LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Lorenzo Tucker

Lorenzo Tucker—Often billed as the “Black Valentino,” actor Lorenzo Tucker became a major star in the race films of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He worked most frequently with prolific director Oscar Micheaux, who used Tucker in eighteen of the thirty-six films he made. Micheaux is often credited with coming up with the Black Valentino moniker, which Tucker found amusing, as he felt his complexion was actually lighter than that of legendary silent film star Rudolph Valentino. In addition to his work on the screen, Tucker was a respected stage actor, and appeared in the Broadway production of The Constant Sinner, where he played a pimp opposite white actress Mae West. The play included a scene where Tucker and West kiss, which caused much controversy. In some cities the scene had to be cut, while some theaters would not even allow Tucker to share the stage with West. Tucker retired from acting in the 1950s, and would go on to become an autopsy technician at the medical examiner’s office in New York City, where he worked on the bodies of Nina Mae McKinney (who he co-starred with in Straight to Heaven) and Malcolm X.

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