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Ellen Holly; Carla Gray Hall, OLTL
Topic Started: Jan 7 2018, 04:17 PM (341 Views)
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Thirty-second Installment
Previous: Juliet Mills, Tabitha Lenox, Passions
Ellen Holly
(Carla Gray Hall, OLTL)
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The above article appeared in the July 18, 2005 issue of Jet Magazine

I look forward to the day when America believes that the relevant thing is not that I am Black but that I am Ellen.
Ellen Holly, September 9, 1980 SOD interview.

I've shared before that I grew up watching soaps because of my babysister. For awhile, she watched both One Life to Live and Another World. So I remember some early Dorian Lord on OLTL before Strasser took over the role and I definitely recall Strasser's Rachel Davis, who seemed to be the main reason my sitter watched Another World. When Strasser left, she watched One Life to Live on a regular basis because of the storyline with Carla Gray, who was a black woman passing for white.

Published by Goldensoaps on Youtube.
New scenes of OLTL with Sadie Gray (LILLIAN HAYMAN), Anna Wolek # 1 (DORIS BELACK), Carla Benari (ELLEN HOLLY) and Dr Jim Craig # 1 (ROBERT MILLI) with opening and final closing.

The groundbreaking story captured my interest. I was empathetic toward Sadie Gray, Carla's mother. Not a far stretch for one who sobbed during Imitation of Life, when the daughter rejects her mother because she is black.

Holly was a trailblazer in 1968 as an actress. A mere three years after the 1965 Civil Rights Act had passed, she became daytime's first black leading lady. The actress gives credit to OLTL's creator Agnes Nixon (who died on Sep 28, 2016) for writing the story; Holly was a contributor.

In an interview in We Love Soaps (Part 1, 2012) Holly remarks:
What Agnes Nixon understood about the material, about how to use a series, to really squeeze it for all that it's worth, is this: If you're watching a play, a film or an opera, where you're with the characters for only a two-hour period of time, you can only make so much investment in a certain character. On the other hand, if you are living with a character day after day, week after week, month after month, you make much more of an emotional investment in who that character is. If you present a character, and people live with that character for months, with certain assumptions--and then you pull the rug out from under them--because of the great amount of time spent, and investment with that character, the shock of it is so much more than it could possibly be in any other medium.

The show ended with Carla's race revelation on a Friday.
It was so powerful," she continues, "that over the weekend, everybody started talking about it. Not just the audience. Once it was revealed that I was black, a lot of white women wrote me, saying, 'what a cop out!' They were waiting for an inter-racial relationship; one in which the woman was white, and the man was black! So that's why they were angry that I was black," she laughs.
In 1996, Holly wrote One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress. She offers a glimpse into the business politics of daytime television, along with her frustrations as a black actress. Her bio includes accounts from her OLTL days about Nixon, executive producer Paul Rauch, series star Erika Slezak, co-star Al Freeman and Lillian Hayman, who played her mother Sadie. Some of it is not flattering in terms of behind the scenes happenings and treatment of performers. As Holly observed in an interview by Patricia Turnier in 2013 (Megadiversites):

To this day television historians discuss the story and Nixon herself mentions it often as a story she's still very proud of (it is showcased on her website as an important event on her 1960s timeline feature). I believe that the Carla/Clara story and the inclusion of African-American cast members were simply tricks meant to get mainstream press attention and bring Black viewers in. Once the story and characters/actors served their purpose, they were pushed to the side. We were tokens. Though Lillian Hayman and I were kept on the show for years, it was essentially as figureheads and an opportunity for Nixon, the creator of the show, to continue to pat herself on the back in the press for having an integrated cast. People will discover with my book that there is another side to this tale.

On Amazon, the book synopsis reads:
The stage and soap opera actress recounts her struggle with racism during her long career on the program, One Life to Live, a struggle complicated by her light skin, her relationship with Harry Belafonte, and her alcoholism.

Holly first caught Nixon's attention after she read a story by Holly entitled “How Black Do You Have To Be?” for the Arts & Leisure section of "The New York Times," which was about the plight of the light-skinned Black actor in America. Holly played Carla on OLTL from 1968 to 1981, and 1983 until 1985, when she was fired from the show by Rauch.

Holly was born in New York on January 16, 1931. On the Broadway stage, she displayed versatility having had roles in "A Hand Is on the Gate", "Tiger Tiger Burning Bright", "Face of a Hero", "Taming of the Shrew", "Henry V", "Too Late the Phalarope", "MacBeth", "Funnyhouse of a Negro", "Camino Real", "Cherry Orchard" and others.

