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Browne, Roscoe Lee 1925–

Browne, Roscoe Lee 1925–

(Roscoe Brown, Roscoe Lee Brown)

PERSONAL

Born May 2, 1925, in Woodbury, NJ; father, a minister. Education: Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, degree; Middlebury College, graduate study; also attended Columbia University.

Addresses: Agent—Mitchell K. Stubbs and Associates, 8675 West Washington Blvd., Suite 203, Culver City, CA 90232; (voice) Cunningham/Escott/Slevin & Doherty Talent Agency, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 140, Los Angeles, CA 90025.

Career: Actor, voice artist, director, and writer. Shenley Import Corp., national sales representative, 1946–56; Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, teacher of literature and French, 1952; American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco, CA, member of company, 1988–89; Spoleto Festival, guest artist; gives readings of modern poetry and classics at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Member of the board of trustees, Millay Colony for the Arts, Los Angeles Free Public Theatre, KPFK-Pacifica Radio, and other institutions.

Member: Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Awards, Honors: Track and field awards, including two American indoor championships and a world championship in the 800-yard dash, 1951; Obie Award (with Frank Langella and Lester Rawlins), best actor, Village Voice, 1965, for Benito Cereno; Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, best actor, 1970, for The Dream on Monkey Mountain; Bronze Wrangler Award (with others), outstanding theatrical motion picture, Western Heritage Awards, 1972, for The Cowboys; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a single performance in a comedy or drama series, 1976, for "The Escape Artist," Barney Miller; inducted into Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 1977; Emmy Award, outstanding guest performer in a comedy series, 1986, for "The Card Game," The Cosby Show; Image Award, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1988, for The Cosby Show; Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, 1989, for Joe Turner's Come and Gone; Soap Opera Digest Award nomination, outstanding primetime villain, 1989, for Falcon Crest; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best performance by a featured actor in a play, 1992, for Two Trains Running.

CREDITS

Film Appearances:

(As Roscoe Brown) The Connection, Allen/Clarke, 1962.

Bertolt Brecht: Uebungstuecke fuer schauspieler (also known as Bertolt Brecht: Practice Pieces and Bertolt Brecht: Ubungstucke fur schauspieler), 1964.

Christopher, Black like Me (also known as No Man Walks Alone), Continental, 1964.

Preacher, Pie in the Sky (also known as Terror in the City), Allied Artists, 1964.

Petit Pierre, The Comedians (also known as Les comedians), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1967.

(Uncredited) Himself, The Comedians in Africa, 1967.

Clarence, Up Tight!, Paramount, 1968.

Philippe Dubois, Topaz, Universal, 1969.

Photographer, Me and My Brother, New Yorker, 1969.

Lord Byron "L. B." Jones, The Liberation of L. B. Jones, Columbia, 1970.

Himself, Chronicles: Family Diaries I, 1970.

Narrator, Ra (also known as The Ra Expeditions), Universal, 1971.

Music store operator, Cisco Pike, Columbia, 1971.

Jedediah Nightlinger, The Cowboys, Warner Bros., 1972.

Dr. Lamine Sonko, Superfly T.N.T., Paramount, 1973.

Gazenga, The World's Greatest Athlete, Buena Vista, 1973.

Congressman Lincoln, Uptown Saturday Night, Warner Bros., 1974.

Box, Logan's Run, United Artists, 1976.

James Forrest, Twilight's Last Gleaming (also known as Nuclear Countdown and Das Ultimatum), Allied Artists, 1977.

Cohost, Unknown Powers (documentary; originally intended for television), 1978.

Gideon Gibbs, Double Take, 1979.

Mr. Paxton, Nothing Personal, American International Pictures, 1980.

Himself, Is Everybody Happy But Me?, AIMS Media, 1983.

Archer Lincoln, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1986.

Judge Dawkins, Legal Eagles, Universal, 1986.

Voice of Francis, Oliver & Company (animated), Buena Vista, 1988.

Narrator, Night Angel (also known as Hell Born), Fries Entertainment, 1990.

Chairman Hall, Moon 44 (also known as Intruder), Live Home Video, 1991.

Doc, Eddie Presley, Raven Pictures International, 1992.

Fernando Perez, The Mambo Kings (also known as The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love and Les Mambo Kings), Warner Bros., 1992.

