PatColeman

'Meet Me In St. Louis' Who is the African American actress?

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Hello, everyone

I think in another Minnelli film or two, I've seen this woman featured prominently in Meet Me In St. Louis. I can't find anything on her. She's featured in the foreground in several of the most popular songs. In this image (not a good ), she's in the lower right of the screen. I can't find a good shot of her online, even though she appears throughout most of the film

Does anyone know who she is/was?

Pat

 

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I can tell you who she isn't, going by this photo from the Great Musicals blog that shows the other 4 actresses from that screengrab in a in-costume screen test:

MEETMEINST_LOUIS_00198108_1372x1102_1003

However, IMDB lists Charlotte Hunter as Girl in Blue on Trolley (uncredited) - purple isn't far from blue? Seems to be backed up by a post on silverscreenoasis (but then nixed by a later post)...

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Hello,

Thanks a lot for the help. :-D

Over the years, I had wondered if she was a friend of Minnelli and Garland, considering the racist Hayes Code, etc. I know other actors and directors were trying to help their friends of color break through the demeaning color-line roles here and there. Seeing this actress dance with an Anglo man was a strictly enforced Code rule after 1934. So even that surprises me every time I watch this classic film. Not to mention that the actress gets to make eye contact with Garland as an equal in the instance and relative height (another Hayes Code taboo) in various scenes.

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A number of black people appear in the Caribbean styled Garland / Minnelli movie The Pirate.

 The Nicholas Brothers were featured in an acrobatic dance routine with Gene Kelly to Cole Porter's Be a Clown.

Reportedly the movie was financially hurt by their appearance-- the number had to be cut in the South and other parts of them interacting with white performers could not be cut, so this may have also caused the movie to have poor exhibition in the South.

But in all fairness, Judy's particular personal, emotional and physical,  issues at the time caused a number of delays, which also inflated the budget.

Plus the subject matter did not do well in the overall box office because it was later deemed to be too sophisticated for the general American audience, as it had originated from a play on Broadway by Lunt and Fontanne.

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Um, is it just me or is that woman ... NOT African-American?  I have looked at this clip over and over, and I am only seeing a Caucasian woman.

 

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According to her IMDb page, she also was in the "I Left My Hat in Haiti" musical number in "Royal Wedding" (1951):

 

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54 minutes ago, Feego said:

Um, is it just me or is that woman ... NOT African-American?  I have looked at this clip over and over, and I am only seeing a Caucasian woman.

 

Well, if she was passing for white there's no reason that you would necessarily be able to tell. LOL

 There's a movie called "Lost Boundaries", which was based on a real life family. You might check that out for information on the subject.

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45 minutes ago, jakeem said:

According to her IMDb page, she also was in the "I Left My Hat in Haiti" musical number in "Royal Wedding" (1951):

 

Whatever the subject, it's a great excuse to talk about and show clips from Arthur Freed's MGM musicals.

The monkey in this number always freaked me out.

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Not much can be found about that particular Charlotte Hunter.  Any search I've tried takes me to some actress with the same name that's still in her 20's.

But, based on what I see on that clip, and the fact that she closely resembles one of my wife's cousins( Marti), I'd venture a guess that there's some Latin-American or possibly Filipino influence in her background.  And based of course, on the fact that my wife and her cousin Marti are both Mexican-Americans born in Laredo Texas, and both too have often been mistaken by several people to be Filipino(my wife got asked that a LOT ;)  ).

Sepiatone

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My mother believes she was part of The Dunhill Trio / Dunhill Dance Team / The Three Dunhills. Here is a brief WIKI.

I come from a very mixed ethnicity family tree (primarily Irish and African, a little Swedish and Arab). I have many relatives that look like this woman, and it made me wonder. She could be part Mexican, African, Caucasian, Asian or all of the above. But the decision in 1944 to cast her (even with no spoken lines) is pretty remarkable, considering racism and the Hayes Code.

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9 hours ago, PatColeman said:

My mother believes she was part of The Dunhill Trio / Dunhill Dance Team / The Three Dunhills. Here is a brief WIKI.

