Future Oscar nominee Ruby Dee was in Little Rock in 1992 for the filming of the Disney Channel movie The Ernest Green Story. The film was produced by Carol Ann Abrams, whose son J. J. Abrams is now an in-demand director and producer.
That Dee and her husband Ossie Davis would appear in this movie was probably no surprise. Throughout their acting careers, each had been active in the Civil Rights movement and used their status as celebrated actors to advance the cause.
The film starred Morris Chestnut as Green. The real Ernest Green served as the narrator of the film. Many local actors also appeared in the film. The world premiere was held at Little Rock Central High School. The first airing on the Disney Channel was on January 17, 1993. The film was introduced by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who would take the oath of office as President of the US three days later.
Dee was born in Ohio, but moved to New York as a child. After studying French and Spanish in college, she pursued acting as a way to continue her interest in languages. In 1950, she starred in The Jackie Robinson Story, which brought her national recognition for her film roles. She continued to alternate between film and theatre throughout her career. While she often shared the stage with her husband, the two also pursued independent projects.
She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Ridley Scott’s 2007 film American Gangster. Dee continued working until a few months before her death in 2014.