Mr. Reid, Naked in New York, Fine Line, 1994.

Narrator, Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X (documentary), 1994.

Freddy, Last Summer in the Hamptons, Rainbow Releasing, 1995.

Leonard Folder, The Pompatus of Love, CFP Distribution, 1995.

Narrator, Babe (also known as Babe, the Gallant Pig), Universal, 1995.

The Beast, 1995.

Clovis Madison, Forest Warrior, Turner Home Entertainment, 1996.

Idris Abraham, Dear God, Paramount, 1996.

Voice of Wilson Fisk (Kingpin), Spider-Man: Sins of the Fathers (animated), Marvel Films/New World Entertainment, 1996.

(Uncredited) Pirate, Muppet Treasure Island, 1996.

Narrator, Babe: Pig in the City (also known as Babe in Metropolis and Babe 2), Universal, 1998.

Peebo, Morgan's Ferry, Artist View Entertainment, 1999.

Narrator, One Shot: The Life and Work of Teenis Harris (documentary), California Newsreel, 2001.

Sweet Deadly Dreams, Falken Arts Productions/North River Pictures, 2002.

Voice of Mr. Arrow, Treasure Planet (animated), Buena Vista, 2002.

Television Appearances; Series:

Gideon Gibbs, McCoy, NBC, 1975–76.

Harold Devore Neistadter, Miss Winslow and Son, CBS, 1979.

Saunders, Soap, ABC, 1980–81.

Voices of Reekon and Merklyn, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light (animated; also known as Visionaries), PBS, 1987.

Rosemont, Falcon Crest, CBS, 1988.

Voice of Max Miles, Ring Raiders (animated), syndicated, beginning in 1989.

Voice of Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin), Spider-Man (animated), Fox and UPN, c. 1995–99.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Philip Harrison, King, NBC, 1978.

Gazenga, "The World's Greatest Athlete," Disneyland (also known as Disney's Wonderful World, The Disney Sunday Movie, The Magical World of Disney, Walt Disney, Walt Disney Presents, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and The Wonderful World of Disney), 1983.

Charles Farquar, Space (also known as James A. Michener's "Space"), CBS, 1985.

Polonius, Hamlet, Odyssey Network, 2000.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Dr. Cresus, Dr. Scorpion, ABC, 1978.

Calhearn, Stuck with Each Other, NBC, 1989.

Omar DeLacy, Lady in a Corner (also known as Lady in the Corner), NBC, 1989.

Dr. Steadman, "Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo" (also known as "Columbo"), The ABC Saturday Mystery, ABC, 1990.

Neighbor, "Open Window," Showtime 30-Minute Movie, Showtime, 1991.

Buck, "You Must Remember This," Wonderworks, 1992.

Chief Bleeker, The Judas Kiss, Cinemax, 1998.

Sebastian Allgood, The Premonition (also known as Hard Time: The Premonition), TNT, 1999.

Lieutenant Washington, Hidden Blessings, Black Entertainment Television, 2000.

Television Appearances; Specials:

"Green Pastures," Hallmark Hall of Fame (also known as Hallmark Television Theatre), NBC, 1952.

Babu, "Benito Cereno," Festival of the Arts (also known as NET Playhouse), National Educational Television, 1965.

W. E. B. DuBois, "Free at Last," History of the Negro People, PBS, 1965.

Frederick Douglass, Swing Out, Sweet Land, NBC, 1970.

Diogenes "D. C." Chase, The Haunting of Harrington House, CBS, 1981.

Hurton (in archive footage), Farewell to the Planet of the Apes, 1981.

Gloster Current, "For Us, the Living: The Story of Medgar Evers" (also known as "For Us, the Living" and "For Us, the Living: The Medgar Evers Story"), American Playhouse, PBS, 1983.

Ghost of Christmas past, John Grin's Christmas, ABC, 1986.

Gordon Parks: Moments Without Proper Names, PBS, 1988.

Voice, Noel, NBC, 1992.

Narrator, Marilyn Monroe: Life after Death, Showtime, 1994.

Mr. Wortham, "Crosstown," CBS Schoolbreak Special, CBS, 1996.

Narrator, Galapagos: Beyond Darwin, The Discovery Channel, 1996.

Voice, The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story, PBS, 2000.

"Redd Foxx: Say It Like It Is," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

Interviewee, Black Aviators: Flying Free, History Channel, 2001.

