*Tim Story and Zero Gravity Management are joining with HBO Films to develop a movie about Madame Queenie, an African American, and the first and only female mobster during Prohibition.
Born Stephanie St. Clair (1886–1969), Queenie was a well-educated mob boss who ran numerous criminal enterprises in Harlem, NYC in the early part of the 20th century. She even bumped heads with the then Italian mafia, and managed to stay entirely independent.
A Caribbean immigrant, St. Clair ran the Policy Bank (a predecessor to America’s current lottery system) and was considered an activist in the black community. She bought out newspaper ads to educate Harlem residents on their legal rights and voting rights, and also spoke out about police brutality against black people.
When she complained about harassment by the police, she ran more ads accusing the cops of corruption, which resulted in her being arrested and placed in a workhouse for several months. She would later testify that she paid off officers who played in her numbers games, resulting in the firing of over a dozen cops.
The film is based on the book, The World of Stephanie St. Clair: An Entrepreneur, Race Woman and Outlaw in the Early Twentieth Century Harlem, by Shirley Stewart.
Nicole Asher adapting the screenplay. She’s also the writer for the upcoming miniseries on Madame C.J. Walker from LeBron James, which will star Octavia Spencer.
Queenie has been played on screen before. Cicely Tyson starred as the gangstress in Bill Duke’s 1997 drama “Hoodlum,” and Novella Nelson portrayed her in the 1984 film, “The Cotton Club.” Most recently, TV One chronicled her in their series “Celebrity Crime Files,” for the episode “Lady Gangster,” and she was portrayed by Alexandra Afryea.
Watch Afryea’s portrayal below:
This is the second project on St. Clair in the works. Last year, it was announced that Janet Jackson was developing one for Lifetime.