Get ready to suspend all disbelief and witness true acting talent, for, according to hollywoodreporter.com, Idris Elba has signed on to star as the Hunchback of Notre Dame for Netflix.
Golden Globe winner Elba will also direct and produce Hunchback under his Green Door production company, and will also be producing original music for the feature, which is being described as a “sonic and musical experience.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a 19th century gothic romance novel originally written by Victor Hugo in 1831, follows Quasimodo, a hunchback, who tragically falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda. Hunchback has been adapted to film more than seven times over the years, most notably the 1956 version starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollabrigida, and the 1996 Disney animated adaptation voiced by Tom Hulce and Demi Moore.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Elba’s latest foray into directing, having made his directorial debut this year with Sundance drama Yardie. He also created and will star and executive produce comedy Turn Up Charlie that was ordered straight-to-series by Netflix.
Michael Mitnick, the screenwriter of The Current War and The Giver, will write the modern day re-telling of the Victor Hugo classic. Fred Berger (La La Land) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Midnight Special) will produce for Automatik, along with Elba and Green Door’s Ana Garanito.
Stacey Abrams made American history on Tuesday (May 22) when she won the Democratic primary for governor in Georgia, making her the first black female gubernatorial candidate nominated by a major party.
If she pulls off a victory in November against the Republican nominee, who will be decided in a runoff in July, the former state House minority leader will have a number of firsts to her name: the first female governor in Georgia, the first black governor of the state, and the first black woman elected governor in the US.
(Though she was not elected,Barbara Jordan in 1972 briefly served as the first female and first black governor of Texas when governor Preston Smith and lieutenant governor Ben Barnes were both out of the state on the same day.)
Abrams, of course, still faces an uphill battle in the deep South, which hasn’t elected an African-American governor since reconstruction. As the New York Times points out, she’ll need strong turnout from black voters to stand a chance in November. In Georgia, non-Hispanic white voters comprise 53% of the population and have traditionally voted in strong numbers.
“Tonight’s victory was only the beginning,” said Abrams in a Facebook post. “The road to November will be long and tough, but the next step is one we take together.”
For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.
A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.
Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.
This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”
Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”
Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.
“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”
Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
The jurors were looking at her when they filed into court. That, Dovey Johnson Roundtree knew, could have immense significance for her client, a feebleminded day laborer accused of one of the most sensational murders of the mid-20th century.
Little had augured well for that client, Raymond Crump Jr., during his eight-day trial in United States District Court in Washington: Mr. Crump, who had been found near the crime scene, was black and poor. The victim was white, glamorous and supremely well connected. The country, in the summer of 1965, seethed with racial tension amid the surging civil rights movement.
Federal prosecutors had amassed a welter of circumstantial evidence — including 27 witnesses and more than 50 exhibits — to argue that on Oct. 12, 1964, Mr. Crump had carried out the execution-style shooting of Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite said to have been a former lover of President John F. Kennedy.
By contrast, Ms. Roundtree, who died on Monday at 104, had chosen to present just three witnesses and a single exhibit to the jury, which comprised men and women, blacks and whites. Her closing argument was only 20 minutes long.
Now, on July 30, 1965, the jury, having deliberated, was back. The court clerk handed the verdict slip to the judge, Howard F. Corcoran. For most observers, inside the courtroom and out, conviction — and an accompanying death sentence — was a foregone conclusion.
“Members of the jury,” Judge Corcoran said. “We have your verdict, which states that you find the defendant, Ray Crump Jr., not guilty.”
Ms. Roundtree’s defense, which hinged partly on two forensic masterstrokes, made her reputation as a litigator of acuity, concision and steel who could win even the most hopeless trials. And this in a case for which she had received a fee of one dollar.
“As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” Katie McCabe, the co-author of Ms. Roundtree’s memoir, “Justice Older Than the Law,” said in an interview for this obituary in 2016. “She was a one-woman Legal Aid Society before people used that term.”
Officer, Lawyer, Minister
Ms. Roundtree’s victory in the Crump case was not her first noteworthy accomplishment, and it was by no means her last. Born to a family of slender means in the Jim Crow South, Ms. Roundtree — or the Rev. Dovey Johnson Roundtree, as she was long formally known — was instrumental in winning a spate of advances for blacks and women in midcentury America, blazing trails in the military, the legal profession and the ministry.