Aside from her 15 years on OLTL, Holly has had limited television and film roles. From 1988 until 1993, she played the role of Judge Frances Collier on Guiding Light. In 2002, she appeared as "Selena Frey" in the made-for-cable film, 10,000 Black Men Named George with Andre Braugher and Mario Van Peebles. (See a more complete filmography below)

NEXT--Margaret Klenck
Edited by cher62, Jan 14 2018, 07:54 PM.
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Selected Filmography including television series:

1959 Take a Giant Step
1963 Sam Benedict
1963-64 The Nurses
1964 Dr. Kildare
1968-81 and 1984-85 One Life To Live ABC , she played the role of Carla Gray
1973 Cops and Robbers
1974 King Lear
1986 Spenser: For Hire
1988 School Daze
1989-90 In the Heat of the Night
1988-93 The Guiding Light, CBS, she played the role of Judge Frances Collier
2002 10,000 Black Men Named George

Selected Stage Appearances

• (Off-Broadway debut) Tatiana, "The Anniversary" and Naida Gisben and Sharon Guilders, "A Switch in Time," Two for Fun (double-bill), GreenwichMews Theatre, New York City, 1955.
• Slave girl, Salome, Davenport Theatre, New York City, 1955.
• Bianca, A Florentine Tragedy, Davenport Theatre, 1955.
• (Broadway debut) Stephanie, Too Late the Phalarope, Belasco Theatre, New York City, 1956.
• Rich woman's daughter, Tevya and His Daughters, Carnegie Hall Playhouse, New York City, 1957.
• Desdemona, Othello, Belvedere Lake Theatre, 1958.
• Elizabeth Falk, Face of a Hero, Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York City, 1960.
• Rosa, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, East Eleventh Street Theatre, New York City, 1962.
• Cille Morris, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, Booth Theatre, New York City, 1962.
• Iras, Antony and Cleopatra, New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF), Delacorte Theatre, New York City, 1963.
• Duchess of Hapsburg, Funny House of a Negro, East End Theatre, NewYork City, 1964.
• Tatiana, A Midsummer Night's Dream, NYSF, Delacorte Mobile Theatre, 1964.
• Katherine, King Henry V, NYSF, Delacorte Mobile Theatre, 1965.
• Katherine, The Taming of the Shrew, NYSF, Delacorte Mobile Theatre, 1965.
• "Clara Passmore Who Is the Virgin Mary Who Is the Bastard Who Is the Owl," The Owl Answers, White Barn Theatre, Westport, CT, then Theatre de Lys, New York City, 1965.
• Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, NYSF, Delacorte Mobile Theatre, 1966.
• An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music, Delacorte Theatre, 1966, produced as A Hand Is on the Gate, Longacre Theatre, New York City, 1966.
• Marguerite Gautier, Camino Real, Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, OH, 1968.
• Crime on Goat Island, Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, 1968.
• Also appeared in several roles, including Sally Dupre and narrator for Aunt Bess, in John Brown's Body; appeared in Orchids in the Moonlight, American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA; member of company, Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, OH, 1968.
• Varya, The Cherry Orchard, NYSF, Public/Anspacher Theatre, New York City, 1973.
• Regan, King Lear, NYSF, Delacorte Theatre, 1973.

Major Tours

• Gypsy palmist and courtesan, The Comedy of Errors, National Repertory Theatre, U.S. cities, 1967.
• Hippolita, Tis Pity She's a Whore, U.S. cities, 1974-75.

Other Television Performances:

• Credits; Television Appearances; Series
• Also appeared as Sally Travers, Love of Life, CBS.
• Credits; Television Appearances; Movies
• Amy, Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force, NBC, 1978.
• Credits; Television Appearances; Episodic
• Tituba, Odyssey, CBS, 1957.
• Regan, "King Lear", Theater in America (also known as Great Performances), PBS, 1974.
• Mrs. Robbins, "High School Narc", ABC Afterschool Special, ABC, 1985.
• Also appeared in episodes of The Big Story, NBC ; Confidential File, syndicated ; The Defenders, CBS ; Look Up and Live, CBS; and Dr. Kildare, NBC.
(Information from various sources including Wikipedia)

IMDb - Ellen Holly


Article in Ebony

Ellen Holly, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Racism & The Soap Opera, Part 1: Agnes Nixon & Bringing The Black Audience To ABC

Ellen Holly, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Racism & The Soap Opera, Part 2: "India has its Untouchables, America had its Uncastables"

Ellen Holly, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Racism & The Soap Opera, Part 3: “He Made it Clear That We Were Enemies. . . and I Was Made to Pay”

Ellen Holly, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Racism & The Soap Opera, Part 4: “He Was So Close, His Spit Flew In My Face”

Ellen Holly 1971 interview and photos

Living a White Lie --We Love Soaps, Part 1

Living a White Lie --We Love Soaps, Part 2
Edited by cher62, Jan 7 2018, 05:02 PM.
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"TAKE A GIANT STEP" Johnny Nash, Ellen Holly, Ruby Dee. 12-1-1959. (HD HQ 1080p)
A black high school senior struggles with becoming a man, and living in a middle class white neighborhood in the late 1950s U.S.
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One Life to Live January 11, 1984 - 2 of 5
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