Geoffrey Holder

Geoffrey Holder

Birth name: Geoffrey Lamont Holder
Born: August 1, 1930
Died: October 5, 2014 (at age 84)
Birthplace: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Geoffrey Lamont Holder (August 1, 1930 - October 5, 2014) was a Trinidadian-American actor, voice actor, dancer, choreographer, singer, director and painter.[1] He was known for his height (6 ft 6 in, 1.98 m), "hearty laugh", and heavily accented bass voice[2] combined with precise diction. Particularly remembered as the villain Baron Samedi in the 1973 Bond-movie Live and Let Die and for his role of Punjab in the 1982 film Annie, he was also known for his 7 Up commercials of the 1970s and '80s.

Holder was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. One of four children,[3] of parents who had emigrated to Trinidad from Barbados,[4] Holder attended Tranquillity School and then secondary school at Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain. At the age of seven, he made his debut in the dance company of his elder brother Boscoe Holder, from whom he had been receiving lessons in dancing and painting.[1]


In 1952, choreographer Agnes de Mille saw Geoffrey Holder dance in St. Thomas.[1][5] She invited him to New York; he would teach at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance for two years.[6]

Holder was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York City from 1955 to 1956.[7] He made his Broadway debut in House of Flowers, a musical by Harold Arlen (music and lyrics) and Truman Capote (lyrics and book).[8] He also starred in an all-black production of Waiting for Godot in 1957.[8]

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.[3] He contributed to the film's choreography.

In addition to his movie appearances, Holder became a spokesman for the 1970s and 1980s 7 Up soft drink "uncola" and 1980s "crisp and clean, and no caffeine" and "never had it, never will" advertising campaigns.[9][10]

In 1975, Holder won two Tony Awards for direction and costume design of The Wiz, the all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Holder was the first black man to be nominated in either category.[2] He won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. The show ran for 1672 performances.[11]

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),[12] 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![1][13][14][15] Holder's 1957 piece "Bele" is part of the Dance Theater of Harlem repertory.[1]

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 Roald Dahl's 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.

Holder was a prolific painter (patrons of his art included Lena Horne and William F. Buckley, Jr.),[16] ardent art collector, book author, and music composer. As a painter, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship[15] in fine arts in 1956.[17] A book of his photography, Adam, was published by Viking Press in 1986.[18]

Personal life

Holder with his wife, Carmen de Lavallade. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

In 1955, Holder married dancer Carmen de Lavallade, whom he met when both were in the cast of the musical House of Flowers.[2] They lived in New York City and had one son, Léo. They were the subject of a 2004 film, Carmen & Geoffrey.[5] His elder brother Boscoe Holder 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.


Geoffrey Holder died in Manhattan of complications from pneumonia on October 5, 2014, aged 84.[4]



  • House of Flowers, Original Musical, 1954 - Banda dance choreography, performer
  • Josephine Baker, musical review, 1954 - Performer
  • Waiting for Godot, revival (all black cast), 1957 - Performer
  • The Wiz, original musical, 1975 - Direction, costume design (Tony Award for Best Costume Design and Best Direction of a Musical, 1975)
  • Timbuktu!, original musical, 1978 - Direction, choreography, costume design, playbill cover illustration
  • The Wiz, revival, 1984 - Direction, costume design
  • The Boys' Choir of Harlem and Friends, staged concert, 1993 - Staging


  • KYOT-FM in Phoenix, Arizona, 1994-2011 - Voiceover


Year Film Role Notes
1957 Carib Gold Voo Doo Dancer Film debut
1959 Porgy & Bess Dancer Uncredited
1962 All Night Long
1967 Doctor Dolittle Willie Shakespeare
1968 Krakatoa, East of Java Sailor
1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask The Sorcerer
1973 Live and Let Die Baron Samedi Also choreography
1975 The Noah Friday Voice
1976 Swashbuckler Cudjo Also choreography
1978 Doctor J. Kanye
1982 Annie Punjab
1987 Where Confucius Meets the New Wave Narrator
1992 Boomerang Nelson
1998 Hasards ou coïncidences Gerry
1999 Goosed Dr. Bowman
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Narrator Voice
2006 Joséphine Baker. Black Diva in a White Man's World[2]
2008 The Magistical Narrator
Year Title Role Notes
1958 Aladdin The Genie
1967 Androcles and the Lion
1968 A Gun for Jai Mayko
1983 Alice in Wonderland The Cheshire Cat
1985 John Grin's Christmas Ghost of Christmas Future
1988 The Cosby Show Choreography Choreographed the Season 5 opening credits
1990 The 62nd Annual Academy Awards Performing
1998-2006 Bear in the Big Blue House Ray Voice
2002-2003 Cyberchase Master Pi (Voice) Episode 118, "Problem Solving in Shangri-La"
Episode 209, "Double Trouble"
2011 Celebrity Apprentice Himself
Video Games
Year Title Role Notes
1994 Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller Jean St. Mouchoir One of only two live actors in the game (as opposed to voice only)
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Narrator Voice

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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