Curtis Caesar John
Dec 25, 2017 · 1 min read

Lillian Randolph — A Wonderful Life?

Every year I watch "It’s a Wonderful Life" on television and every year actress Lillian Randolph is such a standout. Sharp, witty, memorable, she had a pretty successful career, especially as a voice actress, but could have and should have been a lot more. She’s as distinctive as Jenifer Lewis, as vibrant as Debbie Allen, and as matronly as Ruby Dee...yet too many of her 'top' radio, movie and tv roles were as maids to white folks (“Beulah,” Annie in “…Wondeful Life,” and Birdie in mulitple carnations of “The Great Gildersleeve”) and uncredited controversial mammy roles in “Tom & Jerry” cartoons.

You have to wonder, what kind of career she would have had if she lived now? Possibly another Taraji or Queen Latifah? But more so, how many opportunities weren't allowed her because she was a Black actress from the 1930s through the '70s? And as I said, she was steady working actress! We'll never know, but we should celebrate and respect the deserving trailblazers who made roles in modern Black entertainment possible.

Lillian Randolph
(December 14, 1898 – September 12, 1980)

Curtis Caesar John

Written by

arts manager and writer operating out of Brooklyn, NYC; founder of The Luminal Theater microcinema; Marathoner.