About Diahann Carroll
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.
|David Frost. Dated for three years in the early 1970s until she surprised everyone by marring Fred Glusman in 1973, while she was still engaged to Frost|
|Sidney Poitier. Had a long-term and much publicized private affair, which began after they starred together in "Paris Blues" (1961); Poitier was married at the time to Joanna Shimkus|
|Vic Damone. Began dating 1979; married Jan. 3, 1987; couple's union was turbulent and they underwent a legal separation 1991; reconciled before eventually divorcing Sept. 12, 1996|
|Monte Kay. Married Feb. 26, 1956; divorced Jan. 14, 1963|
|Fredrick Jack Glusman. Surprised media by marrying Feb. 21 1973, since at the time Carroll had been engaged to British television host and producer David Frost; filed for divorce from Glusman, after several weeks, charging physical abuse; divorced July 20, 1973|
|Robert DeLeon. Managing editor of JET magazine; 15 years her junior; married May 25, 1975 until his death from an automobile accident March 31, 1977|
|High School of Music & Art, New York , New York|
|New York University, New York , New York|
|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|
|Has a recurring role as Aunt Ruthie on the Showtime series, "Soul Food"|
|Played Natalie Cole's mother in the NBC biopic "The Natalie Cole Story"|
|Co-starred as Sadie Delaney in the CBS TV-movie "Having Our Say"|
|Toured the USA in a concert tour featuring the music of Lerner and Loewe|
|Acted in the Showtime movie, "The Sweetest Gift"|
|Appeared as a voodoo priestess in "Eve's Bayou" starring Samuel L Jackson and Lynn Whitfield|
|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)|
|Returned to features in Robert Townsend's "The Five Heartbeats"|
|Cast in a recurring role as Marion Gilbert in "A Different World"; received an Emmy nomination in 1989|
|Reprised the role of Dominique Deveraux for the "Dynasty" spin-off "The Colbys" (ABC)|
|Joined the cast of the popular prime-time soap "Dynasty" (ABC) as Dominique Deveraux, the half-sister of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe)|
|Returned to Broadway to star in "Agnes of God"; replaced actress, Elizabeth Ashley|
|Re-teamed with director John Berry for "Sister, Sister," an NBC TV movie scripted by Maya Angelou|
|Headlined the short-lived CBS variety series, "The Diahann Carroll Show"|
|Received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for John Berry's "Claudine"|
|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|
|Third film with director Otto Preminger, "Hurry Sundown"|
|Won a Tony Award for her role in "No Strings"; was the only musical for which Richard Rodgers wrote both the music and lyrics|
|Acted opposite Poitier in Martin Ritt's "Paris Blues"; also starred Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward|
|Portrayed Clara in Preminger's "Porgy and Bess," starring Sidney Poitier as Porgy and Dandridge as Bess; Pearl Bailey also starred|
|Broadway debut as the virginal protege of a brothel owner (played by Pearl Bailey) in the Harold Arlen-Truman Capote musical "House of Flowers"|
|Screen debut opposite Dorothy Dandridge as the femme fatale in Otto Preminger's all-black, updated movie version of "Carmen"|
|Toured with Lou Walters' "Jazz Revue"|
|Won another TV talent show appearance which earned her a week's engagement at the Latin Quarter nightclub|
|Auditioned for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts show using the more exotic sounding name of Diahann Carroll|
|Modeled for Johnson Publications|
|Won a scholarship from the Metropolitan Opera at age 10|
|Began singing at age 6 with her Harlem church choir|