Raiford Chatman Davis
December 18, 1917
Cogdell, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||February 4, 2005 87) (aged|
|Occupation||Actor, director, poet, playwright, author, activist|
|Children||3, including Guy Davis|
Raiford Chatman "Ossie" Davis (December 18, 1917 – February 4, 2005) was an American actor, director, writer, and activist.
He was married to Ruby Dee, with whom he frequently performed, until his death.
He and his wife were named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame; were awarded the National Medal of Artsand were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.
Raiford Chatman Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the son of Kince Charles Davis, a railway construction engineer, and his wife Laura (née Cooper; July 9, 1898 – June 6, 2004).He inadvertently became known as "Ossie" when his birth certificate was being filed and his mother's pronunciation of his name as "R. C. Davis" was misheard by the courthouse clerk in Clinch County, Ga. Davis experienced racism from an early age when the KKK threatened to shoot his father, whose job they felt was too advanced for a black man to have. His siblings included scientist William Conan Davis, social worker Essie Morgan Davis, pharmacist Kenneth Curtis Davis, and biology teacher James Davis.
Following the wishes of his parents, he attended Howard University but dropped out in 1939 to fulfill his desire for an acting career in New York after a recommendation by Alain Locke; he later attended Columbia University School of General Studies. His acting career began in 1939 with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem. During World War II, Davis served in the United States Army in the Medical Corps. He made his film debut in 1950 in the Sidney Poitier film No Way Out .
When Davis wanted to pursue a career in acting, he ran into the usual roadblocks that black people suffered at that time as they generally could only portray stereotypical characters such as Stepin Fetchit. Instead, he tried to follow the example of Sidney Poitier and play more distinguished characters. When he found it necessary to play a Pullman porter or a butler, he played those characters realistically, not as a caricature.
In addition to acting, Davis, along with Melvin Van Peebles and Gordon Parks, was one of the notable black directors of his generation: he directed movies such as Gordon's War , Black Girl and Cotton Comes to Harlem . Along with Bill Cosby and Poitier, Davis was one of a handful of black actors able to find commercial success while avoiding stereotypical roles prior to 1970, which also included a significant role in the 1965 movie The Hill alongside Sean Connery plus roles in The Cardinal and The Scalphunters . However, Davis never had the tremendous commercial or critical success that Cosby and Poitier enjoyed. As a playwright, Davis wrote Paul Robeson: All-American, which is frequently performed in theatre programs for young audiences.
In 1976, Davis appeared on Muhammad Ali's novelty album for children, The Adventures of Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay .
Davis found recognition late in his life by working in several of director Spike Lee's films, including Do The Right Thing , Jungle Fever , She Hate Me and Get on the Bus . He also found work as a commercial voice-over artist and served as the narrator of the early-1990s CBS sitcom Evening Shade , starring Burt Reynolds, where he also played one of the residents of a small southern town.
In 1999, Davis appeared as a theater caretaker in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra film The Ghosts of Christmas Eve , which was released on DVD two years later.
For many years, he hosted the annual National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, DC.
He voiced Anansi the spider on the PBS children's television series Sesame Street in its animation segments.
Davis's last role was a several episode guest role on the Showtime drama series The L Word , as a father struggling with the acceptance of his daughter Bette (Jennifer Beals) parenting a child with her lesbian partner. In his final episodes, his character was taken ill and died. His wife Ruby Dee was present during the filming of his own death scene. That episode, which aired shortly after Davis's own death, aired with a dedication to the actor.After Davis's passing, actor Dennis Haysbert portrayed him in the 2015 film Experimenter .
In 1989, Ossie Davis and his wife, actress/activist Ruby Dee, were named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. In 1995, they were awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the country and presented in a White House ceremony by the President of the United States.In 2004, they were recipients of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors. According to the Kennedy Center Honors:
In 1994, Davis was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Davis and Dee were well known as civil rights activists during the Civil Rights Movement and were close friends of Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and other icons of the era. They were involved in organizing the 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and served as its emcees. Davis, alongside Ahmed Osman, delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X. He re-read part of this eulogy at the end of Spike Lee's film Malcolm X . He also delivered a stirring tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, at a memorial in New York's Central Park the day after King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1948, Davis married actress Ruby Dee, whom he had met on the set of Robert Ardrey's 1946 play Jeb . In their joint autobiography With Ossie and Ruby, they described their decision to have an open marriage, later changing their minds.In the mid-1960s they moved to the New York suburb of New Rochelle, where they remained ever after. Their son Guy Davis is a blues musician and former actor, who appeared in the film Beat Street (1984) and the daytime soap opera One Life to Live . Their daughters are Nora Davis Day and Hasna Muhammad.
Davis was found dead in a Miami hotel room on February 4, 2005. An official cause of death was not released, but he was known to have had heart problems.His ashes were inurned at Ferncliff Cemetery.
Sidney L. Poitier is a Bahamian-American retired actor, film director, activist, and ambassador. In 1964, Poitier won the Academy Award for Best Actor becoming the first black male and Bahamian actor to win that award. He is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, and the oldest living and earliest surviving Best Actor Academy Award winner. From 1997 to 2007, he served as the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.
Samuel George Davis Jr. was an American singer, dancer, actor, vaudevillian and comedian whom critic Randy Blaser called "the greatest entertainer ever to grace a stage in these United States".
