Friday, October 12, 2007

Reel People: Denzel Washington is Melvin B. Tolson

The film is The Great Debaters, which not only stars Denzel Washington but is also directed by him.

Melvin Beaunorus Tolson was born in Missouri in 1898. Son of a Methodist minister his family moved around between Iowa and Missouri. In 1922 he married Ruth Southall while in college.He graduated with honors from Linoln University in Pennsylvania.

After graduating he and his wife moved to Marshall, Texas where Melvin B. Tolson would began teaching Speech and English at Wiley College. After a short leave to begin pursuing his masters degree at Columbia University in 1930, Tolson returned to Wiley College and not only taught but also worked with an award winning debate team. The crowning achievement of Tolson's debate team was their National Championship win in 1935, beating Harvard in the final debate.

Tolson was also known for his writing particularly his poetry. In 1947 he began teaching at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. That same year, Tolson's poetry became recognized more after becoming the poet laureate of Liberia. Tolson also served a 4-year term as Mayor of Langston in the 1950s as well.

Tolson's died of cancer surgery 1966 and was buried in Langston, but his legacy lives on through his writing, and the influence he had over the man students through out the years of teaching.

In addition to Denzel Washington, the film's cast also includes Oscar winner Forest Whitiker, Kimberly Elise, and young star Denzel Whitaker (who's actually named after Denzel Washington).

This biographical film, in conjunction with his portrayl of Frank Lucas in American Gangster, could certainly earn Washington some critical awards attention for his portrayl of this Real (Reel) Person.

11 comments:

AK said...

Does this movie take place in Marshall? If so, how interesting that 2 movies (this one and We Are Marshall) in recent times are about events that took place in the tiny town of Marshall, TX. I didn't realize that much happened in Marshall.

(As a side note, the most important thing that ever happened in Marshall was the birth of my mother.)

RC said...

@ ak, i don't know if they filmed in Marshall, but with the movie dealing with the debate team, the setting will surely be Marshall and various spots along their debates to nationals.

Maybe someday they'll make a bio-pic about your mom and they can have a Marshall, TX trilogy.

Lorna said...

How strange that you should mention J Depp and D Washington. In quite a different context, I did the same in my blogatheday.

Michael Parsons said...

You have been nominated! Thanks!

http://mystuffandcrp.blogspot.com/2007/10/its-thrill-to-be-nominated.html

Mary Ann said...

AK-
I hate to be a party pooper, but Marshall University, "We are Marshall." is in W. Virginia...

Mercurie said...

A bit of trivia here. Melvin B. Tolson was born in Moberly, the town just down the road from my hometown. I rather suspect he is the most famous person ever born there (although he grew up elsewhere). although not the most famous person born in the county (that would either be General Omar Bradley or Captain William T. Anderson (better known as "Bloody Bill").

dstan said...

Somebody needs to get their facts straight on this story. It reports that the Wiley College debate team won in 1935 over Harvard University. However, Wikipedia (the free online encyclopedia) states that the victory in 1935 was over the University of Southern California. So which is it?

Legal Diva said...

The film is actually filmed in Louisiana, because Texas was having severe weather issues during the time of the filming.

jane said...

My mother was born and raised in Marshall. Bill Moyers did a PBS speical on Marshall, his home town, in 1984. In it he interviews James Farmer Jr. Farmer talks about Tolson and the influence he had on his life. He said Tolson was asked to leave the college, before Farmer's time, and the Pres of Wiley College called the white bank Pres and said we need Tolson. The white bank Pres said I will fix it. It is a good documentary on Marshall. My grandmother was in it as well.

fletch62091 said...

to dstan

they beat the University of Southern Claifornia

karen said...

WI am very honored with my son's participation and his professor. I would like to also that denzel and texas southern university.

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