Oscar 2007: Ruby Dee in American Gangster

Ruby Dee has been nominated for the Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in
Ridley Scott's crime-gangster biopic, “American Gangster,” in which she plays Denzel Washington's mother. This is the first time nomination for Ruby Dee, who's the only African American (or woman of color for that matter) nominee among the 20 thespians singled out in the four acting categories.

With this nomination, Dee joins a group of a few older actresses (in their 80s), who have been singled out by the Academy, including Jessica Tandy (“Driving Miss Daisy”) and Eva Le Galienne (“Resurrection”).

Born Ruby Ann Wallace on October 27, 1923, in Cleveland, she is the daughter of a railroad porter and a schoolteacher. She grew up in Harlem, where she began her career with the Negro American Theatre.

Dee made her Broadway debut in 1946 in “Anna Lucasta,” which was unanimously praised by critics. He has since appeared in many stage plays, TV productions, and some feature films.

She made her screen debut in 1950 in “No Way Out” followed by “The Jackie Robinson Story,” also that year.

In 1948, she married actor Ossie Davis, with whom she appeared in several race-related films and has been actively involved in various civil rights and humanitarian causes.

Among her best screen work is her performance in Spike Lee's highly acclaimed and inflammatory drama, “Do the Right Thing,” in 1989, in which she co-starred with hubby Ossie Davis.

Brief Synopsis of American Gangster

Unfolding as the “success story” of a cult hero from the streets of Harlem, “American Gangster” centers on Washington's Frank Lucas, the quiet driver of one if the inner city's leading black crime bosses. When his boss suddenly dies, Lucas exploits the opening in the power structure to build he his own empire–he creates his own version of the American Dream. Through ingenuity and a strict business ethics, Lucas comes to rule the inner-city drug trade, flooding the streets with purer product at a better price. Outplaying all of the leading crime syndicates, he becomes not only one of the city's mainline corrupters, but also part o its circle of legit civic superstars.


“American Gangster” is scripted by Steven Zaillian, who won an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Spielberg's “Schindler's List” in 1993. The film is produced by Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott, and executive-produced by Nicholas Pileggi (who penned Scorsese's “Casino”), Zaillian, Branko Lustig, Karen Kehela Sherwood, James Whitaker, and Michael Costigan.