Eulogy for Eulabelle Moore

No one knows the birthday of Eulabelle Moore (1909-1964) so we choose Juneteenth for the present post, both for the significance of the day, and the fact that we mention her in another post tomorrow, timed for the first day of summer. As to her birth year, while some sources give 1903, her grave marker says 1909, and that would seem to be an authoritative source. IMDB says she was born in Garrison, Texas.

I would have guessed that, like most African American performers of her generation, Moore would have gotten her start in black vaudeville, tent shows, or night clubs. But this very nice testimony, written by someone who knew her, makes no mention of such. What is known is that she acted in 13 Broadway shows, starting with Sweet River, George Abbott’s musical version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in 1936. She was also in the original production of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth (1942) with Tallulah Bankhead, Frederic March, Florence Eldridge, E.G. Marshall, and Montgomery Clift, as well as a 1945 revival of You Can’t Take it With You with Fred Stone and Dorothy Stone, a 1950 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire with Anthony Quinn and Uta Hagen, and several others up through Great Day in the Morning (1962) with Colleen Dewhurst and Frances Sternhagen.

The amazing thing — the apalling thing, really — is that, instead of all that, what she is best known today is her stereotyped superstitious maid’s role in the grade z scare film The Horror of Party Beach (1964). This was her last professional credit, and a crazy thing for her to remembered for, in light of her highly respectable stage credits! Unfortunately she died at the young age of 55, preventing her from adding some more films to that resume, to balance out her legacy some. For film really is the pernicious culprit here. You could be the world’s greatest Hamlet on stage, and take a pie in the face in one movie, and you would be the “pie in the face guy” for the rest of your life. Today we make a modest effort to set the record straight.