"The Help" wins big at Image Awards; Houston remembered

Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:25pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Help," which chronicled the experiences of black maids in the 1960s, and the comedy "Jumping the Broom" were honored at the NAACP Image Awards on Friday, and the life and career of Whitney Houston was celebrated with rousing gospel songs a week after the singer's untimely death.

The box-office hit about black maids speaking out against their white employers in Mississippi in the early 1960s won best movie and acting awards for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. The film, Davis and Spencer have been nominated for Academy Awards.

Davis said "The Help" was an important movie because "the maid hadn't been humanized before. I felt she remained a cardboard cut-out" before the movie was made.

"Jumping the Broom" also took home three award, for best actor Laz Alonso, Salim Akil and supporting actor Mike Epps.

The two-hour ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of people of color was tinged with grief over the death on Saturday of Houston, best known for her hit song "I Will Always Love You."

Yolanda Adams, singing with a gospel choir, led the tribute on Friday, belting out a version of "I Love the Lord" from Houston's film "The Preacher's Wife" after video clips of a smiling Houston were shown receiving NAACP awards in the 1990s.

Presenter Sanaa Latham, one of the stars of the movie "Contagion," asked the audience to remember Houston as "a loving mother and extraordinary performer."

The show closed with NAACP best gospel album winner Kirk Franklin singing a version of another Houston hit, "The Greatest Love of All."   Continued...

The director, cast and producers of "The Help" (L-R) producers Brunson Green,Chris Columbus, actresses Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, director Tate Taylor and producer Michael Barnathan pose with the Image Award for best motion picture at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles, California February 17, 2012.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser