Ossie Davis Biography (1917-)

Born Raiford Chatman Davis, December 18, 1917, in Cogdell, GA; son of Kince Charles (a railway construction engineer) and Laura (maiden name, Cooper) Davis; married Ruby Ann Wallace (an actress and writer known as Ruby Dee), December 9, 1948; children: Nora, Guy, LaVerne. Career: Actor, playwright, director, and stage manager. Began acting career with Rose McClendon Players;chairman of the board for Institute for New Cinema Artists; founder with wife, Ruby Dee, of Emmalyn II Productions; Apollo Theatre Foundation, chair, 1999--; served on the advisory board of CORE, supports the NAACP, the Urban League, SCLC and is involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Previously worked as janitor, shipping clerk, and stock clerk in New York City, 1938-41. Militaryservice: U.S. Army, Medical Corps and Special Services, 1942-45. Member: Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, Director's Guild of America, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (advisory board), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (advisory board), Congress of Racial Equality, Masons. Awards, Honors: First Mississippi Freedom Democratic PartyCitation, 1965; Emmy Award nomination, best actor in a special, 1969, for "Teacher, Teacher," Hallmark Hall of Fame; Emmy Award nomination, c. 1978, for King; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best musical, 1970, for Purlie; Frederick Douglass Award from New York Urban League, for "distinguished leadership toward equal opportunity," 1970; Paul Robeson Citationfrom Actors' Equity Association, 1975, for "outstanding creative contributions in the performing arts and in society at large"; Coretta Scott King Book Award from American Library Association and Jane Addams Children's Book Award from Jane Addams Peace Association, 1979, both for Escape to Freedom; Jury Award from Neil Simon Awards, 1983, for "For Us the Living," American Playhouse; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award, best performance by a supporting actor, 1989, forDo the Right Thing; Hall of Fame Award for outstanding artistic achievement, 1989; Monarch Award, 1990; Inductee, Theater Hall of Fame, 1994; Lifetime Achievement Award (with Ruby Dee), Multicultural Motion Picture Association, 1995; National Medal of the Arts (with Dee), 1995. Addresses: Agent: Artists Agency, 10000 Santa Monica Blvd, Suite 305, Los Angeles, CA 90067.

Nationality
American
Gender
Male
Occupation
Actor, playwright, director, stage manager
Birth Details
December 18, 1917
Cogdell, Georgia, United States