Reader, Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, HBO, 2003.

Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde, BBC, 2004.

Narrator, Tales of a Fly on the Wall, 2004.

Narrator, July '64, PBS, 2006.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

"The Benefactor," The Defenders, CBS, 1962.

Mbana, "The Whistling Shrimp," Espionage, NBC, 1963.

Architect, "Go Fight City Hall," East Side/West Side, CBS, 1963.

That Was the Week That Was (also known as TW3), NBC, 1964.

Dr. Andrew Josephus, "Deadfall: Parts 1 & 2," Mannix, CBS, 1968.

The stranger, "Watts Made out of Thread," Insight, syndicated, 1968.

Arnold Warren, "The Vise," The Invaders, ABC, 1968.

Title role, "Gideon," Outcasts, ABC, 1969.

Wamumba, "The Third Choice," The Name of the Game, NBC, 1969.

Dean Marshall, "The Time Is Now," The Name of the Game, NBC, 1970.

Joshua, "He Was Only Seven," Bonanza (also known as Ponderosa), NBC, 1972.

Hugh Victor Thompson III, "The Elevator Story," All in the Family (also known as Those Were the Days), CBS, 1972.

Osgood Wilcox, "Jealousy," Sanford and Son, NBC, 1972.

The Flip Wilson Show, NBC, 1972, 1973.

Jean Duval, "Archie in the Hospital," All in the Family (also known as Those Were the Days), CBS, 1973.

Yale Courtland Dancy, "A Trout in the Milk," The Streets of San Francisco, ABC, 1973.

"This Case Is Closed," Planet of the Apes, CBS, 1974.

Hurton, "Tomorrow's Tide," Planet of the Apes, CBS, 1974.

Reverend Sam, "God's Business Is Good Business," Good Times, CBS, 1974.

Charlie Jeffers, "The Escape Artist," Barney Miller (also known as The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller), ABC, 1975.

Mr. Butterfield, "Victoria's Boyfriend," Maude, CBS, 1977.

Quatraine, "Starsky and Hutch on Playboy Island," Starsky and Hutch, ABC, 1977.

Merlin, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," Once Upon a Classic, PBS, 1978.

Mr. Butterfield, "Mr. Butterfield's Return," Maude, CBS, 1978.

"Sixth Sense," Hart to Hart, ABC, 1980.

Howard Walker, "Just Friends," Benson, ABC, 1980.

Carlton, "Of Sound Mind," Magnum, P.I., CBS, 1983.

"Death Goes to the Movies," Blacke's Magic, NBC, 1986.

Dean Morton, "Reading Between the Lines," The Ellen Burstyn Show, ABC, 1986.

Dr. Barnabas Foster, "The Card Game," The Cosby Show, NBC, 1986.

Mr. Thomas, "Teacher's Teacher," Head of the Class, 1986.

Dr. Barnabas Foster, "Shakespeare," The Cosby Show, NBC, 1987.

Albert Henry, "Men's Club," 227, 1987.

Dr. Barnabas Foster, "All's Fair," A Different World, NBC, 1988.

Dr. Barnabas Foster, "Speech Therapy," A Different World, NBC, 1988.

Dr. Hudsbeth, "Country Doctor," Highway to Heaven, NBC, 1988.

Dennis Cray, "The Passionate Painter Mystery," Father Dowling Mysteries (also known as Father Dowling Investigates), ABC, 1990.

Dr. Barnabas Foster, "Almost Working Girl," A Different World, NBC, 1991.

Voice of Roscoe, "Star Is Newborn," Baby Talk, ABC, 1991.

Voice, Pirates of Dark Water (animated; also known as Dark Water), Fox, c. 1991.

"Songs of Freedom," Evening at Pops, PBS, 1992.

Dr. Barnabas Foster, "Do the Write Thing," A Different World, NBC, 1992.

Sir Idris Balewa, "Consultation," Law & Order (also known as Law & Order Prime), NBC, 1992.

Dr. Raleigh Young, "The Devil's Window," SeaQuest DSV (also known as SeaQuest 2032), NBC, 1993.

Dr. Raleigh Young, "Greed for a Pirate's Dream," SeaQuest DSV (also known as SeaQuest 2032), NBC, 1994.

Sweet Justice, NBC, 1994.

