Actress Cicely Tyson has passed away at the age of 96. The mulitalented powerhouse leaves behind a multitude of memorable performances, and a plethora of ground breaking accomplishments that only a force of nature could achieve. Her name will not soon be forgotten, nor will her impact upon generations of actors. The classic movie channel, TCM will be celebrating Tyson's life January 31 with two of her most renown films, Sounder and A Man Called Adam.
Tyson, who passed away on January 28, broke barriers throughout her more than seven-decade career, which included work as a top model, theatrical artist, movie star and television actress. She even became an author in her later years, penning an autobiography which was published not to long before her death. As a black woman born in Harlem to immigrant parents in 1924, Tyson's life and career was, and is, a constsnt inspiration to all those who face bias or prejudice based on their race or gender.
She's also a powerful representative for the rights of women in a male dominated industry, never accepting a role that didn't represent her character in a positive light. This kept her from working as often as others, but allowed her to maintain a dignified persona worthy of respect at all times. It is because of her integrity and outstanding work that she earned a Peabody Award and an honorary Oscar for her life time achievements, a Tony Award as Best Actress, three Emmys, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as a multitude of other awards and honors in every imaginable orginization dedicated to acting far to expansive to list here (IMDb page).
I remenber as a kid that having Cicely Tyson on TV was a special event. I think I first saw her as the lead character in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and then in the special limited series, Roots. I was too young to see Best Picture nominee Sounder upon its initial release, however years later my elementary school made a point of showing it in a school wide assembly. I ran around telling any body who would listen what a big deal Tyson was, and why it was going to be such a special movie to see. After all, Tyson was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance. Although she didn't take home the statuette that night, you'll wonder why not when you see (SPOILER) the unforgettable moment her character rushes dozens of yards into the arms of her returning husband played by fellow Oscar nominee, Paul Winfield.
Flash forward a few decades to then 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival where I had the opportunity to meet the legend on the red carpet. I was surprised to discover that the larger-than-life icon stood just five feet, three and a half inches tall. Although my heels made me a foot taller, the overwhelming presence of Ms. Tyson made me feel as if I were standing in her shadow. A true class act, she put me at ease by treating me with no less enthusiasm than she did with the larger outlets. It was a thrill to see her again the next day as she held court in front of the famous Hollywood Chinese Theater as her hands and feet were immortalized in cement.
About a year and a half later I was onboard the TCM Cruise where Tyson, Dian Ladd and Mitzi Gaynor where the honored guests for a five-day cruise to Bahama. Many of Tyson's most memorable films were shown to packed audiences who also enjoyed Q&A sessions with the star live and in person with every screening. It was an experience I'll never forget. If you ever have the opportunity to vacation with a Hollywood icon, I recommend you do so before the icon becomes the legend.