Tim Story and Zero Gravity Management are developing a film for HBO Films about black woman mobster Madame Queenie.
Queenie – the first and only woman gangster during Prohibition, set against the backdrop of The Cotton Club. 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. She was a Caribbean immigrant and ran something called the Policy Bank, a predecessor to our current American lottery system.
She was considered an activist in the black community, buying out newspaper ads to educate Harlem residents on their legal rights, voting rights and she called out police brutality against black people. When she complained about harassment by the police, she ran more ads accusing the police officers of corruption, which resulted in her being arrested and placed in a workhouse for several months. She later would testify that she paid-off officers who played in her numbers games, resulting in the firing over a dozen police officers.
The project is based on the book, The World of Stephanie St. Clair: An Entrepreneur, Race Woman and Outlaw in the Early Twentieth Century Harlem, Shirley Stewart.
Nicole Asher is writing the script. Asher is also the script writer for the upcoming miniseries on Madame C.J. Walker from LeBron James, which will star Octavia Spencer.
You might recall that in Bill Duke’s gangland crime drama Hoodlum (1997), she was played by Cicely Tyson.
Novella Nelson also 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.
This is the second project on St. Clair in the works. Last year, it was announced Janet Jackson was developing one for Lifetime.