Piano player and singer Hazel Scott was one of the rare African American women of her time to avoid being cast as a maid when she made it to Hollywood. She accomplished this feat by refusing to play anyone but herself.
Born in Trinidad in 1920, Scott was recognized as a child prodigy by the time she moved with her family to New York in 1924. After a Julliard education, she debuted her first nightclub act at age twenty. Her lively blend of swing music and the classics made her an immediate sensation, and she quickly drew the notice of Hollywood. Proud, outspoken, and well aware of how remarkably talented she was, Scott refused to do anything but sing and play piano in her movie appearances. In essence, Hazel Scott took her nightclub act to the big screen—and how lucky for us that she did.
Scott plays and sings three George Gershwin songs (The Man I Love, I Got Rhythm, and Clap Your Hands) in this clip from his biopic, Rhapsody in Blue (1945). I find this scene a bit frustrating, because the song is interrupted several times so the snoozy lead actors can advance the plot. Still, you get a heavy dose of Scott’s glamour and delightful self-possession:
Here’s another great clip from the 1950 March of Dimes telethon, in which she plays and sings A Foggy Day with Charles Mingus and Rudy Nichols:
Here's my first post about Hazel Scott in which she plays Taking a Chance on Love in I Dood It (1943)
For more Hazel Scott, check out her dynamite performances in The Heat’s On (1943) and Broadway Rhythm (1944)