In honor of TCM and their “Summer Under the Stars” series, we launch our companion series, Summer Madness. The series will spotlight the achievements and films of one Black actor, daily throughout the month of August.
Francine Everett (born Franciene Williamson, April 13, 1915 – May 27, 1999) was an African-American actress and singer who is best known for her performances in race films, independently produced motion pictures with all-black casts that were created exclusively for distribution to cinemas that catered to African-American audiences.
Although never given accolades parallel to her contemporaries in mainstream films, Francine Everett’s unyielding determination to epitomize African American women in a quintessential fashion defines her importance in black film nostalgia.
She married Booker Everett in 1933 when she was 18. This marriage was dissolved, and she later married actor Rex Ingram. They divorced three years later in 1939. She studied and acted with the Federal Theater in Harlem, which was sponsored by the Works Progress Administration.
Among Everett’s starring roles were the films Paradise in Harlem (1939), Keep Punching (1939) co-starring Canada Lee and Dooley Wilson, Big Timers (1945) co-starring Moms Mabley and Stepin Fetchit, Tall, Tan and Terrific (1946) with Mantan Moreland and Dots Johnson, and Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), directed by Spencer Williams.
Everett appeared as a singer in more than 50 short musical films that were produced in the 1940s, notably Ebony on Parade (1947), which co-starred Dorothy Dandridge, Cab Calloway and the Count Basie band. She also worked as a model in print advertisements for clothing and cosmetics.
Everett’s association with Hollywood was brief and desultory. She first arrived in Hollywood in the mid-1930s with husband Rex Ingram, but refused to accept racially demeaning stereotypical roles. After starring in Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A., she had bit parts in two Hollywood films: Lost Boundaries (1949) and Sidney Poitier’s first film, No Way Out (1950).
At the height of her career, Everett was dubbed “the most beautiful woman in Harlem” by columnist Billy Rowe in The Amsterdam News, a black-owned newspaper in New York City. Looking back at her career, filmmaker William Greaves commented: “She would have been a superstar in Hollywood were it not for the apartheid climate in America and the movie industry at the time.”
Everett died at a nursing home in The Bronx, New York, aged 84, on May 27, 1999. #SummerMadness #Everett
Paradise in Harlem (’39)
Dirty Gertie From Harlem, U.S.A. (’46)
Tall, Tan and Terrific (’46)