ETHEL WATERS BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Ethel Waters was born on October 31st, 1896 in Chester, Pennsylvania due to her mother being raped and becoming pregnant at the young age of thirteen. She had a unpleasant upbringing and never lived in one secure place for more then a fifteen month period. She was mostly raised by her maternal grandmother on and off. Waters first sang in public at the age of five in a children's church program.
She married at the young age of thirteen, but soon escaped the life of an abusive husband and went to work as a hotel room cleaner in Philadelphia. One night upon attending a Halloween party she sang two songs in front of the guests and everyone was so impressed with her signing voice she was offered employment at the Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland.
Directly following her stage signing debut she was offered a job to tour the black vaudeville circuit. She soon headed for Atlanta working in a nightclub and then moved again to Harlem during the 1920's working as a performer in the Harlem Renaissance.
By 1921, she was making her first blues record and became amongst one of the only 5 black woman to have a music record. She began recording with Black Swan from 1921 to 1923 and then Paramount bought the Black Swan label in 1924. She followed this with recording an album with Columbia records in 1925. Her song "Dinah" became a hit and was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.
By the early 1930's, Waters had already produced fifty song hits. She was being nicknamed, Sweet Mama Stringbean and in 1932 even though her career was very successful with Columbia she then chose to sign a contract with Brunswick in 1932. She only remained with them for one year, before returning right back to Columbia.
Waters made a all black film titled, "Rufus Jones for President" (1933) which she co starred with Sammy Davis Jr. Along with a musical recording career and successful film career, she continued to work on stage starring in the Broadway musical revue, "As Thousands Cheer" (1933) being the first black woman in an all white cast.
She continued to work film, stage and nightclub gigs and added radio to her resume. Ethel was the highest paid performer on Broadway. In 1949, she was nominated for an Academy award for her role in the film, "Pinky" starring with Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, Nina Mae McKinney, Arthur Hunnicutt, Basil Ruysdael and William Lundigan, followed by winning the New York Drama Critics Award in the play, "The Member of the Wedding" (1950).
Ethel appeared in one of the classic All Black Cast films is "Cabin in the Sky" (1943) starring with Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Rex Ingram and Duke Ellington.
As her career progressed into the early 1950's, her health was declining and roles were becoming less available to her. She took the time to write to autobiographies, "His Eye is on the Sparrow" (1950-1951) and "To Me, It's Wonderful". In 1968, Universal Pictures announced to the public that it would be making a screen version of her autobiography, "The Eye of the Sparrow", however sadly they never proceeded with this idea.
Ethel Waters as married three times throughout her life. First to Merritt Purnsley from 1910 to 1911, then to Mathews, Clyde Edward from 1929 through 1934 and her third and final marriage was to an Orchestra leader, Ed Mallory from 1938 through September 1st, 1977 when she passed away on September 1st, 1977 in Chatsworth, California from heart disease. She never had any children during her lifetime.
Waters was honored on a U.S. Postal Service stamp issued on September 1st, 1994 as part of the Legends of American Music Series. Ethel also had a total of three of her recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, "Dinah" (1925), "Stormy Weather" (1933) and "Am I Blue" (1929). Waters also won a Joseph Jefferson Award as Best Guest Artist in a Locally Produced Play in 1970 for her performance in, "The Member of the Wedding".
1972 Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law
1970 Daniel Boone
1967 Vacation Playhouse
1963 The Great Adventure
1961 Route 66
1959 The Sound and the Fury
1958 The Heart Is a Rebel
1957 Matinee Theatre
1957 Carib Gold
1956 Saturday Spectacular: Manhattan Tower
1955 Playwrights '56
1955 G.E. True Theater
1952 The Member of the Wedding
1952 The Jackie Gleason Show
1943 Cabin in the Sky
1942 Tales of Manhattan
1939 Let My People Live
1934 Gift of Gab
1934 Bubbling Over
1933 Rufus Jones for President
1929 On with the Show!