Famous Works

  • CREDITS
  • Stage Appearances
  • Joy Exceeding Glory, Rose McClendon Players, Harlem, NY, 1941
  • (Broadway debut) Jeb Turner, Jeb, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1946
  • Rudolph, Anna Lucasta, American Negro Theatre Playhouse, New YorkCity, 1948
  • Trem, The Leading Lady, National Theatre, New York City, 1948
  • John Hay, The Washington Years, National Theatre, 1948
  • Stewart, The Smile of the World, Lyceum Theatre, New York City, 1949
  • Lonnie Thompson, Stevedore, Equity Library Theatre, New York City,1949
  • Jacques, The Wisteria Trees, Martin Beck Theatre, 1950
  • Jo, The Royal Family, City Center Theatre, New York City, 1951
  • Gabriel, The Green Pastures, Broadway Theatre, New York City, 1951
  • Al, Remains to Be Seen, Morosco Theatre, New York City, 1951
  • Dr. Joseph Clay, Touchstone, Music Box Theatre, New York City, 1953
  • A lieutenant, No Time for Sergeants, Alvin Theatre, New York City,1955
  • Jacques, The Wisteria Trees, City Center Theatre, 1955
  • Cicero, Jamaica, Imperial Theatre, New York City, 1957
  • Walter Lee Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, Ethel Barrymore Theatre,New York City, 1959
  • Title role, Purlie Victorious, Cort Theatre, New York City, 1961
  • Sir Radio, Ballad for Bimshire, Mayfair Theatre, New York City, 1963
  • The Talking Skull, White Barn Theatre, Westport, CT, 1965
  • Johannes, The Zulu and the Zayda, Cort Theatre, 1965
  • Take It from the Top, New Federal Theatre, New York City, 1979
  • Midge, I'm Not Rappaport, Booth Theatre, New York City, 1986
  • Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy, Crossroads Theatre Company, 1995
  • Also appeared in Zora Is My Name!, Howard University, Washington,DC; Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, New York City.
  • Major Tours
  • Rudolf, Anna Lucasta, U.S. cities, 1947
  • Walter Lee Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, U.S. cities, 1959
  • A Treasury of Negro World Writing, U.S. cities, 1964
  • Stage Work
  • Goldbrickers of 1944, Liberia, 1944
  • Stage manager, The World of Sholom Aleichem, City Center Theatre,1955
  • Producer (with Bernard Waltzer and Page Productions), Ballad for Bimshire, Mayfair Theatre, 1963
  • Director, The Talking Skull, White Barn Theatre, 1965
  • Director, Bingo, AMAS Repertory Theatre, New York City, 1985
  • Also directed Take It from the Top, 1979.
  • Film Appearances
  • (Film debut) John, No Way Out, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1950
  • Cab driver, Fourteen Hours, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1951
  • The Joe Louis Story, United Artists, 1953
  • Reverend Purlie, Gone Are the Days(also known as The Man from C.O.T.T.O.N. and Purlie Victorious), Hammer Bros., 1963
  • Father Gillis, The Cardinal, Columbia, 1963
  • Capshaw, Shock Treatment, Arcola/Fox, 1964
  • Jacko King, The Hill, Seven Arts/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1965
  • Nelson Davis, A Man Called Adam, Trace-Mark/Embassy Pictures Corporation, 1966
  • Joseph Winfield Lee, The Scalphunters, Bristol-Norlan/United Artists, 1968
  • Jedidiah Hooker, Sam Whiskey, Brighton Pictures/United Artists, 1969
  • Luke, Slaves, Theatre Guild-Walter Reade/Continental, 1969
  • Elder Johnson, Let's Do It Again, First Artists/Warner Bros.,1975
  • Ernest Motapo, Countdown at Kusini, Columbia, 1976
  • Captain Geibarger, Hot Stuff, Rastar-Mort Engelberg/Columbia, 1979
  • Nothing Personal,1979
  • Raymond, Harry and Son, Orion, 1984
  • Dr. Sanders, The House of God, United Artists, 1984
  • Captain Moradian, Avenging Angel, Republic Entertainment International/New World, 1985
  • Coach Odom, School Daze, Columbia, 1988
  • Da Mayor, Do the Right Thing, Universal, 1989
  • Himself, Making of "Do the Right Thing,"1989
  • Himself, Route One/U.S.A.,1989
  • Marshall, Joe Versus the Volcano,1990
  • Reverend Purify, Jungle Fever, Universal, 1991
  • Noah, Gladiator, Columbia, 1992
  • Eulogy performer, Malcolm X, Warner Bros., 1992
  • Chuck, Grumpy Old Men, Warner Bros., 1993
  • Judge Harry Roosevelt, The Client, Warner Bros., 1994
  • Jeremiah, Get on the Bus, Columbia TriStar, 1996
  • Midge, I'm Not Rappaport, Gramercy Pictures, 1996
  • Himself, Four Little Girls, Green Valley Films, 1997
  • Archer Dolittle, Doctor Dolittle, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1998
  • Duncan Cox, Old Hats,1999
  • Narrator, Paul Robeson: Here I Stand,2000
  • Yar, Dinosaur,2000
  • Also appeared in Love Supreme.
  • Film Director, Except Where Indicated
  • Cotton Comes to Harlem, United Artists, 1970
  • Kongi's Harvest, Calpenny Films Nigeria, 1971
  • Black Girl, Cinerama, 1972
  • Gordon's War, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1973
  • And producer, Countdown at Kusini, Columbia, 1976
  • Producer, Hands Upon the Heart,1991
  • Also directed Cool Red.
  • Television Appearances
  • Series
  • Host, The Negro People, PBS, 1965-67
  • Co-host, With Ossie and Ruby(also known as Ossie and Ruby!)PBS, 1980-81
  • Ponder Blue, Evening Shade, CBS, 1990-94
  • Judge Harry Roosevelt, John Grisham's The Client(also known asThe Client), CBS, 1995-96
  • Erasmus Jones, Promised Land, CBS, 1996-
  • Movies
  • James Lucas, The Sheriff, ABC, 1971
  • Narrator, Freedom Road, NBC, 1979
  • Blane Whitfield, All God's Children, ABC, 1980
  • Chuffy Russell, Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy "Satchel" Paige, ABC, 1981
  • Boxer Oz Jackson, B. L. Stryker: The Dancer's Touch, ABC, 1989
  • Oz, Auntie Sue,1989
  • Oz, Blind Chess,1989
  • Oz, The King of Jazz,1989
  • Boxer Oz Jackson, B. L. Stryker: Grand Theft Hotel, ABC, 1990
  • Oz, Royal Gambit,1990
  • Oz, Night Train,1990
  • Oz, Plates,1990
  • Oz, High Rise,1990
  • Narrator, The Red Shoes,1990
  • Grandfather, The Ernest Green Story, The Disney Channel, 1993
  • Uncle Phil, Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice, NBC, 1994
  • Dr. Winston, The Android Affair(also known as The Human Touch and Teach 905), USA, 1995
  • Uncle Phil, Ray Alexander: A Menu for Murder, NBC, 1995
  • Mr. Evers, Miss Evers' Boys, HBO, 1997
  • Juror Number 2, 12 Angry Men,1997
  • Alexander Billman, A Vow to Cherish, syndicated, 1999
  • Too Tall, The Silent Path, CBS, 1999
  • Too Tall, The Secret Path, CBS, 1999
  • Mordecai, Soul Collector,1999
  • Specials
  • The Green Pastures, Showtime USA, 1951
  • Title role, "The Emperor Jones," Kraft Television Theatre, NBC, 1955
  • Tell It on the Mountain, CBS, 1965
  • Charles Carter, "Teacher, Teacher," Hallmark Hall of Fame, NBC, 1969
  • Today Is Ours, CBS, 1974
  • Dr. Fredericks, Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid(also known as Ghetto Child), NBC, 1977
  • Mr. Eolin, A Piece of Cake, NBC, 1977
  • "For Us the Living," American Playhouse, PBS, 1983
  • Narrator, And Every Man Is Free: A Tribute to Langston Hughes,1984
  • Narrator, Treemonisha,1986
  • Host, Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum, PBS, 1986
  • Dred Scott, The Blessings of Liberty,1987
  • Jay, Bruce Castleberry, and Reggie Bates, Alice in Wonder,1987
  • Host with Robert Terrell, A Letter to Booker T.,1987
  • Making "Do the Right Thing,",1989
  • The Twenty-Second Annual NAACP Image Awards,1990
  • Eyes on the Prize II, PBS, 1990
  • Zora Is My Name, PBS, 1990
  • Narrator, Haiti: Killing the Dream, PBS, 1992
  • Voice of Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, ABC, 1992
  • The 24th Annual NAACP Image Awards,1992
  • Narrator, Goin' Back to T-Town, PBS, 1993
  • Narrator, Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World, HBO, 1994
  • Malcolm X: Make It Plain, PBS, 1994
  • Host, National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1994
  • Voice of Frederick Douglass, Smithsonian's Great Battles of the Civil War,1994
  • The 48th Annual Tony Awards,1994
  • African-American Summit: Coming Home, PBS, 1995
  • Narrator, Arlington National Cemetery: A Mirror of America, The Disney Channel, 1995
  • Host, National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1995
  • Celebrate the Dream: 50 Years of Ebony, ABC, 1996
  • Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice, PBS, 1996
  • Erasmus, Home of the Brave,1996
  • Narrator (with Dee), Mississippi, America, PBS, 1996
  • Host, National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1996
  • Host, National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1997
  • Narrator, Thomas Jefferson, PBS, 1997
  • Burt Reynolds, A&E, 1998
  • NYTV: By the People Who Made It, PBS, 1998
  • Host, National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1998
  • Narrator, The Rise of Christianity: The First Thousand Years, A&E, 1998
  • Narrator, Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco--The Fillmore(also known as The Fillmore), 1999
  • Presenter, The 30th NAACP Image Awards,1999
  • America's Millennium, CBS, 1999
  • I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts, PBS,1999
  • Host, National Memorial Day Concert, PBS, 1999
  • Narrator, Paul Robeson: Here I Stand, PBS, 1999
  • Scandalize My Name, Stories from the Blacklist, Starz!, 1999
  • Host and narrator, TSO: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, Fox Family Channel, 1999
  • Narrator, Return to Harlem, HGTV, 2000
  • Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The 90-Year Journey of the NAACP, syndicated, 2000
  • Miniseries
  • Martin Luther King Sr., King, NBC, 1978
  • Dad Jones, Roots: The Next Generation, ABC, 1979
  • Parson Dick, Queen(also known as Alex Haley's Queen), CBS, 1993
  • Judge Farris, Stephen King's The Stand(also known as The Stand), ABC, 1994
  • Voice, Baseball(also known as The History of Baseball), PBS, 1994
  • Pilots
  • Lieutenant Wagner, The Outsider, NBC, 1967
  • Osmond Portifoy, Night Gallery, NBC, 1969
  • Episodic
  • "Seven Times Monday," Play of the Week, WNTA, 1960
  • Nixie, "The Riot," The Defenders, CBS, 1961
  • Omar, "The Presidential Itch," Car 54, Where Are You?, CBS, 1963
  • Omar, "The Star Boarder," Car 54, Where Are You?, CBS, 1963
  • Omar, "Here Comes Charlie," Car 54, Where Are You?, CBS, 1963
  • The Creative Person, PBS, 1965
  • Johnny Gaines, "Death Is the Door Prize," The Fugitive, ABC, 1966
  • Mr. Davis, "The Wish," Bonanza, NBC, 1968
  • Osmond Portifoy, "The Cemetery," Bonanza, NBC, 1969
  • The Great Depression, PBS, 1993
  • Himself, "Summer," Reading Rainbow,1994
  • Fred, "Ol' Betsy," Cosby,1999
  • Doc's father, "Modern Designs for Better Living," Third Watch,1999
  • Doc's father, "Journey to the Himalayas," Third Watch,2000
  • Also appeared in The Sheriff, ABC; N.Y.P.D., ABC; 12 O'clock High, ABC; Look Up and Live, CBS; Slattery's People, CBS; Hawaii Five-O, CBS; Doctors/Nurses, CBS; Night Gallery, NBC; The Name of the Game, NBC; The Outsider, NBC;Run for Your Life, NBC; Eternal Light, NBC.
  • Television Work
  • Specials
  • Director and producer, Today Is Ours, CBS, 1974
  • Executive producer, Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum, PBS, 1986
  • Executive producer and director, Crown Dick,1987
  • Producer and director, A Letter to Booker T.,1987
  • Producer and director, My Man Bovanne,1987
  • Producer, The 85-Year-Old Swinger,1987
  • Producer, Alice in Wonder,1987
  • Producer, Crazy Hattie Enters the Ice Age,1987
  • Producer, Mama,1987
  • Producer, Refrigerator,1987
  • Also worked as producer, A Walk through the Twentieth Century with Bill Moyers.
  • Radio Appearances
  • Host (with Ruby Dee), The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour, National Black Network, 1974-75
  • RECORDINGS
  • Video Games
  • Ben Dodds, Ripper,1996
  • Other
  • The Poetry of Langston Hughes, Caedmon, 1969
  • The Best Poems of Countee Cullen, Caedmon, 1972
  • The Black Cinema: Foremost Representatives of the Black Film World AirTheir Views, Center for Cassette Studies, 1975
  • Also recorded (with others) Simple Stories, Caedmon.
  • WRITINGS
  • Stage
  • Goldbrickers of 1944, produced in Liberia, 1944
  • Alice in Wonder(one-act), produced in New York City, 1952 revisedand expanded version produced as The Big Deal in New York City, 1953
  • Purlie Victorious, Cort Theatre, New York City, 1961
  • Curtain Call, Mr. Aldredge, Sir(produced in Santa Barbara, CA, 1968), published in The Black Teacher and the Dramatic Arts: A Dialogue, Bibliography and Anthology, edited by William R. Reardon and Thomas D. Pawley, Negro Universities Press, 1970
  • (With Philip Rose, Peter Udell, and Gary Geld) Purlie(musical; produced on Broadway, 1970), Samuel French, 1971
  • Escape to Freedom: A Play about Young Frederick Douglass(producedin New York City, 1976), Viking, 1978
  • Langston: A Play, produced in New York City, 1982
  • (With Hy Gilbert) Bingo, produced at AMAS Repertory Theatre, 1985
  • (With Dee) Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy, Crossroads Theatre Company,1995
  • Also wrote Last Dance for Sybil.
  • Screenplays
  • Gone Are the Days(adapted from Davis's Purlie Victorious; also known as Purlie Victorious and The Man from C.O.T.T.O.N.), Hammer Bros., 1963
  • (With Arnold Perl) Cotton Comes to Harlem(based on a novel by Chester Himes), United Artists, 1970
  • Television Writing
  • "School Teacher," East Side/West Side(episodic), CBS, 1963
  • "Slavery," The Negro People(episodic), PBS, 1965
  • Just Say the Word(episodic), 1969
  • Today Is Ours(special), CBS, 1974
  • (With Ladi Ladebo and Al Freeman, Jr.) Countdown at Kusini(based on a story by John Storm Roberts), CBS, 1976
  • Alice in Wonder(special), 1987
  • Also wrote The Eleventh Hour(episodic), NBC; Bonanza(episodic), NBC; N.Y.P.D.(episodic).
  • Other
  • (Contributor) Anger, and Beyond: The Negro Writer in the United States, Harper, 1966
  • (Contributor) Soon, One Morning: New Writing by American Negroes, 1940-1962, Knopf, 1968
  • "Ain't Now but It's Going to Be" (song), Cotton Comes to Harlem, United Artists, 1970
  • (With Ruby Dee) Glowchild, and Other Poems, Third Press, 1972
  • (With others) The Black Cinema: Foremost Representatives of the BlackFilm World Air Their Views, Center for Cassette Studies, 1975
  • Escape to Freedom, Viking, 1979
  • Just Like Martin, Simon & Schuster, 1992
  • Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Negro History Bulletin, Negro Digest, and Freedomways.

Further Reference

OTHER SOURCES

    Books:
    • Dictionary of Literary Biography, September 17, 1999, Gale, Volume7: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, 1981, Volume 38: Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, 1985.
    • Funke, Lewis, The Curtain Rises: The Story of Ossie Davis, Grosset& Dunlap, 1971.
    Periodicals:
    • American Theatre,/August, 1995, pp. 12-13.
    • Back Stage, p. 4.
    • Back Stage West, May 20, 1999, p. 6.
    • Ebony, February 20, 1999, p. 48.
    • Essence, December 20, 1994, pp. 76-80.
    • Jet, December 18, 1995, p. 20; January 11, 1999, p. 30.
    • Modern Maturity, October 20, 1996,/August, 1994, pp. 64-70.
    • Parade, p. 24.

    User Contributions:

    Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

    CAPTCHA


    forum