Mr. Davis, "The Job," The John Larroquette Show (also known as Larroquette), NBC, 1994.

Voice of Dr. Wataki, "Time Out of Joint," Batman: The Animated Series (animated; also known as The Adventures of Batman & Robin and Batman), Fox, 1994.

Voice, "Rumpelstiltskin," Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (animated), HBO, 1995.

Voice of Great Mystical Gnome, "And Fanboy Is His Name," Freakazoid! (animated), 1995.

Voice of Great Mystical Gnome, "Lawn Gnomes Chapter IV: Fun in the Sun," Freakazoid! (animated), 1995.

Dr. Johnson, "Bad Blood," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1996.

George Lucas, "Broken Reflection," Cosby, CBS, 1996.

Mayor Davidson's supporter, EZ Streets (also known as Easy Streets), CBS, 1996.

Reverend Soames, Kirk (also known as Life Happens), The WB, 1996.

Judge Baily, "It Takes a Voyage to Learn," Hope Island, PAX, 1999.

Reverend Matthew Lynn, "Rites of Spring," ER (also known as Emergency Room), NBC, 1999.

Voice of Komodo dragon, "The Dragon and the Professor," The Wild Thornberrys (animated), 1999.

Himself, "The Papp Project," American Masters, PBS, 2001.

Bryce Wyms, "Throwaway," The Shield, FX Channel, 2002.

Aaron Miller, "Identity," Law & Order (also known as Law & Order Prime), NBC, 2003.

Voice of Dr. Anokye, "Static in Africa," Static Shock (animated), The WB, 2003.

Voice of Dr. Anokye, "Out of Africa," Static Shock (animated), The WB, 2004.

Linus, "The Newlydreads," Will & Grace, NBC, 2004.

Voice of Professor Hugo Strange, "Fistful of Felt," The Batman (animated), The WB, 2005.

Also appeared in Meeting of Minds, PBS; provided voices for episodes of the animated series The Real Ghostbusters, ABC.

Television Appearances; Pilots:

(As Roscoe Lee Brown) Mr. Secretary, "Epicac," Rex Harrison's Short Stories of Love (also known as Short Stories of Love, Short Story, and Three Faces of Love), NBC, 1974.

Silky Gideon Gibbs, The Big Rip-Off (also known as The Big Ripoff), NBC, 1975.

Truman Murdock, The High Five, NBC, 1982.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Presenter, The 19th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1987.

2002 Trumpet Awards, TBS, 2002.

Television Work; Series:

Additional voices, Foofur (animated), 1987.

Stage Appearances:

The Taming of the Shrew, New York Shakespeare Festival, East River Park Amphitheater, New York City, 1956.

Soothsayer and Pindarus, Julius Caesar, New York Shakespeare Festival, East River Park Amphitheater, 1956.

Aaron, Titus Andronicus, New York Shakespeare Festival, Theatre of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, New York City, 1957.

Cothurnus, Aria da Capo, Theatre Marquee, New York City, 1958.

Understudy for title role, Othello, New York Shakespeare Festival, Belvedere Lake Theatre, New York City, 1958.

Royal Baron, The Cool World, Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York City, 1960.

Understudy for title role, Purlie Victorious, Cort Theatre, New York City, 1961.

Archibald Wellington, The Blacks: A Clown Show, St. Mark's Playhouse, New York City, 1961–62.

Corporal, General Seeger, Lyceum Theatre, New York City, 1962.

Deacon Sitter Morris, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, Booth Theatre, New York City, 1962–63.

Fool, King Lear, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 1962.

Brecht on Brecht (revue), Theatre de Lys (now Lucille Lortel Theatre), New York City, 1962, then Arena Stage, Washington, DC, performed as a staged reading at Sheridan Square Playhouse, New York City, and at Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, all 1963.

Autolycus, The Winter's Tale, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, 1963.

Narrator, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1963.

Street singer, The Threepenny Opera, Arena Stage, 1963.

Babu, Benito Cereno, American Place Theatre, New York City, beginning 1963, later produced as part of a double-bill titled The Old Glory, Theatre of St. Clement's Church, New York City, 1964.

Hell Is Other People (readings), Theatre at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1964.

Male lead, The Empty Room, Village South Theatre, New York City, 1964.

St. Just, Danton's Death, Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York City, 1965.

Ulysses, Troilus and Cressida, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, 1965.

Beyond the Fringe, Goodspeed Opera House, East Had-dam, CT, 1966.

Babu, Benito Cereno, Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, OH, 1966.

The gardener, Sodom and Gomorrah, Playhouse in the Park, 1966.

Mendoza, Man and Superman, Playhouse in the Park, 1966.

Sheridan Whiteside, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1966.

An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music, Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, 1966, produced as A Hand Is on the Gate, Longacre Theatre, New York City, 1966, revived at Afro-American Studio, New York City, 1976–77.

Mosca, Volpone, New York Shakespeare Festival, Mobile Theatre, New York City, 1967.

Makak, The Dream on Monkey Mountain, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1970, then St. Mark's Playhouse, 1971.

A Rap on Race, New Theatre for Now, Los Angeles, 1971–72.

As You Like It, Pilgrimage Theatre, Los Angeles, 1973.

Ephraim Cabot, Desire Under the Elms, Academy Festival Theatre, Chicago, 1974.

(With Anthony Zerbe) Behind the Broken Words (poetry reading), Washington Theatre Club, Washington, DC, 1974, revived at American Place Theatre, 1981, and Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO, 2002.

Babu, Benito Cereno, American Place Theatre, 1976.

Albert Perez Jordan, Remembrance, New York Shakespeare Festival, Other Stage, Public Theatre, New York City, 1979.

Pantomime, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, 1981–82.

Right Reverend J. D. Montgomery, My One and Only (musical), St. James Theatre, New York City, 1983–84.

M. Noirtier, The Count of Monte Cristo, Eisenhower Theatre, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC, 1985.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Los Angeles, 1989, then Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA, 1989–90.

Holloway, Two Trains Running, Eisenhower Theatre, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1991, then Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City, 1992.

(As Roscoe Lee Brown) "House of Flowers," City Center Encores!, City Center Theatre, New York City, 2003.

Major Tours:

Balthazar, Romeo and Juliet, New York Shakespeare Festival, New York cities, 1957.

Stage Director:

An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music, Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 1966, produced as A Hand Is on the Gate, Longacre Theatre, New York City, 1966, revived at Afro-American Studio, New York City, 1976–77.

Radio Appearances:

Native villager, "The Endless Road," CBS Radio Workshop, CBS, 1956.

Performer of Shakespearean roles for CBC-Radio.

RECORDINGS

Taped Readings/Audio Books:

Enjoyment of Poetry: Memorial Program for Claude McKay, Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, 1967.

Poems, by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, 1968.

Caribbean, Random House Audio, 1989.

Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, Listening Library, 1989.

Martin Luther King Edition: New Testament Value Pack, World Bible Publishing Company, 1991.

Audio Bible, World Bible Publishing, 1991.

Bible for Today New Testament, 1992.

(With Joe Morton) The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Simon & Schuster Audio, 1992.

M. C. Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton, Recorded Books, 1993.

Kwanzaa Folktales, by Gordon Lewis, Warner Adult, 1994.

The Word Workout: 10 Easy Exercises for a Stronger Vocabulary, Dove Books Audio, 1995.

The Complete Sonnets of William Shakespeare: With A Lover's Complaint and Selected Songs, Dove Books Audio, 1996.

The Poetry of Robert Frost, Dove Books Audio, 1996.

Masterpieces of Modern Short Fiction, Audio Literature, 1998.

The Haunting of Hill House, New Star Media, 1999.

The Bible: Old Testament, King James Version, Audio Literature, 2001.

The Poetry of Robert Frost, New Millennium Audio, 2001.

The Poetry of Walt Whitman, New Millennium Audio, 2001.

KJV on Cassette: New Testament, Nelson Bibles, 2003.

WRITINGS

Stage:

An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music (readings), Delacorte Theatre, Public Theatre, 1966, produced as A Hand Is on the Gate, Longacre Theatre, New York City, 1966, revived at Afro-American Studio, New York City, 1976–77.

Behind the Broken Words (poetry reading), Washington Theatre Club, Washington, DC, 1974, revived at American Place Theatre, New York City, 1981, and Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO, 2002.

Other:

Author of poems and short stories.

ADAPTATIONS

The touring production Behind the Broken Words was also recorded as a video.

