Friday, April 13, 2007

Roscoe Lee Browne, R.I.P.

If you don't remember the name, you would probably recognize his face, and certainly that voice; clear, deep, and resonant, with a cultivated patrician tone.

Mr. Browne, one of the most versatile--and successful--character actors of the past 40 years, died from cancer Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 81. From roles in Joe Papp's Shakespeare company, to a turn as a cattle drive cook in John Wayne's The Cowboys, an Emmy Award-winning performance On the Cosby Show and a Tony-nominated performance in August Wilson's Two Trains Running, Mr. Browne handled the classics, westerns, sitcoms and dramatic roles with equal aplomb. He was one of those actors who was always worth watching, and more often than not, me managed to steal the scene from better-known performers.

He began acting in the mid-1950s, a time when roles for African-American actors were extremely limited. Browne had been a college professor and a successful sales representative before embarking on his new career, and many contemporaries thought he was crazy. But, that magnificent voice helped his entry into the theater, and eventually, television and films, where he remained a familiar presence for more than 40 years.

He will be missed.

Hattip: Sippican Cottage.

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