ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Roscoe Lee Browne
National Visionary

May 2, 1922 - April 11, 2007
Born in Woodbury, New Jersey

Actor, Director, Writer








BIOGRAPHY
A classically trained actor, Roscoe Lee Browne was internationally renowned for his unique voice and commanding presence on stage, screen, and television.

Born May 2, 1922 in Woodbury, New Jersey, Browne graduated in 1946 from Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he pursued a postgraduate degree at Middlebury College.

Browne returned to Lincoln to teach French and comparative literature. He then gained fame as a track star in the early 1950s. In 1951, he ran the world's fastest 800-meter dash. He followed that with a career as a corporate executive for Schenley Import Corporation, a wine and liquor import company.


Browne (lower left) with his family.
It was relatively late in life, at 35 years-old, that Browne decided to become an actor. He launched his theater career with the inaugural season of The New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park in 1956. After that, he appeared on and off Broadway, in theater festivals throughout the United States and abroad, as well as in film and television. He was the recipient of many awards for his performances on stage—among them the L.A. Drama Critics Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Makak in Dream on Monkey Mountain, and a Tony nomination and Helen Hayes Award for distinguished work in theatre for his role as Holloway in Two Trains Running.

While with the Shakespeare Festival (he spent seven seasons there), Browne created and directed A Hand Is On The Gate, a chronicle and celebration of the African American experience, in poetry and song. His actors for the evening were himself, Gloria Foster, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Moses Gunn, Ellen Holly, Leon Bibb and Josephine Premice. The true stars of the evening, however, were all the unsung African American poets. The evening was hailed and moved on to Broadway and an enduring acclaim.


This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Center

Considered by many as the quintessential American character actor, Browne appeared in over thirty films, including, The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones (title role), The Cowboys (Western Heritage Award), The Comedians, Uptown Saturday Night, Topaz, Mambo Kings, Babe, Oscar nominated (narrator), and Babe II: Pig in the City.

His extensive work in television included the role of Frederick Douglas in Steve Allen’s Meeting of Mind,the butler to the Tate family on the ABC series Soap (replacing Robert Guillaume who left in 1980 to star in his own series), Rosemont on the CBS prime-time drama Falcon Crest, and guest appearances on Barney Miller (Emmy nomination), A Different World, Falcon Crest (Emmy nomination), The Cosby Show (Emmy Award), Law & Order, Seaquest, Spiderman (Emmy nomination), N.Y. Undercover, and the new Cosby.

A speaker in various symphonic works, Browne appeared with the Boston Pops, L.A. Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and with the St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans Symphonies. He toured the U.S. annually with Anthony Zerbe in Behind The Broken Words.

Having contributed his substantial talents to many genres, Roscoe Lee Browne established himself as one of the great actors of the 20th century.

Browne died of cancer on April 11, 2007. He lived in Los Angeles, California.


VIDEO CLIPS

EXTERNAL LINKS
Roscoe Lee Browne's Wikipedia page
Roscoe Lee Browne's Imdb page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/browneroscoelee


ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z