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Browne, Roscoe Lee 1925–2007

Roscoe Lee Browne 1925–2007

Actor, director, writer

Roscoe Lee Browne's rich and soothing baritone was instantly recognizable to many film and television viewers who did not know his name. The award-winning stage, film, and television actor was perhaps best known for his narration of the 1995 hit film Babe. Browne turned to acting after winning several international track competitions, making his stage debut with Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival in 1956. In films and on television Browne's urbane style and acerbic wit helped transform the image of black actors. On stage he earned critical acclaim for his performances in the plays of Derek Walcott and August Wilson. His voice work was heard in numerous recorded books, documentaries, animated films, and TV shows.

Left Academia for the Stage

The son of a Baptist minister, Roscoe Lee Browne was born on May 2, 1925, in Woodbury, New Jersey. During his youth in Woodbury he was both a promising athlete and a voracious reader. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Browne ran track for the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1946. He continued his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, at Columbia University, and at the University of Florence, Italy, before returning to Lincoln as an instructor of French and comparative literature. He appeared headed for a career in academia.

Although Browne was a track champion, winning the 1949 Amateur Athletic Union 1,000-yard title and two American indoor championships running for the New York Pioneer Club, it was not until 1951 that he garnered acclaim as an international track star. That year in Paris he set a world record in the 800-yard dash and won the world championship. The following year he had just won the 880-yard run at the Millrose Games in New York when an injury ended his athletic career. Browne parlayed his track victories into a job as a wine and liquor sales representative, first for Columbia National and then for Schenley Import Corporation. However, he became disillusioned with selling liquor to Harlem bars.

One night at dinner with friends in 1956 Browne announced that he had decided to pursue an acting career. As reported in the Washington Post, his friend, the opera singer Leontyne Price, warned him, “They'll have you bearing torches,” in reference to the limited roles available to black actors. Browne's previous experience included a television appearance in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production “Green Pastures” in 1952, but at age thirty-six he had no training as an actor. Joseph Papp, however, was determined to include black actors in his newly formed New York Shakespeare Festival Company. The day after his dinner announcement Browne auditioned for the role of Soothsayer in Julius Caesar. He was hired, and during the Festival's inaugural season Browne also played Pindarus in Julius Caesar and appeared in The Taming of the Shrew. In 1957 Browne played Aaron in Titus Andronicus and toured New York State as Balthazar in Romeo and Juliet. The following season he understudied as Othello. In all Browne spent seven seasons with the Shakespeare Festival, playing the role of the Fool in King Lear in 1962. He also performed in Shakespeare productions for CBC Radio.

In a 1989 interview Browne told Janice Arkatov of the Los Angeles Times: “I remember when I chose acting I thought, ‘This is it—for the time being.’ I didn't think I was finished yet. I still don't. I keep thinking about what I should be doing [next]. I might be a writer.”

Debuted on Broadway

Browne made his Broadway debut in 1960 in A Cool World. It closed after one day. Although he appeared in a number of other unsuccessful Broadway productions during the 1960s, in 1963 he played the narrator—with a white understudy—in Edward Albee's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. In 1961 Browne played the lead with James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett Jr., and Cicely Tyson in the original off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks, about the devastations wrought by colonialism. It ran for more than 1,400 performances. In 1965 Browne won an Obie Award for his performance as the slave Babu in Robert Lowell's adaptation of Herman Melville's Benito Cereno. Browne also starred in the television version, a project that increased his fame through exposure to a national audience.

In 1966 Browne wrote, directed, and costarred in A Hand Is on the Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music, with Tyson and Jones, earning two Tony nominations. Three years later in Los Angeles Browne teamed up with actor Anthony Zerbe in Behind the Broken Words for an evening of dramatic readings and poetry, including some of Browne's own poems. Browne and Zerbe performed their spoken-word program over the following three decades.

At a Glance …

Born May 2, 1925, in Woodbury, NJ; died April 11, 2007, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Sylvanus Browne and Lovie Lee. Military Service: U.S. Army, World War II. Education: Lincoln University, BA, 1946; studied at Middlebury College, Columbia University, University of Florence.

