Actress Ellen Holly, renowned for breaking barriers as the first Black star in a daytime TV show, passed away at the age of 92. Cheryl L. Duncan, her publicist, conveyed the news of her peaceful demise on Wednesday at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, New York.
Who Was Ellen Holly?
Ellen Holly, born on January 16, 1931, in New York City, entered the limelight as a member of the Actors Studio. Early in her career, she graced Broadway stages with performances in productions like “A Hand Is on the Gate” and “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright,” sharing the stage with luminaries like Jack Lemmon, Roscoe Lee Browne, and James Earl Jones.
Trailblazing Role in ‘One Life to Live’
Holly hailed from a family of trailblazers in the Black community, and she made history by becoming the first African American actress with a regular role in a daytime TV series. From 1968 to 1980 and then again from 1983 to 1985, she portrayed Carla Gray in ABC’s soap opera “One Life to Live.” Agnes Nixon, the show’s creator, noticed Holly after reading her letter to The New York Times about her experiences as a light-skinned African American, leading to the creation of the character Carla.
Beyond ‘One Life to Live’
Despite facing challenges, including her departure from “One Life to Live” in 1985, Holly remained resilient. In 1989, she made a triumphant return to daytime television, serving as a judge on “Guiding Light” until 1993. Holly’s comeback extended to the small screen with her portrayal of Selena Frey in the 2002 television movie “10,000 Black Men Named George,” alongside Mario Van Peebles and Andre Braugher.
Autobiography: Sharing Experiences in Hollywood
In 1996, Holly published her autobiography, providing insights into her journey as a light-skinned Black actress in Hollywood. The autobiography, titled “One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress,” delves into her experiences, shedding light on her time in the industry.
Personal Life and Legacy
Despite never marrying or having children, Holly’s personal life added another layer to her captivating story. Romantically involved with Roger Hill, her co-star on “One Life to Live,” she also shared details of her romance with Harry Belafonte in her autobiography. Holly is survived by grandnieces and cousins, leaving behind a legacy that extends beyond the screen.
Ellen Holly’s contributions to the entertainment industry and her trailblazing spirit will be remembered as her legacy continues to inspire generations.