83 Carpenter St, Woodbury, NJ 08096
Roscoe Lee Browne (May 2, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American character actor and director. He resisted playing stereotypically black roles, instead performing in several productions with New York City's Shakespeare Festival Theater, Leland Hayward's satirical NBC series That Was the Week That Was, and a poetry performance tour of the United States in addition to his work in television and film. He is perhaps best known for his role as Saunders in Soap (1977–1981).
Born in Woodbury, New Jersey, Browne was the fourth son of Baptist minister Sylvanus S. Browne and Lovie Lee Usher. He graduated from Woodbury Junior-Senior High School in 1939. Browne attended historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. While there, he became a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1946. During World War II, he served in Italy with the United States Army's 92nd Infantry Division and organised the Division's track and field team. After the war, he undertook postgraduate work at Middlebury College, Columbia University, and the University of Florence. A middle-distance runner, he won two Amateur Athletic Union 1,000-yard national indoor championships. He occasionally returned to Lincoln University between 1946–52 to teach English, French, and comparative literature. Upon leaving academia, he earned a living for several years selling wine for Schenley Import Corporation. In 1956, he left his job with Schenley to become a full-time professional actor. 1950 and 1951 he Toured Europe (as a half-miler) with a USA Track and Field team.
Despite the apprehensions of his friends, Browne managed to land the roles of soothsayer and Pindarus in Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Papp for New York City's first Shakespeare Festival Theater. More work with the Shakespeare Festival Theater followed, and he voiced an offscreen part as camera operator J.J. Burden in The Connection (1961), his first movie role.
In 1968, Jules Dassin, the legendary white blacklisted noir director of The Naked City and Night and the City, helped create a bizarre and deeply overlooked black film classic, Uptight, along with Afro-Art legend Ruby Dee, who co-wrote the script, co-produced and played one of the lead roles. Set in Black Power-era war-torn Cleveland, the film opens with actual MLK funeral footage over a score by Booker T. and the M.G.s. Roscoe Lee Browne plays “Daisy,” a nasty piece of work who makes big dollars as a police informant while swishing in paisley blouses and jeweled cravats. Browne makes Daisy formidable and foul, yet delicately poignant (“Daisy, what do you get for the head of a brother?” “You wanna talk to my accountant?”). In an old film filled with great if awkwardly stylized work, it is Browne’s Daisy who stands as the most recognizable person – the one you can picture as a real human being. Browne is channeling a bit of James Baldwin, a dash of Jason Holliday (the historically significant queen immortalized in Shirley Clarke’s seminal 1967 documentary Portrait of Jason) and whatever dark depths stirred in his own sweet heart.
In The Cowboys (1972) in a role as a camp cook, he led a group of young cowhands avenging the death of John Wayne's character in the movie.
In 1976, Browne was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series for his work on ABC's Barney Miller. In 1986, he won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series for his work on NBC's The Cosby Show. In 1992, he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance as "Holloway" in August Wilson's Two Trains Running. In 1995, he received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for his performance as The Kingpin in Spider-Man. Browne was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977 and posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2008.
Browne died of stomach cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in the morning of April 11, 2007, aged 84. He never married and had no children.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE