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Geoffrey Holder

The Voice, The Personality, The Grace


Geoffrey Lamont Holder (August 1, 1930 –  October 5, 2014) actor, choreographer, director, dancer, painter, costume designer, singer and voice-over artist.


Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1930 Holder one of six children of parents who had emigrated from Barbados. Known for his height (6'6"), "hearty laugh" and heavily accented bass voice. Mr. Holder had the good fortune to arrive in New York at a time of relative popularity for all-black Broadway productions as well as black dance, both modern and folk. Calypso music was also gaining a foothold, thanks largely to Harry Belafonte. In 1952 he moved  to New York where he would teach at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance for two years. Holder was a dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York from 1955-56. He made his Broadway debut in House of Flowers, a musical by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote. He also starred in an all-black production of Waiting for Godot in 1957. Holder began his movie career in the 1962 British film All Night Long, a modern remake of Shakespeare's Othello. He followed that with Doctor Dolittle (1967) as Willie Shakespeare, leader of the natives of Sea-Star Island. This was a trying experience for Holder, as he had to contend with casual racism. Holder won two Tony Awards in 1975 for direction and costume design of The Wiz, the all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Holder was the first black man to be nominated in either category.


Some of his more memorable work appears in 1967's "Doctor Dolittle," 1982's "Annie" and 1973's "Live and Let Die," in which he faced off against Roger Moore's James Bond as the villain Baron Samedi. In later decades he worked with Eddie Murphy in 1992's "Boomerang," and did voice work in 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." In addition to his movie appearances, Holder achieved his widest celebrity as a spokesman for the 1970s 7 Up soft drink commercials and advertising campaign. Mr. Holder said his artistic life was governed by a simple credo, shaped by his own experience as a West Indian child who had yet to see the world.


Geoffrey Holder died in Manhattan from complications from pneumonia on  October 5, 2014.



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