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Hilfiger ‘Proud’ of black sailors

Fact-based pic produced by designer's daughter

NEW YORK — Adding a new strand to his association with black culture, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger has created film division THEntertainment to produce “Proud,” the true story of a WWII warship manned by African-American sailors.

Produced by the designer’s daughter Ally Hilfiger and written and directed by Mary Pat Kelly, who did a book and docu on the subject, the film stars Ossie Davis, Stephen Rea, Darnell Williams, Denise Nicholas and Vernel Bagneris.

The drama honors the men of the USS Mason, the only crew of African-American sailors to take a ship into combat, fighting Nazi submarines in foreign waters and racism at home. Davis stars as a veteran who passes on the story to his grandson.

“In these times we need our heroes, and history had forgotten the men of the USS Mason,” said Hilfiger. “Such an exciting story and yet hardly anyone knew about it. These men deserve to have their story told.”

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“I’m thrilled and very grateful to Tommy Hilfiger,” said WWII veteran Lorenzo DuFau, who served as the model for Davis’ character. “I pushed racks of dresses in the Garment District as my first job after the war, and now here’s Tommy Hilfiger, a fashion icon, telling our story.”

The film was shot in Buffalo and on board the USS The Sullivans in Elmira, N.Y., as well as Derry, Northern Ireland, where the Mason’s first port visit was re-created.

A wrap party at which Hilfiger’s new company will be announced is scheduled for Thursday at New York’s 46th Street dock on the Navy’s new USS Mason, named after the original.