Diahann Carroll, Oscar-nominated, pioneering actress, dies at 84

  • FILE -- This 1972 file image shows singer and actress Diahann Carroll. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

    FILE -- This 1972 file image shows singer and actress Diahann Carroll. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84. (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy, File)

  • FILE -- This May 8, 2013 file photo shows Diahann Carroll at the world premiere of "Peeples" in Los Angeles. Carroll passed away Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

    FILE -- This May 8, 2013 file photo shows Diahann Carroll at the world premiere of "Peeples" in Los Angeles. Carroll passed away Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE -- This Sept. 20, 1987 file photo shows actress Diahann Carroll at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Carroll passed away Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

    FILE -- This Sept. 20, 1987 file photo shows actress Diahann Carroll at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Carroll passed away Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84. (AP Photo/Douglas Pizac, File)

  • FILE -- This June 14, 2007 file photo shows Diahann Carroll speaking at the 2007 Crystal and Lucy Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

    FILE -- This June 14, 2007 file photo shows Diahann Carroll speaking at the 2007 Crystal and Lucy Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

  • FILE -- This Sept. 21, 1986 file photo shows singers Vic Damone, right, and Diahann Carroll at the Emmy awards in Los Angeles. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

    FILE -- This Sept. 21, 1986 file photo shows singers Vic Damone, right, and Diahann Carroll at the Emmy awards in Los Angeles. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84. (AP Photo/Doug Pizac, File)

  • FILE -- This Sept. 24, 1986 file photo shows, Diahann Carroll, John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins from "Dynasty" cutting a cake to commemorate the production of 150 episodes of the show in Los Angeles. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

    FILE -- This Sept. 24, 1986 file photo shows, Diahann Carroll, John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins from "Dynasty" cutting a cake to commemorate the production of 150 episodes of the show in Los Angeles. Carroll died, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

 
By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY
AP Entertainment Writer
Updated 10/4/2019 11:23 AM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Diahann Carroll, the Oscar-nominated actress and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a non-servant role in a TV series as "Julia," has died. She was 84.

Carroll's daughter, Susan Kay, told The Associated Press her mother died Friday in Los Angeles of cancer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

During her long career, Carroll earned a Tony Award for the musical "No Strings" and an Academy Award nomination for "Claudine."

But she was perhaps best known for her pioneering work on "Julia." Carroll played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband had been killed in Vietnam, in the groundbreaking situation comedy that aired from 1968 to 1971.

Although she was not the first black woman to star in her own TV show (Ethel Waters played a maid in the 1950s series "Beulah"), she was the first to star as someone other than a servant.

NBC executives were wary about putting "Julia" on the network during the racial unrest of the 1960s, but it was an immediate hit.

It had its critics, though, including some who said Carroll's character, who is the mother of a young son, was not a realistic portrayal of a black American woman in the 1960s.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"They said it was a fantasy," Carroll recalled in 1998. "All of this was untrue. Much about the character of Julia I took from my own life, my family."

Not shy when it came to confronting racial barriers, Carroll won her Tony portraying a high-fashion American model in Paris who has a love affair with a white American author in the 1959 Richard Rodgers musical "No Strings." Critic Walter Kerr described her as "a girl with a sweet smile, brilliant dark eyes and a profile regal enough to belong on a coin."

She appeared often in plays previously considered exclusive territory for white actresses: "Same Time, Next Year," ''Agnes of God" and "Sunset Boulevard" (as faded star Norma Desmond, the role played by Gloria Swanson in the 1950 film.)

"I like to think that I opened doors for other women, although that wasn't my original intention," she said in 2002.

Her film career was sporadic. She began with a secondary role in "Carmen Jones" in 1954 and five years later appeared in "Porgy and Bess," although her singing voice was dubbed because it wasn't considered strong enough for the Gershwin opera. Her other films included "Goodbye Again," "Hurry Sundown," "Paris Blues," and "The Split."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 1974 film "Claudine" provided her most memorable role. She played a hard-bitten single mother of six who finds romance in Harlem with a garbage man played by James Earl Jones.

In the 1980s, she appeared in the long-running prime-time soap opera "Dynasty" for three years. More recently, she had a number of guest shots and small roles in TV series, including playing the mother of Isaiah Washington's character, Dr. Preston Burke, on "Grey's Anatomy."

She also returned to her roots in nightclubs. In 2006, she made her first club appearance in New York in four decades, singing at Feinstein's at the Regency. Reviewing a return engagement in 2007, a New York Times critic wrote that she sang "Both Sides Now" with "the reflective tone of a woman who has survived many severe storms and remembers every lightning flash and thunderclap."

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.