Career: Lincoln University, PA, instructor of French and comparative literature, 1949-52; film and television actor and narrator, 1952-2007; stage actor, 1956-2003; New York Shakespeare Festival, actor, 1956-58, 1962-63, 1965, 1967; A Hand Is on the Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music, author, director, actor, 1966, 1976-77; Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT, company member, 1966-67; Pittsburgh Playhouse, PA, company member, 1966-67; Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, OH, company member, 1966-67; spoken-word recording artist, 1967-2003; New Theatre for Now, Los Angeles, CA, company member, 1969-70; Behind the Broken Words, author, performer, 1969-2002; American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco, CA, company member, 1988-89.

Selected memberships: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Actors Equity Association; KPFK Los Angeles, Pacifica Radio, trustee; Los Angeles Free Public Theatre, trustee; Millay Colony for the Arts, trustee.

Selected awards: Obie Award for best actor, for Benito Cereno, 1965; Los Angeles Drama Critics, Best Actor Award, for The Dream on Monkey Mountain, 1970; Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 1977; Emmy Award, outstanding guest performer in a comedy series, for “The Card Game” episode of The Cosby Show, 1986; Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, for Joe Turner's Come and Gone, 1989.

In 1971 Browne played James Baldwin in a dramatization of Baldwin's dialogue with Margaret Mead, “A Rap on Race.” His performance as Makak in the 1971 premiere of Walcott's Dream on Monkey Mountain won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Best Actor Award. Browne told Arkatov about playing Bynum, an elder statesman probably born into slavery, in Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone: “Whether one knows it or not, one does have race memories. If the character has to experience pain, [those memories] make the pain easily available.”

Browne returned to Broadway in 1983 in the smash musical My One and Only, singing “Kicking the Clouds Away.” His last Broadway performance was as Holloway in Wilson's Two Trains Running in 1992, which garnered him a Tony nomination for best actor. In 1997 Browne starred as both Oedipus and the narrator in the touring production of Gospel at Colonus.

Became a Screen Actor

For most his career Browne moved back and forth between the stage, film, and television. His first screen role was in Shirley Clarke's acclaimed film The Connection in 1961. By the end of the decade he was appearing regularly in films. In William Wyler's last film, The Liberation of L. B. Jones, Browne played the title role of a mortician who confronts racism with dignity and authority. According to his biography on the IMDb Web site, when a director told Browne that he sounded “white,” Browne quipped: “We had a white maid.” When a critic complained that as the camp cook in The Cowboys Browne “spoke too well to be believable,” Browne replied: “I think if I had said ‘Yassuh, boss’ to John Wayne then the critic would have taken a shine to me.” In that classic film Browne's character overcame the racism of a group of teenage cowboys to become their role model. One of his best screen roles was as the hypocritical congressman in Sidney Poitier's Uptown Saturday Night. Many first heard Browne's voice when he narrated The Story of “Star Wars,” a recording made to promote the 1977 movie and now a collector's item.

From 1962 on Browne made numerous guest appearances in television series. In a famous episode of All in the Family, Browne portrayed a snobbish black lawyer trapped in an elevator with the bigot Archie Bunker. He costarred in the 1975 NBC series McCoy. Between 1979 and 1981 Browne played Saunders the butler in the comedy series Soap. He had a recurring role as Dr. Barnabas Foster on The Cosby Show and A Different World, and his performance on the former garnered him a 1986 Emmy and an NAACP Image Award. In 1986 Browne was also nominated for an Emmy for outstanding single performance as a supporting actor in a series, for an episode of Barney Miller. In 1989 he was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest Award as outstanding primetime villain in Falcon Crest. He was also nominated for Emmys for his roles in Falcon Crest and Spider-Man. Browne played Frederick Douglass in Steve Allen's history talk show Meeting of the Minds on PBS and appeared in such popular network series as ER, The Shield, and Will & Grace. In 2000 Browne played Polonius in Campbell Scott's Hamlet for the Odyssey TV Network.

Browne was also well known for his spoken-word performances. He narrated numerous documentaries and animated films and television programs. In 2003 he was a reader for the acclaimed HBO documentary Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives. Browne performed as a speaker in symphonic works with the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He recorded numerous audio books, and his recording of love poems, Murmurs of Love, received critical acclaim. In the last years of his life Browne's voice was heard on radio and television commercials.

Browne never married. He died on April 11, 2007, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, following a long battle with cancer. His last works were the narrations for Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties and Epic Movie. A memorial service was held at the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in New York City. Actor Laurence Fishburne organized a memorial at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The Roscoe Lee Browne Scholarship Fund assisted African-American students of theater, literature, and French and established an annual residency in poetry at the Millay Colony for the Arts in New York.

