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Iowa History Daily: February 11 - Actor Ben Carter

Iowa History Daily: On February 11, 1911, groundbreaking actor Ben Carter was born in Fairfield. One of the first African-American actors to land a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox, Carter also helped advance diversity in film as a booking agent.

After spending his early childhood in Fairfield, Carter’s family eventually moved to Aurora, Illinois. Carter headed west to Los Angeles upon graduating high school, he started by playing uncredited small parts in films during 1934. The following year he opened his own agency to help other Black actors book roles in the developing film industry of Los Angeles and New York.

Carter appeared in “Gone With the Wind” (1939) as well as casting all the other African-American actors and actresses in it, “Maryland” (1940) and “Tin Pan Alley” (1940). Carter often performed in comic roles and in scenes which allowed him to display his singing ability such as in “The Harvey Girls” (1946) and “A Day at the Races” (1937).

Among Carter’s most prominent roles stood Charlie Chan’s movies “The Scarlet Clue” (1945) and “Dark Alibi” (1946). Carter also gained notoriety for his role in the World War II movie “Crash Dive” (1943) where his character rose above racial stereotypes and as a valuable member of a submarine's crew. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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