Broadway & Hollywood Legend Ruby Dee Dies at 91
Legendary actresses of stage and screen, Ruby Dee died Wednesday night, June 11th at the age of 91, TMZ reports. According to sources, the actress was at her home in New Rochelle, NY, surrounded by family members when she passed away. A rep has confirmed the report. It was just last Sunday evening when Tony Award winner Audra McDonald thanked Dee during her acceptance speech for paving the way for her own successful career.
Dee is perhaps best known for her starring role in the 1960s film "A Raisin in the Sun", as well as her appearances in the SPIKE Lee films "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever." She was most recently seen on the big screen in "American Gangster", in which she took on the role of the mother of Denzel Washington's character.
Dee made several appearances on Broadway, earning two Drama Desk Awards for her performance in 1971's Boesman and Lena and 1973's Wedding Band. Among her theater credits are the original production of A Raisin in the Sun, Checkmates, Purlie Victorious, The Smile of the World, A Long Way from Home, Anna Lucasta and South Pacific.
Her career in acting has crossed all major forms of media over a span of eight decades, including the films A Raisin in the Sun, in which she recreated her stage role as a suffering housewife in the projects, and Edge of the City. She played both roles opposite Sidney Poitier. During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.
Among the many appearances that she made in various television series is her role as Cora Sanders, a Marxist college professor, in Season 1 of Police Woman. The character of Cora Sanders was obviously, but loosely, influenced by the real-life Angela Y. Davis. Dee was nominated for eight Emmy Awards, winning once for her role in the 1990 TV film Decoration Day. She was nominated for her television guest appearance in the China Beach episode, "Skylark". Her husband Ossie Davis (1917-2005) also appeared in the episode.
In 1995, she and Davis were awarded the National Medal of Arts. They were also recipients of The Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. In 2003, she narrated a series of WPA slave narratives in the HBO film Unchained Memories. In 2007 the winner of the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album was tied between Dee and Ossie Davis for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together, and former President Jimmy Carter.
She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of Mama Lucas in American Gangster. She won the Screen Actors Guild award for the same performance. At 83 years of age, Dee is currently the second oldest nominee for Best Supporting Actress, behind Gloria Stuart who was 87 when nominated for her role in Titanic.