Archive related to the casting of the landmark film, Cleopatra Jones. African-American Cinema, Cassius Weathersby, Vincent Tubbs, William Tennant.
Archive related to the casting of the landmark film, Cleopatra Jones
Archive related to the casting of the landmark film, Cleopatra Jones
Archive related to the casting of the landmark film, Cleopatra Jones

Archive related to the casting of the landmark film, Cleopatra Jones.

1972.

Approximately 38 pp, comprising typed, carbon typescript, manuscript, and a few photocopied sheets. Some edge and corner wear but very good; minor soiling to sign. WITH: An 8 x 10 inch production still. Item #314702

An excellent archive of material related to the casting of the title role of the iconic blaxploitation film, Cleopatra Jones (1973), from the files of Cassius Weathersby, who headed the open auditions held in seven American cities in the late summer and fall of 1972. Weathersby was tasked with liaising with radio stations, local theater groups, agencies, and "every conceivable source in the black community" (as one of the press releases included here states it), in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and San Francisco in an effort to turn out large numbers of African-American women for the auditions, and the archive gives a glimpse into how the publicity campaign was organized. Among the materials are a 3 pp typescript carbon from Vincent Tubbs of Warner Brothers, one of the first African American publicists at a major Hollywood studio, to Jimmy Booker and Associates in New York, describing the effort, headed by Weathersby, to reach out to African American radio djs, publications, writers, local drama groups, etc, not only to cast for Cleopatra Jones, but as part of a larger effort to establish "legitimate in-put for black communities" in Hollywood, a topic of great interest today; several drafts, typed and handwritten, of text for radio spots and and press releases for casting calls; additional pages of Weathersby's holograph notes, lists of contacts, etc; and a typed letter signed from the film's producer, William Tennant, thanking Weathersby for a job well done. Also present is an outstanding visual component in the form of a 22 x 14 inch sign (printed on board) advertising the Los Angeles casting call at a popular south LA club: "FILM TALENT SEARCH/FOR A BLACK BEAUTY/ASPIRING TO THE TITLE ROLE IN 'CLEOPATRA JONES' ... INTERVIEWS HELD ... AT MAVERICK'S FLAT/4225 CRENSHAW BLVD...." (Two photographs in the archive, one of which features Weathersby, show an example of the sign taped to a car door.)

The role of Cleopatra Jones would ultimately go to Tamara Dobson, a model with working class roots in Baltimore. At 6'2" she was a striking presence on the screen, and her role and performance remain a watershed for black women in cinema: “Cleopatra Jones stands as the quintessential example of the potential of a new sensibility for shaping the black female presence in popular action cinema … The portrait of heroic black femininity stands as a departure of sorts from the typical black female presence within blaxploitation and Hollywood film in general … When Cleopatra Jones premiered on July 4, 1973, it marked a key moment in black women’s imagery within the popular culture of the era … The Black Power movement, second-wave feminism, and an increasingly visible black feminist agenda were influential dynamics shaping the social backdrop to the film’s debut (Dunn, “Baad Bitches” and Sassy Supermamas, pp 85ff).

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