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Best actress award dropped in NAACP Image Awards

LOS ANGELES -- Citing a 'disheartening' lack of film roles for black women, the NAACP said Thursday its Image Award nominees failed to include the Best Actress in a Motion Picture category for the first time in 20 years.

'Hollywood Shuffle,' 'Round Midnight' and 'Lethal Weapon' garnered three nominations each in the organization's Image Awards, which recognize the positive portrayal of blacks in music, television, theater and film.

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The three films were all nominated for Best Motion Picture, as was 'Beverly Hills Cop II.'

In the Best Performance by an Actor category, Danny Glover was nominated for his role in 'Lethal Weapon,' Dexter Gordon for 'Round Midnight,' and Robert Townsend for 'Hollywood Shuffle.'

The organization, however, was unable to find enough meaningful roles played by black women to justify the category of Best Actress in a Motion Picture, said Willis Edwards, president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood chapter of the NAACP.

'In determining nominees in (that) category, (we) found a disconcerting lack of balance in the roles available for black women,' Edwards said.

'Beyond the realm of comedic feature films, roles for black women do not seem to exist,' he said.

Only two actresses were nominated for their work in supporting roles -- Helen Martin for 'Hollywood Shuffle' and Traci Wolfe for 'Lethal Weapon.'

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Edwards called the apparent scarcity of roles for black actress in Hollywood a 'disheartening and tragic situation' especially with more than 1,600 black women on the membership roles of the Screen Actors Guild.

The 20th annual awards ceremony to honor Image Award winners will be held Dec. 13 at the Wiltern Theater.

Special awards announced Thursday include Entertainer of the Year, to be presented to singer Lionel Ritchie, and the Presidents Award honoring jazz great Ella Fitzgerald.

Actress Esther Rolle and singer Linda Hopkins will be inducted into the Image Awards' Hall of Fame.

Television's 'The Cosby Show,' which dominated the nominations last year, was again named as a contender in the Best Episode category.

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