R&B singer Ruth Brown, who was born on this day in 1928, is more likely to be remembered for her musical career than her film appearances. Of her half-dozen or so movie and television roles, the one that leaps to mind is her portrayal of Motormouth Maybelle in the 1988 film Hairspray, as shown above. Brown's flamboyant performance (including the blonde wig) made her a standout in the John Waters movie. As you probably know, the movie was adapted into a Broadway musical, which is being adapted into another movie ... and in the new version, Queen Latifah has to fill Ruth Brown's shoes. I like Queen Latifah, but it won't be quite the same. If you want to see Ruth Brown onscreen and singing, rent Lightning in a Bottle, where she sings to a playful Bill Cosby.
One movie not listed in Brown's filmography, sadly, is the upcoming John Sayles film Honeydripper, which wrapped last month. Brown had originally been cast in the film as an aging singer named Bertha, but became too ill to travel to the Alabama production. She died on Nov. 17 from complications due to a heart attack and stroke. However, according to an interview from last August, she did record some songs for the Honeydripper soundtrack, so even if we won't see her onscreen, I hope we'll hear her voice.