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Katharine Hepburn, Pioneering Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux: New U.S. Postage Stamps

Katharine Hepburn stamp United States Postal Service Legends of Hollywood seriesKatharine Hepburn stamp: United States Postal Service's 'Legends of Hollywood' series.

Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn, pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, silent era movie cowboys William S. Hart and Tom Mix on U.S. postage stamps

Multiple Best Actress Academy Award winner Katharine Hepburn, pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, and movie cowboys William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers will be featured on U.S. postage stamps in 2010, the U.S. Postal Service has announced (Dec. 2009).

Hepburn is the latest addition to the USPS's “Legends of Hollywood” series initiated in 1995. Among the screen legends previously featured in the series are Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, and Audrey Hepburn.

Micheaux's stamp is part of the “Black Heritage” series initiated in 1978. His predecessors include Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson, Ella Fitzgerald, Scott Joplin, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Marian Anderson.

Hart, Mix, Autry, and Rogers will be featured in a “Cowboys of the Silver Screen” commemorative stamp, with one design for each Western star.

Katharine Hepburn

Until early 2000, Katharine Hepburn held the actors' record for most Academy Award nominations: 12. That year, Meryl Streep tied with Hepburn, and in early 2003 Streep surpassed her. Hepburn, however, still holds the record for most wins by an actor, whether female or male – four in all:

Oscar Micheaux stamp Pioneering filmmaker USPS Black Heritage seriesOscar Micheaux stamp: Pioneering filmmaker in USPS 'Black Heritage' series.

Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Micheaux made more than 40 films, nearly all of them – titles include The Hypocrite (1921), A Son of Satan (1924), A Daughter of the Congo (1930), God's Step Children (1938) – between 1919 and 1940. These were almost invariably minuscule-budgeted productions screened at movie houses geared to black audiences in the United States, which helps to explain why he remains a little-known name in American film history.

Micheaux's most celebrated efforts are two silent dramas:

  • The socially conscious drama Within Our Gates (1920).
  • Body and Soul (1925), starring Paul Robeson as a corrupt Christian minister.

Oscar Micheaux's last film was The Betrayal (1948).

William S. Hart Tom Mix commemorative stamps Cowboys of the Silver ScreenWilliam S. Hart, Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers: 'Cowboys of the Silver Screen' commemorative stamps.

William S. Hart, Tom Mix and fellow cowboy stars

The stoic William S. Hart – a tougher, rougher, more complex version of Clint Eastwood's cowboy heroes – was a major box office attraction in the 1910s, while the flashier Tom Mix became the top cowboy star of the 1920s. In his day, Hart was so big he was to have been one of the founders of United Artists, along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith, but he bowed out before the deal was finalized.

Although never a top attraction in major urban centers, singing cowboy Gene Autry was huge in small towns and rural areas throughout the United States. The same went for Roy Rogers – and frequent screen partner (and real-life wife) Dale Evans – in B Westerns such as Song of Nevada (1944), Bells of Rosarita (1945), and My Pal Trigger (1946).

More USPS stamp honorees: Kate Smith, Mother Teresa

Others to be featured in next year's U.S. Postal Service stamps are singer Kate Smith, cartoonist Bill Mauldin, and controversial Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa.

Every year, the U.S. Postal Service releases a series of commemorative stamps featuring people, places, and institutions. These stamps generally remain on sale for only a limited period, thus becoming collectors' items.


Katharine Hepburn, Oscar Michaeux, “Cowboys of the Silver Screen” William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers stamps: © United States Postal Service.

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