Geoffrey Holder, Trinidad and Tobago (1930 - )

Geoffrey Holder

Geoffrey Richard Holder (born 1 August 1930) is a Trinidadian actor, choreographer, director, dancer, painter, costume designer, singer and voice-over artist.

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Holder is of African descent. He is known for his height (6'6"), "hearty laugh" and heavily-accented bass voice.
One of four children, Holder attended Tranquillity School and then secondary school at Queen's Royal College in Port-of-Spain. At the age of seven, he began dancing in the company of his brother, Boscoe Holder.

Holder is a Tony Award-winning stage director and costume designer.

In 1952, the choreographer Agnes de Mille saw Holder dance on Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. She invited him to New York; he would teach at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance for two years. He was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York from 1955 to 1956.
In 1955, Holder married dancer Carmen De Lavallade, whom he met when both were in the cast of House of Flowers, a musical by Harold Arlen (music and lyrics) and Truman Capote (lyrics and book). They were the subject of a 2004 film, Carmen & Geoffrey. They live in New York City and have one son, Leo Anthony Lamont. Holder's brother was the London-based artist Boscoe Holder.
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 Doolittle (1967) as Willie Shakespeare, leader of the natives of Sea-Star Island. This was a trying experience for Holder, as he had to contend with casual racism from Rex Harrison's then-wife, Rachel Roberts, and his entourage. In the 1972, he was cast as the Sorcerer in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). The following year he was a henchman - Baron Samedi - in the Bond movie Live and Let Die; Holder also contributed to the film's choreography. In addition to his movie appearances, Holder became a spokesman for the 1970s 7 Up soft drink "uncola" advertising campaign.

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. He also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. The show ran for 1672 performances over a four-year period; it was revived in 1984.

As a choreographer, Holder has 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 version of the musical Annie, Holder played the role of Punjab. 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 is also a prolific painter, ardent art collector, book author and music composer. As a painter, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship. A book of his photography, Adam, was published by Viking in 1986.

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