Malcolm X is a 1992 American epic biographical drama film about the African-American activist Malcolm X. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee, the film stars Denzel Washington in the title role, as well as Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., and Delroy Lindo. Lee has a supporting role, while Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and future South African president Nelson Mandela make cameo appearances. It is the second of four film collaborations between Washington and Lee.
The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. The honors have been presented annually since 1978, culminating each December in a star-studded gala celebrating the honorees in the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.
Cleavon Jake Little was an American stage, film, and television actor. He began his career in the late 1960s on the stage. In 1970, he starred in the Broadway production of Purlie, for which he earned both a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award. His first leading television role was that of the irreverent Dr. Jerry Noland on the ABC sitcom Temperatures Rising (1972–1974). While starring in the sitcom, Little appeared in what has become his signature performance, portraying Sheriff Bart in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy film Blazing Saddles.
Purlie is a musical with a book by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose, and Peter Udell, lyrics by Udell and music by Gary Geld. It is based on Davis's 1961 play Purlie Victorious, which was later made into the 1963 film Gone Are the Days! and which included many of the original Broadway cast, including Davis, Ruby Dee, Alan Alda, Beah Richards, Godfrey Cambridge, and Sorrell Booke.
Ruby Dee was an American actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and civil rights activist. She originated the role of "Ruth Younger" in the stage and film versions of A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Her other notable film roles include The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) and Do the Right Thing (1989).
No Way Out is a 1950 American film noir directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and starring Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, Sidney Poitier and Stephen McNally, who portrays a doctor tending to slum residents whose ethics are tested when confronted with racism, personified by Widmark as the hateful robber Ray Biddle.
Nicholas Webster was an American film and television director.
Joseph Armstrong DeLaine was a Methodist minister and civil rights leader from Clarendon County, South Carolina. He received a B.A. from Allen University in 1931, working as a laborer and running a dry cleaning business to pay for his education. DeLaine worked with Modjeska Simkins and the South Carolina NAACP on the case Briggs v. Elliott, which challenged segregation in Summerton, South Carolina.
Cotton Comes to Harlem is a 1970 American neo-noir action comedy film co-written and directed by Ossie Davis and starring Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, and Redd Foxx. The film is based on Chester Himes' novel of the same name. The opening theme, "Ain't Now But It's Gonna Be" was written by Ossie Davis and performed by Melba Moore. It was followed two years later by the sequel Come Back, Charleston Blue.
Let's Do It Again is a 1975 American action crime comedy film directed by and starring Sidney Poitier and co-starring Bill Cosby and Jimmie Walker, among an all-star black cast. The film, directed by Poitier, is about blue-collar workers who decide to rig a boxing match to raise money for their fraternal lodge. The song of the same name by The Staple Singers was featured as the opening and ending theme of the movie, and as a result, the two have become commonly associated with each other. The production companies include Verdon Productions and The First Artists Production Company, Ltd., and distributed by Warner Bros. The movie was filmed in two cities, Atlanta, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana, where most of the plot takes place. This was the second film pairing of Poitier and Cosby following Uptown Saturday Night, and followed by A Piece of the Action (1977). Of the three, Let's Do It Again has been the most successful both critically and commercially. Calvin Lockhart and Lee Chamberlin also appeared in Uptown Saturday Night. According to the American Film Institute, Let's Do It Again is not a sequel to Uptown Saturday Night.
King is a 1978 American television miniseries based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights leader. It aired for three consecutive nights on NBC from February 12 through 14, 1978.
Wilbert Francisco Cobbs is an American actor. He is well known for his roles in movies such as Louisiana Slim in The Hitter (1979) and Water in The Brother from Another Planet (1984), and as Lewis Coleman on I'll Fly Away (1991–1993), as Jack on The Michael Richards Show (2000), and guest appearances on Walker, Texas Ranger and The Sopranos. In 2020, he won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Performance in a Daytime Program for the series Dino Dana.
Philip Rose was a Broadway theatrical producer of such productions as A Raisin in the Sun, The Owl and the Pussycat, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, Purlie, and Shenandoah. His work was particularly notable for its social insight and distinctive social conscience.
Death of a Prophet is a 1981 television film, written and directed by Woodie King Jr., and starring Morgan Freeman as Malcolm X.
Crossroads Theatre is a theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, located in the city's Civic Square government and theatre district. Founded in 1978, it is the winner of the 1999 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
Dick Campbell, born Cornelius Coleridge Campbell, was a key figure in black theater during the Harlem Renaissance. While a successful performer in his own right, Campbell is best known as a tireless advocate for black actors in general. As a theater producer and director, he helped launch the careers of several black theater artists, including Ossie Davis, Frederick O'Neal, Loften Mitchell, Helen Martin, and Abram Hill.
Attallah Shabazz is the eldest daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She is an actress, author, diplomat, and motivational speaker.
Gone Are the Days! is a 1963 American comedy-drama film starring Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Godfrey Cambridge. It is based on the 1961 Broadway play Purlie Victorious, which was written by Davis. Davis, Dee, Cambridge, Beah Richards, Alan Alda and Sorrell Booke reprised their roles from the play. This was also Alda's film debut.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ossie Davis .|