Diana Sands (1934 - 1973)


Diana Sands Biography & Family History

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Diana Sands
Born August 22, 1934 in New York City, New York, USA
Died September 21, 1973 in New York City, New York, USA
Birth Name Diana Patricia Sands
Diana Sands was born on August 22, 1934 in New York City, New York, USA as Diana Patricia Sands. She was an actress, known for The Landlord (1970), East Side/West Side (1963) and A Raisin in the Sun (1961). She was married to Lucien Happersberger. She died on September 21, 1973 in New York City.
Spouse (1)
Lucien Happersberger (4 August 1964 - 1970) ( divorced)
Diana Sands was originally cast in the title role for the film Claudine (1974), but her cancer forced her to drop out. She suggested her friend Diahann Carroll as her replacement.
Ms. Sands, who played "Beneatha Younger" in "A Raisin in the Sun", and its playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, died very young of cancer. A theatre in Wisconsin, the Hansberry-Sands Theatre, was so named as a tribute to both.
Superior Black actress of the 50s and 60s who defied the odds and played Shakespearean and Shavian roles normally cast for white actresses.
Appeared in a 1961 musical revue entitled "Another Evening with Harry Stoones" which also featured a 19-year-old Barbra Streisand.
When white actress Kim Stanley became unavailable to play the leading role of Doris in the 1964 Broadway romantic comedy "The Owl and the Pussycat," it was offered to Sands , who went on to play the role opposite Alan Alda. Not one line was changed to accommodate her race, and the casting generated relatively little controversy.
Her father was a carpenter and her mother a milliner. She graduated from the Manhattan High School of the Performing Arts.
Won a host of stage acting awards including an Outer Critics Circle Award for "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959), a Theatre World Award for "Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright" (1962), and an Obie Award for "The Living Premise" (1964). She also earned two successive Tony nominations in 1964 and 1965 for "Blues for Mister Charlie" and "The Owl and the Pussycat," not to mention two Emmy nominations for her dramatic TV work.
Was engaged to director Kurt Baker at the time of her death. She was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum.
Won a host of stage acting awards including an Outer Critics Circle Award for "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959), a Theatre World Award for "Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright" (1962), and an Obie Award for "The Living Premise" (1964). She also earned two successive Tony nominations: in 1964 as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) for "Blues for Mister Charlie", and in 1965 as Best Actress (Dramatic) for "The Owl and the Pussycat," and two Emmy nominations for her dramatic TV work.
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I refuse to be stereotyped. Look at me. Never mind my color. Please look at me!


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SEPT. 27, 1973

Some 400 friends, relatives and associates from the theater world attended a funeral serv ice yesterday for Diana Sands, the actress, at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Siena, 411 East 68th Street, NYC.
Miss Sands, who was 39 years old, died on Saturday of lung cancer at Sloan‐Kettering Memorial Hospital, across the street from the church.
The Rev. Stephen Reichley read the mass, which was conducted without music, and the Rev. Frank Ralph delivered the eulogy.
The pallbearers included Kurt Baker, film director of the Third World Cinema, which produced Miss Sands's last film, “Honey Baby, Honey Baby,” scheduled to be re leased next month. Mr. Baker and Miss Sands had planned to be married in October.
Other pallbearers included Cliff Frazier, an executive of the Third World Cinema, and the actors Brock Peters, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Hal Dewind, Douglas Turner Ward.
Bobby Short, the singer‐pianist, and Calvin Lockhart, Ruby Dee, Clarence Williams, Rosalind Cash and Gloria Foster.


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1934 - In the year that Diana Sands was born, on November 11th 1933, an extremely strong dust storm hit South Dakota, stripping topsoil. Other strong dust storms had occurred during 1933. Severe droughts continued to hit the Great Plains and the dust storms devastated agricultural production as well as people's' lives for several years. The Roosevelt administration and scientists eventually determined that farming practices had caused the conditions that led to the dust storms and the changes they implemented in farming stopped the Dust Bowl.

