OSSIE DAVIS Biography - Actors and Actresses


Biography » actors and actresses » ossie davis


Name: Ossie Davis                                                                       
Birth name: Raiford Chatman Davis                                                       
Born: 18 December 1917 Cogdell, Clinch County, Georgia, U.S.                             
Died: 4 February 2005 Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.                                         
Ossie Davis (December 18, 1917 - February 4, 2005) was an American film actor,           
director, poet, playwright, writer, and social activist.                                 
Davis was born Raiford Chatman Davis in Cogdell, Georgia (Clinch County). The           
name Ossie came from a county clerk who misheard his mother's pronunciation of           
his initials "R.C." when he was born. Following the wishes of his parents, he           
attended Howard University but dropped out in 1939 to pursue his acting career           
in New York; he later attended Columbia University School of General Studies.           
His acting career, which spanned seven decades, began in 1939 with the Rose             
McClendon Players in Harlem. He made his film debut in 1950 in the Sidney               
Poitier film No Way Out.                                                                 
Davis experienced many of the same struggles that most African American actors           
of his generation underwent; he wanted to act but he did not want to play               
stereotypical subservient roles, such as a butler, that was the standard for             
black actors of his generation. Instead, he tried to follow the example of               
Sidney Poitier and play more distinguished characters. When he found it                 
necessary to play a Pullman porter or a butler, he tried to inject the role with         
a certain degree of dignity.                                                             
In addition to acting, Davis, along with Melvin Van Peebles, and Gordon Parks           
was one of the notable African American directors of his generation. Along with         
Bill Cosby and Poitier, Davis was one of a handful of African American actors           
able to find commercial success while avoiding stereotypical roles prior to 1970.       
However, Davis never had the tremendous commercial or critical success that             
Cosby and Poitier enjoyed. As a playwright, Davis wrote Paul Robeson: All-American,     
which is frequently performed in theatre programs for young audiences.                   
Davis found recognition late in his life by working in several of director Spike         
Lee's films, including Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, She Hate Me and Get on         
the Bus. He also found work as a commercial voice-over artist and served as the         
narrator of the early-1990s CBS sitcom Evening Shade, starring Burt Reynolds,           
where he also played one of the residents of a small southern town.                     
Davis at the New York City premiere of the Spike Lee film She Hate Me, 2004             
In 1948, Davis married actress Ruby Dee; in their joint autobiography With Ossie         
and Ruby, they later described their decision to have an open marriage. They             
were well-known as civil rights activists, and were close personal friends of           
Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and other icons of the era.             
Davis and Dee's deep involvement in the movement is characterized by how                 
instrumental they were in organizing the 1963 civil rights March on Washington           
for Jobs and Freedom, even to the point of serving as emcee. Davis, alongside           
Ahmed Osman, delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X; he re-read part           
of this eulogy at the end of Spike Lee's film Malcolm X. He also delivered the           
eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr.                                                       
Davis and wife Ruby Dee were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.           
They were also named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 1989. Their son           
Guy Davis is a blues musician and former actor, who appeared in the film Beat           
Street and the daytime soap opera One Life to Live.                                     
Davis was found dead on February 4, 2005, in a hotel room in Miami, Florida, of         
natural causes. He was in the first stages of working on a film called                   
His last role was a several episode guest role on the groundbreaking Showtime           
drama series The L Word as a father struggling with the acceptance of his               
daughter Bette (Jennifer Beals) parenting a child with her lesbian partner. In           
his final episodes, his character was taken ill and died. His wife Ruby Dee was         
present during the filming of his own death scene. That episode, which aired             
shortly after Davis's own death, aired with a dedication to the actor.                   
At the 2007 Grammy awards he and his wife were tied winners in the Grammy Award         
for Best Spoken Word Album with former President Jimmy Carter.