I come from a very mixed ethnicity family tree (primarily Irish and African, a little Swedish and Arab). I have many relatives that look like this woman, and it made me wonder. She could be part Mexican, African, Caucasian, Asian or all of the above. But the decision in 1944 to cast her (even with no spoken lines) is pretty remarkable, considering racism and the Hayes Code.

The top heads at MGM may have been  very status quo but the Arthur Freed Unit had to be avant-garde and wholly artistic in order to create the musicals that they did create. For the most part their musical fare was certainly above Hollywood's average standards, but  still appealed to the mainstream.

The artists who were responsible for these musicals were hardly mainstream people. Two particular couples in the Freed Unit stand out in my mind as being in conflict with Louis B Mayer's authoritarian bogoted orders.

 

1) Lena Horne was in the Freed Unit as MGM's only black star. She had already pissedoff Mayer by not agreeing to become a Latin American bombshell in order to be more profitable to the studio. During the War, Carmen Miranda was the most popular and highest paid performer in Hollywood movies.

Lena secretly carried on a romantic affair with MGM's top music director Lennie Hayton. Lennie conducted and arranged the music for Singin' in the Rain. He can actually be seen conducting the orchestra in Barkleys of Broadway. As this relationship was forbidden by the front office, Their subsequent marriage in the late forties led to both of them leaving the studio forever.

 

2) Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe were another couple that Lena and Lennie socialized with in private.  Roger Eden's romantic homosexual relationship was also forbidden by the front office. Roger was of course Judy Garland's teacher and mentor.  plus he was the dymano in the Freed unit who specialized in writing  special musical material, like "Dear Mr. Gable" and coming up with the unique ideas for all those musicals.  Both Roger and Leonard wrote Judy Garland's Born in A Trunk sequence for A Star Is Born.

 

* Then there's the bisexual Protege of Arthur Freed-- Vincente Minnelli. Vincente had been a Broadway director when Freed brought him to Hollywood and nurtured him to become, not just a great musical director, but a great all around Cinema director.

Vincente's first film was A Cabin in the Sky starring Lena Horne in an all-black cast. While the movie was shooting, Lena and Vincente maintained a romantic relationship. So much so much so that he broke a rule by putting her in a sexy "Lana Turner" type scene in a bubble bath-- that was a studio no no for a black woman , so Mayer had it cut from the movie. ( You can Google to see the stills of Lena in the bubble bath.) That was in 1943.

By 1944 Freed believed Vincente was ready to handle the Unit's most talented and profitable property, Judy Garland in Meet Me In St Louis.  During this film shoot, Vincente maintained a romantic relationship with Judy, which culminated in their getting married in 1945. When Liza was born the next year all of Hollywood was abuzz calling Vincente's look-alike a baby the Immaculate Conception. LOL

This was a marriage that the studio supported because they felt that Vincente could keep Judy under control, which may have included  her  lesbian romantic relationships,  and vice versa for Judy.  Freed could protect Vincente in the unit, but Studio heads were appalled to see Vincente wearing makeup and being associated with "things" they didn't think we're exactly masculine at the studio.

 These were some of the top artists in the Freed Unit at MGM in the 40's, so I wouldn't be at all surprised that they would use a performer in some of their movies who was passing for white in 1944. After all artists are usually a little bit ahead of their time and known for their progressive and open-minded views, for the most part.

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;)  And I'll bet they both figured they could get her to stand in there on the cheap, and anyway, "Who's gonna notice?" ;)

Sepiatone

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1 hour ago, Sepiatone said:

;)  And I'll bet they both figured they could get her to stand in there on the cheap, and anyway, "Who's gonna notice?" ;)

Sepiatone

If she was one of those dancers in Astaire's  "I Left My Hat in Haiti", as Jakeem researched on IMBD,  she had to be a bloody well good dancer and so I would say they were lucky to have her.

I've noticed in Astaire's technicolor numbers in the late forties at MGM, everyone has so much heavy body makeup on you really can't tell that much about people anyway. And that was a very clever number.

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