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Fri, 08.01.1930

Geoffrey Holder, Actor, and Choreographer born

Geoffrey Holder

*Geoffrey Holder was born on this date in 1930.  He was a Black Trinidadian American actor, voice actor, dancer, choreographer, singer, director, and painter.

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Geoffrey Lamont Holder was one of four children to parents of Bajan and Trinidadian descent.  He was educated at Tranquility School and Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain. He made his performance debut at the age of seven in his brother Boscoe Holder's dance company. After seeing him perform in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands the choreographer Agnes de Mille invited Holder to work with her in New York.  

Upon arriving he joined Katherine Dunham dance school where he taught folkloric forms for two years.  From 1955 to 1956, he performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet as a principal dancer.  He left the ballet to make his Broadway debut with Diahann Carroll in the Harold Arlen and Truman Capote musical House of Flowers.   There Holder met Alvin Ailey, with whom he later worked extensively, and Carmen de Lavallade, his future wife. After the show closed, he starred in an all-Black production of Waiting for Godot in 1957.   

Holder married Carmen de Lavallade in 1955. They spent their lives in New York City and had one son, Léo. They were the subject of a 2004 film, Carmen & Geoffrey. His elder brother Boscoe was a renowned dancer, choreographer, and artist.  His nephew was Christian Holder (Boscoe's son), who has also won acclaim as a dancer, choreographer, and entertainer.  

Holder began his movie career in the 1962 British film All Night Long, a modern remake of Shakespeare's Othello. He followed that with Doctor Dolittle (1967) as Willie Shakespeare, leader of the natives of Sea-Star Island. In 1972, he was cast as the Sorcerer in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*. The following year he was a henchman Baron Samedi in the Bond movie Live and Let Die.  He contributed to the film's choreography.

In addition to his movie appearances, Holder was a spokesman in advertising campaigns for the soft drink 7 Up in the 1970s and 1980s, declaring it the "uncola", and, in the 1980s, calling it "crisp and clean, and no caffeine; never had it, never will".  In 1993 Holder did a series of commercials for the Armory Auto Group in Albany, New York.  In 1975, Holder won two Tony Awards for direction and costume design of The Wiz, Holder was the first Black man to be nominated in either category. He won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. The show ran for 1672 performances.  

Holder was a prolific painter (patrons of his art included Lena Horne and William F. Buckley, Jr.). Also, a painter, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship in fine arts in 1956.  A book of his photography, Adam, was published by Viking Press in 1986.  

As a choreographer, Holder created dance pieces for many companies, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, for which he provided choreography, music, and costumes for Prodigal Prince (1967) and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, for which he provided choreography, music, and costumes for Dougla (1974), and designed costumes for Firebird (1982). In 1978, Holder directed and choreographed the Broadway musical Timbuktu!  Holder's 1957 piece "Bele" is also part of the Dance Theater of Harlem repertory.  

In the 1982 film Annie, Holder played the role of Punjab. He was in the 1992 film Boomerang with Eddie Murphy. He was also the voice of Ray in Bear in the Big Blue House and provided narration for Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He reprised his role as the 7 Up Spokesman in the 2011 season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice, where he appeared as himself in a commercial for "7 Up Retro" for Marlee Matlin's team.  A multifaceted performer and creator, Geoffrey Holder died in Manhattan of complications from pneumonia on October 5, 2014, aged 84.  

To be an Artist

To Become a Designer

To become an Art Director

To become an Actor or Actress


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