Gertrude Hadley Jeannett
Gertrude Hadley Jeannette’s life has unfolded in such a way that it possesses a theatrical quality of its own. Her life story could play like some of the productions and movies in which she’s performed. Hers would be the tale of the spunky heroine who triumphs over adversity and makes it in the big city and while that might sound like the plot of an old movie, it has been Ms. Jeannette’s reality.
A native of Little Rock and a 1934 graduate of what was then Dunbar High School; Ms. Jeannette defied her parents’ plans for her to enter Fisk University when she eloped with Joe Jeannette, a retired prize fighter. It was only after arriving in New York City that Ms. Jeannette’s new husband learned that his bride was not yet the 18-year old she’d claimed to be. Despite her father’s wrath and her husband’s fears of having unwittingly transported a minor across state lines, things worked out for the Jeannette’s, who eventually had a son.
New York City proved a good fit for Ms. Jeannette. Upon advisement, she enrolled in speech classes to remedy a speech impediment; however she was ultimately persuaded to take the full course: acting, speech and dance. In 1950, Ms. Jeannette was one of the first African-Americans to appear on national television when CBS’s General Electric Hour presented a musical version of James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombone.”
Ms. Jeannette founded the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players in 1979 and has operated community theatres since 1950. She is an award-winning playwright, director and professional actress who has extensive credits in radio, stage (including Broadway productions of “The Great White Hope “, “Nobody Loves an Albatross”, “Amen Corner” and “Vieux Carre”), film (including “Nothing But a Man”, “Shaft”, “The Legend of Charlie” and “Cotton Comes to Harlem “) and television.