Ellen Holly, Iconic ‘One Life to Live’ Actress, Passes Away at 92
Ellen Holly, renowned as the inaugural Black actor to take on a significant role in a soap opera, passed away peacefully in her sleep at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. at the age of 92. Another media sensation Kevin ‘Geordie’ Walker is also no more in this world.
Moreover, the big name made her television debut with appearances on various shows including The Big Story (1957), The Defenders (1963), Sam Benedict (1963), Dr. Kildare (1964), and The Doctors and the Nurses (1963 and 1964).
In addition, the TV star’s most notable contribution came through her groundbreaking portrayal of Carla Gray on the acclaimed ABC series One Life to Live. Holly embodied this character from 1968 to 1980 and then reprised the role from 1983 to 1985.
Also, the Television producer Agnes Nixon handpicked Holly for the role after encountering her thought-provoking New York Times opinion piece titled “How Black Do You Have To Be?” This piece shed light on the challenges faced by light-skinned Black women in securing acting roles—an article that resonated deeply with Nixon and led to Holly’s selection for the iconic part of the show.
Besides, the late artist Holly, born on January 16, 1931, in Manhattan, hailed from a family with William Garnet Holly, a chemical engineer, and Grayce Holly, a housewife and writer, as her parents.
Moreover, the renowned personage journey began at Hunter College, where she joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. during her college tenure.
To add more, Launching her acting career in the vibrant stages of New York City and Boston, Holly marked her Broadway debut in 1956 with “Too Late the Phalarope.” Her theatrical presence continued to shine in notable productions such as “Face of a Hero,” “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright,” and “A Hand is on the Gate.” See another actor Anthony Pullen Shaw.
For nearly two decades, from 1958 to 1973, the late actress helmed various Joseph Papp New York Shakespeare Festival productions. Her theatrical collaborations were illustrious, sharing the stage with luminaries like Roscoe Lee Browne, James Earl Jones, Jack Lemmon, Barry Sullivan, and Cicely Tyson. She deeply delved into the realm of dance under the tutelage of Katherine Dunham, advocating for its role in showcasing the richness of African-American culture.
Likewise, Holly’s prominence extended beyond the stage and screen, featuring in publications like Newsweek, TV Guide, Ebony, Soap Opera Digest, and the New York Times. Her impact spurred the inclusion of Black storylines on “All My Children” and “General Hospital,” contributing to ABC’s daytime dominance for two decades.
In her later years, Ellen became a vocal advocate, shedding light on issues of underpayment and mistreatment faced by herself and fellow Black cast members, despite their pivotal contributions to the show’s success.
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