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.
Paula Kelly (born October 21, 1943) is a dancer and actress in films, television, and theatre. Kelly made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Veloz in the 1964 musical Something More!, sharing the stage with Barbara Cook. Her other Broadway credits include The Dozens (1969), Paul Sills’ Story Theatre (1971), Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1971), and Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies (1981) with Gregory Hines and Phyllis Hyman.
Kelly performed as guest artist and sometimes assistant choreographer for numerous television musical specials, including Sammy and Friends (starring Sammy Davis, Jr.); co-choreographer of the BBC production of Peter Pan, in which she also performed the role of “Tiger-Lily”; Quincy Jones’ TV tribute to Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly; The Richard Pryor Show; and Gene Kelly’s New York, New York, in which the two Kellys performed a duet.
Kelly performed a dance solo at the Academy Awards for the nominated song “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. She appeared on the London stage in Sweet Charity opposite dancer and actress Juliet Prowse as “Helene”, for which Kelly won the London Variety Award for Best Supporting Actress. She starred in the record-breaking West Coast premiere of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope at the Mark Taper Forum, for which she was awarded the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Variety, and the first of three NAACP Image Awards.
Kelly’s film credits include the Bob Fosse-directed film Sweet Charity; Soylent Green; The Spook Who Sat By The Door; The Andromeda Strain; Uptown Saturday Night; Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling; Drop Squad; and Once Upon a Time…When We Were Colored. Kelly had a recurring role as Liz Williams on the first season of the sitcom Night Court, for which she received an Emmy nomination. Kelly has also guest-starred in a variety of television movies and sitcoms, including Sanford and Son, Kojak, Police Woman, Golden Girls, Good Times, Any Day Now and in the groundbreaking Oprah Winfrey-produced The Women of Brewster Place (based on the novel by Gloria Naylor), in which she portrayed one half of a lesbian couple (opposite Lonette McKee) struggling against homophobia in an inner city ghetto. She was nominated for a second Emmy for her role in The Women of Brewster Place. #SummerMadness #Kelly
Sweet Charity (’69)
The Spook Who Sat By The Door (’73)
Uptown Saturday Night (’74)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (’86)
Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored (’95)