1938 - By the time she was only 4 years old, on October 30th, a Sunday, The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast Orson Welles' special Halloween show The War of the World's. A clever take on H.G. Wells' novel, the show began with simulated "breaking news" of an invasion by Martians. Because of the realistic nature of the "news," there was a public outcry the next day, calling for regulation by the FCC. Although the current story is that many were fooled and panicked, in reality very few people were fooled. But the show made Orson Welles' career.

1951 - Diana was 17 years old when on June 25th, CBS began broadcasting in color. There were well over 10 million televisions by that time. The first show in color was a musical variety special titled "Premiere". Hardly anyone had a color TV that could see the show.

1962 - Diana was 28 years old when on August 5th, actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe died in Brentwood California. She was ruled to have died from suicide due to a drug overdose. There has been controversy regarding the circumstances ever since, due to her relationships with Jack and Bobby Kennedy.

1973 - In the year of Diana Sands's passing, on January 28th, the Paris Peace Accord was signed - supposedly ending the Vietnam War. Hostilities continued between North and South Vietnam and the U.S. continued to bomb. But by August 15, 1973, 95% of American troops had left Vietnam. The war ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon.

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Diana Sands Obituary

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Diana Sands, 39, Dies of Cancer; Acclaimed for ‘Raisin in the Sun’
SEPT. 23, 1973
The New York Times

Diana Sands, the actress who won overnight critical acclaim for her stage portrayal in 1959 of Sidney Poitier's young sister in “A Raisin in the Sun,” died Friday night at Sloan‐Kettering Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. She was 39 years old.
Miss Sands was hospitalized three weeks ago when she underwent surgery for the
removal of a tumor.
Unlike many young actresses, Miss Sands had never been type‐cast. She played in comedies as well as in the title role in “Saint Joan.”
Won Critics' Awards
For her work in “Raisin,” a play by Lorraine Hansberry, Miss Sands won the annual Outer Circle Critics' Award as best supporting actress and was selected by the Variety critics poll as the most promising actress of 1959.
The following year she re created for the screen that role of the daughter in a black
family struggling to move to a better home.
While still a student the High School of Performing Arts, Miss Sands began acting in plays Off Broadway at the Greenwich Mews, where she made her professional debut in George Bernard Shaw's “Major Barbara.”
Later she played the Defending Angel in “The World of Sholom Aleichem.”
In addition to “A Raisin in the Sun,” Miss Sands motion pictures included “Four Boys and a Gun” (1957), “An Affair of the Skin” (1963) and “Georgia, Georgia” (1972).
Among the stage plays in which she appeared were “A Land Beyond the River” (1957), “The Egg and I” (1958), “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright” (1962), “The Owl and the Pussycat” (1964) and “Two for the Seesaw” (1967).
Her most recent film venture was “Honeybaby, Honeybaby,” shot in Beirut, Lebanon, last fall. Editing was completed in August, with release scheduled for this year.
Miss Sands's fiancé, Kurt Baker, was assistant director of the picture. Her co‐star was Calvin Lockhart.
In addition to her Outer Circle Critics award in 1959, she received the International Artist Award in 1961, the Theatre World Award in 1963, an Obie award in 1964 as well as Tony and Emmy nominations.
Because of her illness, Miss Sands withdrew in midsummer from the cast of “Claudine,” a Third World Cinema project in which she was to have co starred with James Earl Jones.
In a recent interview, Miss Sands detected what she described as a “decline” in Broad way fare.
“But in terms of black people a lot of growth has taken place,” she said. “I haven't been able to see a lot of black theater, but I do know that they are really going great guns. This is really what's so exciting. When it seems nobody's really touching what's going on today, the black theater is.”
Miss Sands's marriage to Lucien Happersberger, a Swiss born artist, ended in divorce.
Surviving are her mother, Shirley, a sister, Joan, and a brother, Thomas.
The funeral service will he private. Plans for a memorial service will be announced later.

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