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In William Wellman’s 1931 film, Safe in Hell (aka The Lost Lady), Nina Mae took the role of a waitress who befriends a runaway prostitute (played by Dorothy McKaill). In 1935, she played a singer in Reckless, a star vehicle for Jean Harlow. However, most of Nina Mae’s scenes were cut.It has been observed that Harlow’s tough, sexy persona was strikingly similar to Nina’s in Hallelujah! But as Bourne admits, ‘No one would have called Jean Harlow the “white Nina Mae McKinney”.’ Like other black American stars, including Josephine Baker and Adelaide Hall, Nina Mae eventually tired of constantly facing discrimination, and tried her luck in Europe. In 1933, Charles B. Cochran – London’s answer to Florenz Ziegfeld – cast Nina Mae in a West End revue, and she followed this with a series of successful variety tours and even featured in some of the first BBC television specials.Fayard Nicholas, who starred with Nina Mae in a short Vitaphone film, The Black Network, told Stephen Bourne in 1990, ‘She had the talent. She could sing, dance and wisecrack with the best of them, but she came along too early and there was no place for her.’ #ninamaemckinney #blackvintageglamor #blackhistory #sablesouls

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