The name Mildred Washington isn't remembered but she appeared in under 15 films in small parts but her presence, finesse, beauty and vivacious personality wasn't small. Mildred was a beautiful, curvaceous, popular Black actress and dancer in the 1920s and 1930s. She started on the stage appearing in musicals for many years and later conquered California nightclubs and theaters becoming a full-fledged, substantial, popular entertainer who was called the sensation of the West. She was headliner and dance director for many years at the legendary Sebastian's Cotton Club. Mildred was the ultimate performer; she was a skilled dancer who knew how to wow a crowd and amaze them with her great dance and lively stage presence as is seen in the Hollywood movies she appeared in. On the side she appeared in Hollywood films because it was her dream to be in movies. Her beauty and outgoing personality helped her into movies like many white females. Mildred had an magnetic charm that couldn't be overlooked on stage and screen. Mildred introduced a new image of Blacks, she wasn't the common homely, sad, blue, and unintelligible type, Mildred was gorgeous, fun-loving, spoke intelligently, had poise and though sexy she was quite dainty and winsome.
In Hollywood Mildred played the role of a maid in the pre-code era which meant Mildred wasn't forced to be demeaning or stereotyped. In the pre-code era, there were no rules, Blacks had more to do outside the stereotype and most importantly was apart of the films they appeared in not just a maid or servant thrown in. Mildred added her own winning personality, sense of humor and spark; she simply glowed on screen. She entertained her white employees when they were down and out, educated them on life, and lifted their spirits. Mildred was one of the few, very few, beautiful black women who played the maid roles, she wasn't overweight or homely but beautiful, engaging, and scintillating, often stealing attention in scenes from leading white stars because of her beauty, talent and sex appeal. Her persona was certainly in the same fashion as Clara Bow, Alice White, and Jean Harlow. Though, Mildred had little to do on screen in a few of her movies, she still took advantage of getting herself recognized. Her maid costumes was just that...a costume, it didn't define her or her talent and that's what the black community loved about her. Mildred got fan mail, requests for her autographed photo, and she was featured in many leading black publications and newspapers. Whether Hollywood wanted her to be a stereotype or not is not the question, she took it upon her own initiative to present herself the way she wanted and she took her roles seriously and presented them the best she thought would entertain the public. "Hearts in Dixie" was one of the first black cast films made in Hollywood where Mildred co-starred, Mildred was said to have gave an excellent performance, the reviews were in Mildred's favor but sadly the film is believed to be lost. Her best role was in "Torch Singer" starring Claudette Colbert, in which she played a maid/confidante to Colbert. In this particular film she showed her awesome versatility and sincerity, where she went from dramatic to comedic naturally in good timing and she did some hot dancing. She was just marvelous in her role that you would forget she was suppose to be a maid, sometimes Mildred forgot, because she made her roles significant by being an actress not a maid.
Mildred was an highly educated and cultured woman, she graduated from Los Angeles High School where she was an honor graduate and valedictorian. She had two years at the University of California at Los Angeles and also studied at Columbia University. She could speak fluent Spanish and French. Mildred chose being an entertainer and actress as her career but her education was always there to fall back on. Off screen she lived well, she dabbled in real estate and one of the few black movie stars who made enough to own a big, beautiful home in which she had a maid working for her. Mildred was truly a Renaissance Black woman and a new kind of Black woman who didn't let anyone hold her back. Mildred was on her way to becoming a full-time actress and studio heads were very satisfied with her previous work and beauty but it was her untimely death in late 1933 that stalled her escalating screen career. During an major earthquake in the spring of 1933, Mildred developed appendicitis when she fell running for cover from Graumans Chinese Theatre. Her death was caused by peritonitis following appendicitis, she died on a Thursday afternoon at the White Memorial Hospital during surgery. She was 28 years old. Her funeral was a star- studded one with many black and white stage and screen stars.