Julia (1968-71)

In Julia, Diahann plays a young, middle-class Vietnam war widow who works as a nurse in the aerospace industry. Alone she raises her son, Corey (played by Marc Copage), who spend much time with his best friend, Earl (Michael Link). At work, Julia is supervised by Dr. Morton Chegley (Lloyd Nolan).  A "typical" joke in this series could go like this (and I quote Ebony magazine, November 1968):
The two youngsters - one black, one white - are playing in small-boy fashion when a neighbor walks by.
"Hi," says the white lad.
"Who's your frind?" asks the neighbor.
"This is my friend Corey," comes the reply. "He's colored."
"Yes," muses the neighbor looking at Corey. "Well, I guess it runs in his family."

  This "amusing and touching" sitcom was created by Hal Kanter, and it dealt - although very, very mildly - with both racial differences, the pressure of being a lonely woman raising a son and being a working woman. It was an enormous success, although not without some controversy, and ran for three years, before Diahann decided to move on. Julia still have a home in many peoples hearts, I (your webmaster) receive e-mails every month from people asking about the series and its characters. If You have anything Julia-related You'd like to share, please contact me.
  Julia was sponsored by (among others) Mattell, Inc. and there were several toys, lunchboxes, coloring books and dolls issued. These items are worth a fortune today!
During its run, Julia was nominated for several awards. Diahann Carroll herself won a Golden Globe in 1969 for Best TV Star - Female (the entire show was nominated too, for Best TV Show), and was nominated for a 1970 Golden Globe for Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy. She was also nominated for an Emmy in 1969 for "Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series". 

The Story Behind the Successful Series

One day in 1967, Ms Carroll's agent called to say that a man named Hal Kanter was putting together a project for NBC and Twentieth Century Fox, a sitcom about a black woman. Though Mr. Kanter had spoken to a lot of actresses about the role, he wasn't really interested in Diahann (he called her "too sophisticated"), but the agent said he still could arrange a meeting. (Ms. Carroll writes in her 1986 book, Diahann!, "Tell me I'm not right for a part, tell me you don't want me, and I'm yours. /.../ It wasn't so much that I wanted the part; I wanted to be wanted for it"). The agent sent Diahann a script:
  "The script was about a young, very middle-class Vietnam war widow named Julia who goes to work as a nurse in the aerospace industry. The one really special aspect of the plot was that Julia and her five-year-old son were black. 
  Everyone and everything in the script were warm and genteel and "nice" - even the racial jokes I knew would be there. /.../ 'Well, I suppose this is kind of progress,' I thought. 'First television pretended there wasn't any prejudice. Then it pretended there weren't any racial differences. Now it has reached the point where where it can not only acknowledge there are differences, but a white man can write jokes for a black woman to say about them.'"

  Ms. Carroll thought Julia was a terribly mild statement about everything the script touched on, but what captured her attention was Julia herself. Soon she felt she knew her - from the inside and out. She called her agent and had him set her up for a meeting with Mr. Kanter the very next day. To prepare, she turned her self into Julia - changed her hair and got a wool dress, simple and understated. She wore subtle makeup and no jewelry. And when the next day arrived, she already acted the role of a middle-class housewife. The meeting ended with Mr. Kanter saying to Ms. Carroll, "Well, Julia, it's nice to have met you", and the part was hers.
  The pilot was shot, and NBC decided to buy the concept. Diahann had to move to California, but she thought it would only last for 13 weeks. After all, this was a time of big changes in the USA: riots in the ghettos, student protesting against the war in Vietnam, and there was the murder of Mr. Martin Luther King - she thought no one would care about Julia. Well, Ms. Carroll was wrong.
  Julia went on air in September, 1968 and became a smash hit. It was rated the number one show on air by Nielsen, and was seen by the millions. It received great reviews, and soon Diahann was seen on magazine covers everywhere. Ms Carroll did have a few problems though, especially on a personally basis. Her daughter Suzanne was by then 8 years old, and it was difficult for Diahann to spend as much time with her as she wanted to. The second problem had to do with her little co-star, Marc Copage, who played her "TV-son", Corey. Since he had no real-life mother, he soon started to behave as if Diahann was his mother not only in the TV series, but in real life as well. This made Diahann's daughter very upset, and finally Diahann had to confront Marc with the truth, which wasn't that easy for a small kid to comprehend. 
  Though extremely popular, not everyone loved Julia. The show was soon attacked for not being realistic, it was, as Saturday Review wrote, "a far, far cry from the bitter realities of Negro life in the urban ghetto". The lack of a male role model for Julia's son was also something the critics complained about. Ms Carroll, as the star of the show (but without any decision-making power), had to constantly defend Julia, saying it was only a sitcom, and as such it couldn't be held responsible for answering all problems in the society. Soon, anything Diahann said was head-line news, and this took its toll on her. She found herself starting to scrutinize every script, and Ms. Carroll talks about several incidents in her book, Diahann!. In one episode Julia was (so the script said) crying her heart out over the fact that her son had been called "nigger" in school. According to the script, this was Julia's first encounter with racial prejudice, something Diahann found a bit too unrealistic. She started to confront Hal Kanter about this and other passages in the scripts, and eventually it came to the point in the second season where Diahann just couldn't take it no more. By now she had become almost a wreck (her own words). The criticism in media and from political groups was still harsh, the producer didn't understand what proportions this all had taken, and Diahann felt drenched. She wanted away from it all, and so started to live "the glamorous life". She bought an expensive house, had nothing but expensive clothes, and she became self obsessed. Everything was jet set - a true star... But behind the glamour was a woman who by now was involved in a relationship with an abusive man (it soon ended, but not soon enough), a woman who no longer respected her self or her work. When appearing in nightclubs (the billboard now said "Diahann Carroll - TV's Julia") she sometimes completely lost contact with the audience.
  By the third year of Julia, Diahann felt the format was dated. Though the adding of a new character (played by Diahann's friend Diana Sands) proved fruitful, the series was going nowhere. In 1970, when the time came to renew Ms. Carroll's contract, she asked to be released. She simply couldn't take it no more. When the show went off the air, she did feel sad - there had been fun times, but at the same time she felt finally free and very, very relieved. .

CAST & CREDITS

Cast:
Diahann Carroll.............Julia Baker 
Lloyd Nolan....Dr. Morton Chegley 
Marc Copage.............Corey Baker 
Michael Link......Earl J. Waggedorn
Betty Beaird..................Marie Waggedorn 
Hank Brandt.....................Len Waggedorn 
Ned Glass..............Sol Cooper (1968-71) 
Janear Hines................Roberta (1970-71) 
Stephanie James......Kim Bruce (1970-71) 
Allison Mills........Carol Deering (1968-69) 
Eddie Quillan.........................Eddie Edson 
Richard Steele..............Richard (1970-71) 
Lurene Tuttle......Hannah Yarby (1968-71) 
Mary Wickes....Melba Chegley (1968-71) 
Fred Williamson.....Steve Bruce (1970-71) 
Paul Winfield.......Paul Cameron (1968-70)

Created by Hal Kanter

DVD RELEASE

Sadly not released on DVD.

PICTURES

Click to enlarge. The bottom four pictures are Belgian collector's cards.

EXTERNAL LINKS (Opens in new window)

Julia on IMDB.com
Julia on Wikipedia
Julia at The Museum of Broadcast Communications


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