James Edwards

  1. Robert Ryan, The Set Up, 1948.    Director Robert Wise was  ready to select a black actor as  the lead boxer Stoker Thompson. Big of him considering the character – then called Pansy Jones – in Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem was black and somnehow scripted as white. The problem, said Wise, was that there were no leading African-American leading actors. Oh, really!  So how come Edwards had first been given the role before  being  palmed off with the lesser Luther Hawkins? OK, Ryan was a Dartmouth U boxing champ, but he wasn’t what the character was. Black. I do not undestand how the Jewish Wise could accept such blatant RKO racism. “Hollywood’s attitude to the Negro in films,” said author March, “has been dictated all too often by box-office considerations: they are afraid of losing money in the Jim Crow South.” And lying about it.
  2. Sidney Poitier, No Way Out, 1949.    The first black actor to headline a Hollywood movie, Home of the Brave, 1948, passed the torch to the debuting Poitier as Dr Luther Brooks in the bitter, if melodramatic expose of racial hatred. Poitier gave up a Theatre Guild play for the film and the anonymous New York Times critic hailed “his quiet dignity – in sharp, affecting contrast to the volatile, sneering, base animal mentality and vigor that [Richard] Widmark expresses so expertly.” 
  3. Harry Belafonte, Carmen Jones, 1954.   Without Edwards, there would never have been a Sidney Poitier in Hollywood…. Alcoholic and more than a trifle paranoiac, the poor Edwards  was a pioneering  black actor –  stifling in roles never as fine as his Home of the Brave, 1949.  Even when he read with Dorothy Dandridge and Diahann Carroll, director Otto Preminger was really testing the women. Carroll found Jim “most seductive” but he lost out to the “incredibly  beautiful” Belafonte – all this before her long affair with “glorious” Poitier.

 Birth year: 1918Death year: 1970Other name: Casting Calls:  34