Before Diahann, Another Iconic Actress Rejected “Claudine” Movie Over Stereotype

Posted On : December 16, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.17.45 AM

The year was 1974 when we watched Claudine and witnessed Diahann Carroll display a total contrast to her sophisticated character of “Nurse Julia” from her 60s/70s TV show, Julia. Although many were skeptical about Diahann being able to convince us that she would be a poor single mother on welfare, raising six kids, she pulled it off and Claudine forever went down in history as a 70’s cult classic film…BUT…

There was another very popular actress whom the producers of the film were trying to convince to take the “Claudine” role, but she turned it down for the very reason that we all fell in love with the film- she didn’t want to portray an unmarried African American woman who was on welfare and raising six kids on her own. Of course that’s not the only reason we loved the film, but seeing a representation of an unfortunate reality that many of us are faced with in our own families and communities, was a reality that was very relatable for us. Nonetheless, it’s understandable that this actress couldn’t see herself playing such a character. See who this strong willed, iconic actress is below…

So THAT’S Who Turned Down “Claudine” Role…

Embed from Getty Images

It’s the beautiful Cicely Tyson! In a prior interview, Cicely revealed that she was offered the role of “Claudine” before Diahann Carroll, but she just did not want to take on that type of stereotypical role at that point in her career. Therefore, she declined.

We all know that Cicely would have nailed that character like no other, but now that we’ve seen Diahann kill that role, it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling her shoes. The film would have felt totally different with any other actress loving on “Roop” (James Earl Jones’ character).

That same year in 1974, Cicely Tyson’s TV movie, The Autobiography of Jane Pittman, released and her character was a slave named “Jane” who told the story of transitioning from being a slave to being a free person at the end of the Civil War and living into the start of the civil rights era at the age of 110.

Embed from Getty Images

While “Jane” was a far cry from the role of “Claudine,” it can also be argued that “Claudine” was the result of a woman, much like “Jane Pittman.” “Jane” had to rebuild, after generations of oppression and was still trying to navigate her way through the American system -through parenthood, and the men in her life. Sure, “Claudine” had more opportunities than “Jane,” or so it seemed, but the biased ‘American system’ was still strong and in tact. For example, “Claudine” -and women like “Claudine,” who are on welfare- still have to keep the men out of the household, or face consequences of having their government assistance stripped away from them and their children. As long as there is no man in the home, the possibility of building a strongly bonded, complete family is very minimal and basically impossible.

So both characters -“Jane” and “Claudine”- still represent women who possess a certain level of strength and triumph, but under a different set of circumstances. Moving on…

Diahann Caroll Wasn’t The 2nd Pick Either…Diana Sands Was…

Embed from Getty Images

Another fact about the film, Claudine, is that Diahann wasn’t supposed to play “Claudine” either. Actress, Diana Sands, was originally casted as “Claudine” and production had already started in 1973 with Sands. It came to a screeching halt when Sands and James Earl Jones were doing a love scene and Jones knew something must have been wrong with Sands, when she winced in pain. Sadly, it turned out that Sands had a terminal form cancer, called leiomyosarcoma, and had to pull out of the film. It was Sands who suggested that her close friend, Diahann Carroll, take the part instead, and the rest is history. Sands sadly passed away that same year. May she continue to rest peacefully.

-ILoveOldSchoolMusic, old school news with a new point of view