Image of Pearl Bailey

Pearl Bailey

Pearl Mae Bailey, born in Virginia on March 29, 1918, was an American actress and singer. Bailey began by singing and dancing in Philadelphia’s black nightclubs in the 1930s, and soon started performing in other parts of the East Coast. In 1941, during World War II, Bailey toured the country with the USO, performing for American troops. After the tour, she settled in New York. Her solo successes as a nightclub performer were followed by acts with such entertainers as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. In 1946, Bailey made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman. Bailey continued to tour and record albums in between her stage and screen performances. Her rendition of "Takes Two to Tango" hit the top ten in 1952. On November 19, 1952, Bailey married jazz drummer Louie Bellson in London. They adopted a child, Tony, in the mid-1950s, and subsequently a girl, Dee Dee J. Bellson, born April 20, 1960. In 1954, she took the role of Frankie in the film version of Carmen Jones, and her rendition of "Beat Out That Rhythm on the Drum" is one of the highlights of the film. She also starred in the Broadway musical House of Flowers. In 1959, she played the role of Maria in the film version of Porgy and Bess, starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. Also that year, she played the role of "Aunt Hagar" in the movie St. Louis Blues, alongside Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, and Nat King Cole. Though she was originally considered for the part of Annie Johnson in the 1959 film Imitation of Life, the part went to Juanita Moore. A passionate fan of the New York Mets, Bailey sang the national anthem at Shea Stadium prior to game 5 of the 1969 World Series, and appears in the Series highlight film showing her support for the team. She also sang the national anthem prior to game 1 of the 1981 World Series between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium. Bailey, a Republican, was appointed by President Richard Nixon as America's "Ambassador of Love" in 1970. She attended several meetings of the United Nations and later appeared in a campaign ad for President Gerald Ford in the 1976 election. Also during the 1970s she had her own television show, and she also provided voices for animations such as Tubby the Tuba (1976) and Disney's The Fox and the Hound (1981). She returned to Broadway in 1975, playing the lead in an all-black production of Hello, Dolly!. At age 67, she earned a B.A. in theology from GeorgetownUniversity in Washington, D.C., in 1985. Later in her career, Bailey was a fixture as a spokesperson in a series of Duncan Hines commercials, singing "Bill Bailey (Won't You Come Home)". In her later years Bailey wrote several books: The Raw Pearl (1968), Talking to Myself (1971), Pearl's Kitchen (1973), and Hurry Up America and Spit (1976). In 1975 she was appointed special ambassador to the United Nations by President Gerald Ford. Her last book, Between You and Me (1989), details her experiences with higher education. In 1988 Bailey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. On August 17, 1990, Bailey died of heart condition. She is buried at RollingGreenMemorial Park in West Chester, Pennsylvania. During her lifetime, she won a Tony Award for the title role in the all-black production of Hello, Dolly! in 1968. In 1986, she won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance as a fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special, Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.

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Mar 29, 1918 In Newport News, Virginia, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the movie Variety Girl 1947-08-29
Latest Project:
Movie Bing Crosby: Rediscovered 2014-12-02
Known For
Poster of Satan Claus
Poster of The Love Boat
Poster of The Dick Cavett Show
Poster of What's My Line?
Movie Bing Crosby: Rediscovered Herself 2014-12-02
Movie Satan Claus Animal 2010-01-01
Movie TV in Black: The First Fifty Years Unknown 2004-01-01
Movie The World Of Nat King Cole Herself 2004-06-15
Movie Great Broadway Musical Moments from the Ed Sullivan Show Herself 2003-07-22
Movie Passing the Baton: The Making of The Fox and the Hound Self 2003-10-10
Movie Peter Gunn Mother 1989-04-23
Movie Night of 100 Stars Herself 1982-03-08
Movie The Member of the Wedding Bernice Sadie Brown 1982-12-20
Movie The Fox and the Hound Big Mama (voice) 1981-07-10
Series The Love Boat Millie Washington 1977-09-24
Series Donny & Marie Unknown 1976-01-23
Series The Muppet Show Unknown 1976-09-05
Movie Norman... Is That You? Beatrice Chambers 1976-09-29
Movie Tubby the Tuba Mrs. Elephant 1975-04-30
Movie The Landlord Marge 1970-05-20
Series The Flip Wilson Show Unknown 1970-09-17
Movie Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey: On Broadway Herself 1969-03-16
Series The Dick Cavett Show Self - Guest 1968-06-06
Series The Carol Burnett Show Unknown 1967-09-11
Series The Danny Kaye Show Self 1963-09-25
Movie All the Fine Young Cannibals Ruby 1960-09-15
Movie Porgy and Bess Maria 1959-06-24
Movie St. Louis Blues Aunt Hagar 1958-04-07
Series Tony Awards Herself - Presenter 1956-04-01
Movie That Certain Feeling Gussie 1956-06-04
Series The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Unknown 1956-10-05
Series The Steve Allen Show Unknown 1956-06-24
Movie Carmen Jones Frankie 1954-10-28
Series The Oscars Unknown 1953-03-18
Series What's My Line? Self - Mystery Guest 1950-02-02
Series Your Show of Shows Unknown 1950-02-25
Movie Isn't It Romantic? Addie 1948-10-06
Series The Ed Sullivan Show Unknown 1948-06-20
Movie Variety Girl Herself (specialty singer) 1947-08-29