of a brothel owner (played by Pearl Bailey) in the Harold Arlen-Truman Capote musical "House of Flowers"

1959

Portrayed Clara in Preminger's "Porgy and Bess," starring Sidney Poitier as Porgy and Dandridge as Bess; Pearl Bailey also starred

1961

Acted opposite Poitier in Martin Ritt's "Paris Blues"; also starred Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

1962

Won a Tony Award for her role in "No Strings"; was the only musical for which Richard Rodgers wrote both the music and lyrics

1967

Third film with director Otto Preminger, "Hurry Sundown"

1968

Starred in own NBC TV series, "Julia" (was the second African American actress to star in her own series), nominated for an Emmy Award in 1969

1974

Received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for John Berry's "Claudine"

1976

Headlined the short-lived CBS variety series, "The Diahann Carroll Show"

1982

Re-teamed with director John Berry for "Sister, Sister," an NBC TV movie scripted by Maya Angelou

1983

Returned to Broadway to star in "Agnes of God"; replaced actress, Elizabeth Ashley

1984

Joined the cast of the popular prime-time soap "Dynasty" (ABC) as Dominique Deveraux, the half-sister of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe)

1985

Reprised the role of Dominique Deveraux for the "Dynasty" spin-off "The Colbys" (ABC)

1988

Cast in a recurring role as Marion Gilbert in "A Different World"; received an Emmy nomination in 1989

1991

Returned to features in Robert Townsend's "The Five Heartbeats"

1995

Starred in the Toronto production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" (first and only African-American to play the lead role of Norma Desmond)

1997

Appeared as a voodoo priestess in "Eve's Bayou" starring Samuel L Jackson and Lynn Whitfield

1998

Acted in the Showtime movie, "The Sweetest Gift"

1999

Co-starred as Sadie Delaney in the CBS TV-movie "Having Our Say"

2000

Played Natalie Cole's mother in the NBC biopic "The Natalie Cole Story"

2003

Has a recurring role as Aunt Ruthie on the Showtime series, "Soul Food"

2006

Cast in a recurring role as the demanding mother of Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), received an Emmy nomination in 2008 for Guest Actress in a Drama

Videos

Movie Clip

Split, The (1968) -- (Movie Clip) You Never Hit Me Before Following credits in which he gets off the bus somewhere on the Pacific Coast Highway, Jim Brown (as "McClain") meets unusually big-haired Julie Harris (as "Gladys") then his ex-wife Ellie (Diahann Carroll), setting the emotional backdrop for the grim all-star caper The Split, 1968.
Split, The (1968) -- (Movie Clip) You Get The Parade SPOILER here in that the outcome of the heist and a murder are revealed, but also the introduction of Gene Hackman, about 70 minutes into the feature, as cop Brill, confronted by head thief McClain (Jim Brown), demanding to know what the cops know, in the all-star football-themed caper The Split, 1968.
Paris Blues (1961) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Take The A Train "Take The A Train" is the number with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier pretending to play in the opening to the pretty-much all Duke Ellington jazz movie Paris Blues, 1961, directed by Martin Ritt, also starring Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll.
Paris Blues (1961) -- (Movie Clip) Mood Indigo Eddie (Sidney Poitier) conducts Lillian (Joanne Woodward) and Connie (Diahann Carroll) into "Marie's Cave" where band-mate Ram (Paul Newman) sets the hook with Ellington's "Mood Indigo" in Paris Blues, 1961.
Paris Blues (1961) -- (Movie Clip) Wild Man Moore Jazz ex-pat Ram (Paul Newman) arrives to meet "Wild Man Moore" (Louis Armstrong) at the train and is pleased to encounter tourists Connie (Diahann Carroll) and Lillian (Joanne Woodward) in Martin Ritt's Paris Blues, 1961.
Claudine (1974) -- (Movie Clip) You Gonna Tell Me What's Heavy? Continuing from the opening into what must be some location in Westchester County, NY, title character Diahann Carroll arrives at her workplace and meets garbage-man "Roop" (James Earl Jones) clearly not for the first time, Bernie Barrow and Joan Kaye her employers, John Berry directing, in Claudine, 1974.
Claudine (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Vitamin F With all six kids (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs the tallest, eldest) Bronx native Diahann Carroll (title role, in her Academy Award-nominated performance) in Upper Manhattan, then on the Riverdale bus with friends (Judy Mills et al), in the first and only feature from Ossie Davis’ Third World Cinema Corp., Claudine, 1974.
Claudine (1974) -- (Movie Clip) I've Actually Avoided Success Westchester County garbage man Roop (James Earl Jones) has evacuated household worker Diahann Carroll (title character) from her bustling Manhattan apartment and six kids for their first date, his own place in Harlem not 100% ready for a guest, early in Claudine, 1974.
Claudine (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Every Tear My Mother Sheds The second visit of James Earl Jones as stable suburban garbage-man “Roop” Marshall to the Upper Manhattan home of single-mom Diahann Carroll (title character), getting a little more engaged with her kids, Yvette Curtis as second-eldest Patrice, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as protective Charles, in Claudine, 1974.

Trailer

Family

Frank Johnson
Father
Subway conductor.
Mabel Johnson
Mother
Nurse for retarded children.
Suzanne Ottilie
Daughter
Born c. 1966; father, Monte Kay.

Companions

Monte Kay
Husband
Casting director, TV producer. Divorced.
Sidney Poitier
Companion
Together for nine years; Poitier was married.
David Frost
Companion
Together for three years.
Fredde Glusman
Husband
Las Vegas clothier. Divorced after four months.
Robert DeLeon
Husband
Magazine editor. Managing editor of JET magazine; married from 1975 until his death in a car crash in 1977; 15 years her junior.
Vic Damone
Husband
Singer. Born in 1928; met in 1979; married in January 1987; filed for legal separation on April 1, 1991 after four years of marriage and twelve years together; reconciled; filed for divorce in September 1996; divorced.

Bibliography

"Diahann: An Autobiography"
Diahann Carroll and Ross Firestone (1986)

Notes

"Her singing and her appearance immediately gave me the idea of starring her in a musical in which she would play a chic, sophisticated woman of the world. She would not represent a cause or be a symbol of her race, but a believeable human being, very much a part of a stratum of society that the theatre thus far had never considered for a black actress". --Richard Rodgers about writing "No Strings" for Carroll ("Musical Stages" 1975).

"And I really believe that it was important for me to do 'Agnes of God'. I think that out of 'Agnes of God' came 'Dynasty'. [Lew Erlicht, the head of ABC Entertainment] came to see me in 'Agnes of God' shortly before I closed, and when I closed I was trying to pull myself together again, because for 'Agnes' I was on stage for the entire play, and I began to watch television again, which was not my habit. And I saw 'Dynasty', and I called Aaron [Spelling] and told him that he definitely needed me. I thought it would be very wise to be the first black bitch on television, and to do it properly, not to hedge it. Make sure she was really not likeable, but quite lovely. Well, in the meeting, the gentleman who had the responsibility to say yea or nay, was the one who had seen me in 'Agnes of God'!" --Diahann Carroll in THEATERWEEK, January 1-7, 1996

"My dear, after a certain point, glamour is just maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!" --Carroll to columnist Liz Smith in May 1998