Browne's Los Angeles Times obituary quoted Poitier, who observed: “He was one of the most remarkable presences on stage, on film, on television…. This is the only person I know who could recite, without anything written in front of him, hundreds of poems…. [He] would perform, he would read, he would discuss, he would analyze poetry. He was a remarkable person in that regard, in addition to being a consummate actor.”

Selected works

Films

The Connection, 1962.

Topaz, 1969.

The Liberation of L. B. Jones, 1970.

Ra, 1971.

The Cowboys, 1972.

Uptown Saturday Night, 1974.

Legal Eagles, 1986.

Oliver & Company, 1988.

The Mambo Kings, 1992.

Babe, 1995.

Babe: Pig in the City, 1998.

One Shot: The Life and Work of Teenis Harris, 2001.

Treasure Planet, 2002.

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, 2006.

Epic Movie, 2007.

Television

“Green Pastures,” Hallmark Hall of Fame (also known as Hallmark Television Theatre), 1952.

“Benito Cereno,” Festival of the Arts (also known as NET Playhouse), 1965.

History of the Negro People, 1965.

Swing Out, Sweet Land, 1970.

McCoy, 1975-76.

Miss Winslow and Son, 1979.

Soap, 1980-81.

“For Us, the Living: The Story of Medgar Evers,” American Playhouse, 1983.

Falcon Crest, 1988.

Gordon Parks: Moments Without Proper Names, 1988.

Spider-Man, 1995-99.

(Narrator) Galapagos: Beyond Darwin, 1996.

“Redd Foxx: Say It Like It Is,” Biography, 2000.

The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story, 2000.

Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, 2003.

Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde, 2004.

Tales of a Fly on the Wall, 2004.

July '64, 2006.

Recordings

Enjoyment of Poetry: Memorial Program for Claude McKay, Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, 1967.

Poems, by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, 1968.

The Story of “Star Wars,” 1978.

Caribbean, Random House Audio, 1989.

Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, Listening Library, 1989.

Audio Bible, World Bible Publishing, 1991.

(With Joe Morton) The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Simon & Schuster Audio, 1992.

Kwanzaa Folktales, by Gordon Lewis, Warner Audio, 1994.

The Complete Sonnets of William Shakespeare: With “A Lover's Complaint” and Selected Songs, Dove Books Audio, 1996.

The Poetry of Robert Frost, Dove Books Audio, 1996, New Millennium Audio, 2001.

Masterpieces of Modern Short Fiction, Audio Literature, 1998.

The Haunting of Hill House, New Star Media, 1999.

Murmurs of Love, Creative Records, 1999.

The Bible: Old Testament, King James Version, Audio Literature, 2001.

The Poetry of Walt Whitman, New Millennium Audio, 2001.

KJV on Cassette: New Testament, Nelson Bibles, 2003.

Sources

Books

“Roscoe Lee Browne,” in Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Vol. 73, Thomson Gale, 2007.

Periodicals

Guardian (London), June 20, 2007, p. 37.

Hollywood Reporter, April 12, 2007, p. 4.

Independent (London), April 14, 2007.

Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1989, p. 1; April 12, 2007, p. B7.

New York Times, April 12, 2007, p. C15.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 24, 2003, p. D2.

Sentinel (Los Angeles), February 19, 1999, p. B7.

Variety, April 16, 2007, p. 88.

Washington Post, April 13, 2007, p. B7.

Online

“Actor Roscoe Lee Brown Dies at 81 in Los Angeles,” International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/04/11/america/NA-GENUS-Obit-Roscoe-Lee-Browne.php (accessed October 24, 2007).

“Roscoe Lee Brown,” Hollywood.com,http://www.hollywood.com/celebrity/Roscoe_Lee_Browne/199377#fullBio (accessed October 24, 2007).

“Roscoe Lee Browne,” Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001975/ (accessed October 24, 2007).

“Roscoe Lee Browne Biography,” The History Makers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1319&category=EntertainmentMakers (accessed October 24, 2007).

“Roscoe Lee Browne Biography (1925-),” Film Reference,http://www.filmreference.com/film/82/Roscoe-Lee-Browne.html (accessed October 24, 2007).

—Margaret Alic

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