Tony Award winner, Bond villain Geoffrey Holder dies

Holder won Tonys for, among other achievements, directing the show 'The Wiz.' In addition, he portrayed a villain in the James Bond film 'Live and Let Die' and starred in the movies 'Annie' and 'Doctor Dolittle.'

Tina Fineberg/AP
Geoffrey Holder starred in the movie 'Live and Let Die.'

Geoffrey Holder, a Tony Award-winning director, actor, painter, dancer, and choreographer who during an eclectic show business career led the groundbreaking show "The Wiz" to Broadway, pitched 7-Up on TV, and played a scary villain in a James Bond film, has died. He was 84.

Holder died Sunday at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York, according to Anna Glass, a producer and family friend.

The 6-foot-6, Trinidad-born Holder won Tonys in 1975 for directing and designing the costumes for his all-black retelling of "The Wizard of Oz." In 1978, he directed and choreographed the lavish Broadway musical "Timbuktu!" starring Eartha Kitt and earned another Tony nomination for best costumes.

On TV, Holder played roles on TV's "Tarzan," voiced the leader on the PBS Kids animated show "Cyberchase," and pitched 7-Up as "the un-cola" in a commercial in which he wore a white suit and hat, purring "maaarvelous" as he drank the soda.

During 1955 and 1956, Holder was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York. He also appeared with his troupe, Geoffrey Holder and Company, and worked with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

His film roles include playing Punjab in the 1982 film version of "Annie," a role in 1967's "Doctor Dolittle" with Rex Harrison, opposite Eddie Murphy in "Boomerang," narrating Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and playing the top-hatted voodoo villain Baron Samedi in "Live and Let Die" – the first of the 007 movies to star Roger Moore.

Holder co-authored and illustrated a collection of Caribbean folklore, "Black Gods, Green Islands," in 1959, and had a book of recipes, "Geoffrey Holder's Caribbean Cookbook," in 1973. He painted throughout his life and received a Guggenheim fellowship in fine arts in 1956.

He is survived by his wife, the dancer Carmen de Lavallade, and their son, Leo.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.