As an inaugural member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps), she became, in 1942, one of the first women of any race to be commissioned an Army officer. Attaining the rank of captain, she personally recruited scores of African-American women for wartime Army service.
As a Washington lawyer, she helped secure a landmark ban on racial segregation in interstate bus travel in a case that originated in 1952 — three years before Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat in Montgomery, Ala.
As a cleric, Ms. Roundtree was one of the first women to be ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 2009, in a statement honoring the publication of “Justice Older Than the Law,” the first lady, Michelle Obama, said, “As an Army veteran, lawyer and minister, Ms. Roundtree set a new path for the many women who have followed her and proved once again that the vision and perseverance of a single individual can help to turn the tides of history.”
Yet for all her perseverance, and all her prowess, Ms. Roundtree remained, by temperament, choice and political circumstance, comparatively unknown.
“One has to start with the fact — and I think it’s an acknowledged fact — that the civil rights movement was notoriously sexist,” Ms. McCabe said in 2016. “There were many men who did not appreciate being ground up into hamburger meat by Dovey Roundtree. There are many, many white lawyers — male — in Washington who were humiliated by having been beaten by a black woman. And I think that played out in a number of ways. And one of those ways has been a diminution in the recognition that I think her accomplishments merit.”
Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce series and movies for the streaming service. The former first couple will, according to an announcement Monday from the company, potentially work on scripted and unscripted series as well as docu-series, documentary films, and features under the multi-year deal.
“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” said Barack Obama. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”
“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” said Michelle Obama. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”
Signing the Obamas is the latest, and by far the biggest, in a string of moves by Netflix to lock up the entertainment industry’s highest-profile producers in exclusive production and development pacts. Last year, Netflix poached “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes from ABC Studios with a deal valued at more than $100 million. “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy jumped from his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television earlier this year to also join Netflix. Murphy’s deal was reported at the time to be worth as much as $300 million. However, sources tell Variety that tally includes money that Murphy is expected to make from his current and former Fox series over the life of his Netflix contract, and that the true value of the deal is in line with that of Rhimes’.
It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random Housesigned the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.
“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”
Among President Obama’s most visible public appearances since leaving office was on David Letterman’s new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” Obama was the first guest in the former “Late Show” host’s new long-form interview program.
Word of a possible pact between the former U.S. president and first lady surfaced in March, when the New York Times first reported that the couple was in talks with the streaming service on a deal to produce several high-profile projects.
Sarandos has a close relationship with the Obamas. His wife, Nicole Avant, served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in President Obama’s first term in office.
Former NBC executive Vernon Sanders has joined Amazon Studios as co-head of television, according to Variety.com. He will oversee creative and production units for Amazon Prime Video.
Sanders will head the TV division with Albert Cheng, who was hired during a reorganization of Amazon’s entertainment division under new top executive Jennifer Salke in April. Cheng also serves as Amazon Studios COO. “I’m thrilled to announce Vernon Sanders’ appointment to Co-Head of Television for Amazon Studios,” said Salke. “Vernon’s undeniable expertise in nurturing talent and creative material will be a huge asset to our studio. Having worked side-by-side with him for seven years at NBC Entertainment, I can speak first-hand to his talents as a leader and creative force. I know Vernon and Albert Cheng will be a formidable team as we continue to build Amazon Studios.”
At NBC Sanders held posts as executive vice president of current programming and executive vice president of comedy. He also has experience in drama-series development, having been senior VP of drama at the network and sister studio Universal Television. “I am tremendously excited to be joining Jennifer Salke, Albert Cheng and the forward-thinking team at Amazon Studios as they build an incredible destination for high-quality, compelling content,” Sanders said. “My time as a producer has reaffirmed my passion for working closely with creators to champion shows which delight and surprise our audiences. I’m grateful to my family at NBCU for their support as I jump into this new challenge.”
Among the series Sanders worked on while at NBC are “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Friday Night Lights,” “This is Us,” “The Blacklist,” “The Good Place,” and the revival of “Will and Grace.”
Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was gunned down on a playground by an erratic “officer of the law” in 2014, is mending her heartbreak by opening a cultural center in the name of her son.
The Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center will honor Tamir’s legacy by operating as a place of refuge for black children in Cleveland, a space where they can participate in visual art, drama, music, as well as teaching them civics as well. “Nobody is talking about Tamir anymore in Cleveland,” said Samaria. “And that’s sad.”
Through the Tamir Rice Foundation, Samaria has already purchased a building for the center, and, in addition to serving the children’s artistic ambitions (Tamir, she said, loved to draw cartoons and make pottery), the young people who come through its doors will be mentored on how to “dissect and participate in political systems,” something the 41-year-old mother of three says she had to learn, after her son was killed as he played.
“I don’t pay no attention to them,” she said. “They can’t beat me for the simple fact that their child wasn’t killed by the state. I’m going to do it through the grace of God and I’m going to do it because the city of Cleveland gave me no choice but to do it as far as building my son’s legacy and keeping his legacy alive.”
Next month, Rice is throwing a “Sweet Sixteen” party for the birthday Tamir will never see. She seeks to raise $21,000 to help renovate the space, including new windows, and a stage for performances. She purchased the building in March for $162,680, using part of the $6 million settlement of the wrongful death suit she’d filed against the city and the two officers involved (none of whom faced a day in jail). The Plain Dealer reports that after lawyer’s fees and costs and payments to other relatives, Tamir’s estate was left with about $1.8 million.
Samaria Rice hopes to complete work and open the center in 2019.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Starbucks Coffee announced a new policy yesterday that allows anyone to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even without buying anything. The new policy comes five weeks after two black men who hadn’t bought anything were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks. Company executives have said its previous policies were ambiguous, leaving decisions on whether people could sit in its stores or use the restroom up to store managers. Starbucks now says it has instructed workers to consider anyone who enters its stores a customer, “regardless of whether they make a purchase.”
The company said anyone can use its cafes, patios or restrooms, but noted workers should still call the police if someone is a safety threat. “We are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome,” Starbucks said in a statement.
The two men who were arrested April 12 in Philadelphia were awaiting a third person for a meeting. One of them was denied use of a restroom because he hadn’t bought anything. A worker called police, and the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested. They spent hours in jail before they were released. The incident, video of which was posted on social media, was a major embarrassment for the coffee chain.
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, born May 19, 1930, was an award-winning playwright and activist. Her best known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family’s battle against racial and housing segregation in Chicago. She would have been 88 today.
Hansberry was the youngest of four children of Carl Hansberry, a successful real-estate broker, and Nannie Louise Perry, a school teacher. In 1938, her father bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago, violating a restrictive covenant and incurring the wrath of many neighbors. The latter’s legal efforts to force the Hansberrys out culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1940 decision in Hansberry v. Lee, holding the restrictive covenant in the case contestable, though not inherently invalid.
Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but left in 1950 to pursue her career as a writer in New York City, where she attended The New School. In 1951, she joined the staff of the black newspaper Freedom under the auspices of Paul Robeson, and worked with W. E. B. DuBois, whose office was in the same building. In 1953, she married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish publisher, songwriter and political activist. She later joined the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed two letters to their magazine, The Ladder, in 1957 under her initials “LHN” that addressed feminism and homophobia. She separated from her husband at this time, but they continued to work together.
In 1959, Raisin In The Sun debuted, becoming the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. The 29-year-old author became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004 and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play. The cast included Sean “P Diddy” Combs as Walter Lee Younger Jr., Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award-winner for Best Actress) and Audra McDonald (Tony Award-winner for Best Featured Actress). It was produced for television in 2008 with the same cast, garnering two NAACP Image Awards.
While many of her other writings were published in her lifetime – essays, articles, and the text for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) book The Movement, the only other play of Hansberry’s given a contemporary production was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window. The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway and closed on January 12, 1965, the night she died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Hansberry’s funeral was held in Harlem on January 15, 1965. Paul Robeson gave her eulogy. The presiding reverend, Eugene Callender, recited messages from James Baldwin and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. which read: “Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.”
In January of this year, PBS aired an American Masters Documentary on Hansberry called “Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.” Check out the trailer below and check your local listings for upcoming showings.