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A Colored Life

A Colored Life is an in-depth portrait of Herb Jeffries, one of the most famous entertainers you've probably never heard of.

Jeffries began his entertainment career at a time when black and white worlds rarely overlapped. Though born of an Irish mother and Sicilian father, at the age of 19 he spontaneously declared himself to be "Creole" in order to get a singing gig with an all-black jazz band; in that moment he also committed himself to life as a "colored" man during one of the worst times in civil rights history. Yet his bronze complexion, good looks and 4½ octave range afforded him opportunities in black entertainment that might not have been available to him in white Hollywood. His remarkable talents and ambition drove him to success in a world not his own, but in which he felt at home.

In 1938, Jeffries became the "Bronze Buckaroo," America's first black singing movie star, finally giving black children a hero to look up to. He sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and, in 1942, he had a Billboard hit called "Flamingo." He became a television star, western crooner, ladies' man, and accidental activist. Still, Herb Jeffries never became the household name many believe he so richly deserved to be.

He could have lived in either world, yet he chose to live as an African American. Today, at 96 years old, Herb Jeffries is still an enigma. In this charming, humorous, and thought-provoking memoir, Jeffries reflects on his remarkable life and experiences as an African American entertainer... that all began with a little white lie.

A Kim Clemons and Andy Streitfeld film for AMS Pictures.

Episodic Synopsis available here Click to download

52 minutes

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