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Juanita Hall
Born Juanita Long
November 6, 1901(1901-11-06)
Keyport, New Jersey, U.S.
Died February 28, 1968 (aged 66)
Bay Shore, New York, U.S.
Occupation Singer and actress
Years active 1920s-1960s
Spouse(s) Clement Hall

Juanita Hall (November 6, 1901 – February 28, 1968) was an American musical theatre and film actress. She is remembered for her roles in the original stage and screen versions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals South Pacific as Bloody Mary and Flower Drum Song as Auntie Liang.

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Biography

Born in Keyport, New Jersey, Hall received classical training at Juilliard School.

In the early 1930s she was a special soloist and assistant director for the Hall Johnson Choir. A leading black Broadway performer in her day, she was personally chosen by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to perform the roles she played in the musicals South Pacific and Flower Drum Song, as a Pacific Islander and a Chinese-American, respectively.

In 1950, she became the first African-American to win a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Bloody Mary in South Pacific. She also starred in the 1954 Broadway musical House of Flowers as well as Harold Arlen's Slide Boy Slide in which she sang and danced. She played the role of "Bloody Mary" for 1,925 performances on Broadway at the Majestic Theater beginning on April 7, 1949. Her co-stars were Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin. In addition to her role in South Pacific, she was a regular performer in clubs in Greenwich Village, where she captivated audiences with her renditions of "Am I Blue", "Lament Over Love", and Langston Hughes' "Cool Saturday Night".

Prior to her acting roles, she assembled her own chorus group (The Juanita Hall Choir) and kept busy with performances in concert, on records, in films, and on the air. She auditioned for "Talent 48", a private review created by the Stage Manager's Club. Later, she performed on radio in the soap opera The Story Of Ruby Valentine on the National Negro Network. The serial was broadcast in 40 states and was sponsored by, among others, Philip Morris.

In 1957, she recorded Juanita Hall Sings the Blues (at Beltone Studios in New York City), backed by an astonishing group of jazz musicians including Claude Hopkins, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Doc Cheatham, and George Duvivier. In 1958 she reprised Bloody Mary in the film version of South Pacific, for which her singing part was dubbed, at Richard Rodgers's request, by Muriel Smith who had played the role in the London production.

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Private life

Hall married actor Clement Hall while in her teens. He died in the 1920s; they had no children. Hall, a diabetic, died from complications of her illness in Bay Shore, Long Island. Leonard Feather gave a particularly moving tribute to Hall at the time of her death when he proclaimed her "an expert student and practitioner in the art of singing the blues".

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