Rosetta LeNoire, actress and producer

Rosetta LeNoire
Tue, 1911-08-08

*Rosetta LeNoire was born on this date in 1911. She was an African American actress and producer.

From New York City, her birth name is Rosetta Burton. She came from a family with connections in the growing artistic scene of the Harlem Renaissance. As a teen, LeNoire took piano lessons from the legendary composer Eubie Blake. She first performed professionally in 1926 as a dancer in a revue with her uncle, Bill Bojangles Robinson, and in 1936 played the First Witch in a production of "Macbeth". She reached Broadway in 1939 alongside her uncle in "The Hot Mikado" and later toured with the show.

She was in the original Broadway cast of Philip Yordan's "Anna Lucasta"--which was turned from all black to all-white for the 1949 film version. LeNoire, however, reprised her stage role in the all-black 1958 remake, co-starring with Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr. In the 1950s, LeNoire worked with the Corning Glass Theatre, and she last performed on Broadway as Rheba in "You Can't Take It With You." As a theatrical producer, in 1968, she founded the AMAS (Spanish for "you love") Repertory Theatre Company and has since produced, created and occasionally appeared in a host of productions, including the original 1980 version of "Mama, I Want to Sing,” which later toured the country.

In 1976, she established the Eubie Blake Children's Theatre and LeNoire has since spent much of her time performing in school, youth centers, and even shelters. While she did some experimental TV work in the 40s and appeared as Noah's Wife in the 1957 "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of "Green Pastures" (NBC), LeNoire did not see her TV career become solid until the late 60s, when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera "A World Apart." During the 70’s she appeared in "The Guiding Light" (1971), "Another World" (1971-73),"Ryan's Hope" (1975) and "Calucci's Department" (1973).

Beginning in 1981, LeNoire made several guest appearances on "Gimme a Break" as Nell Carter's contentious mother becoming a regular in 1986. She followed this with work on "Family Matters" (1989-97and 1997-98). She also has used much of her income to support her theatrical producing. LeNoire has also appeared in a number of TV-movies and films, "The Father Clements Story" (NBC, 1987), "The Sunshine Boys" (1975),"Daniel" (1983), "Moscow on the Hudson" (1984), and "The Brother From Another Planet" (1984). Ms. LeNoire died in 2002.

Variety Magazine, New York
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LeNoire, Rosetta