(June 27, 1907-August 19, 1986)
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
African-American stage and screen star
Regular romantic lead in an early series of Oscar Micheaux films
Acted in 'When Men Betray' (1928), 'Wages of Sin' (1929), 'Easy Street' (1930), 'Harlem Big Show,' 'Veiled Aristocrats' (1932), 'Ten Minutes To Live' (1932), 'Harlem After Midnight' (1934), 'Temptation' (1935), and 'Underworld' (1937)
Acted in Broadway productions of 'The Constant Sinner,' 'Ol Man Satan,' and 'Humming Sam'
Why he might be annoying
He married four times, but had no children.
He performed Vaudeville opposite the washed-up basket case, Evelyn Nesbit.
Black audiences called him 'the colored Valentino.'
He joked about the irony of the title, claiming that the real Valentino's skin was apparently darker than his.
Other colorful (if bizarre) titles assigned to him by the press included 'The John Gilbert of the Colored Race' and 'The Sepia William Powell.'
His small cameo in 'Saturday Night Fever' ended up on the cutting room floor.
He found work in his later years as an autopsy technician (basically applying makeup to corpses at funeral homes).
There was a vocal attempt to get him fired from a production of Mae West's 'The Constant Sinner,' for public drunkenness.
In reality, it probably had more to do with the fear of depicting miscegenation on the stage (they ended up casting a white guy in blackface, although he would play the lead on the road show).
Why he might not be annoying
He had a small cameo in Paul Robeson's 'Emperor Jones' film.
He was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (1974).
He originally had ambitions to be a doctor, but understood that it would be difficult to make traction, as a black man.
He played the straight man to both Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith.
He saw combat in Europe, as a tail gunner in the Army Air Forces during WWII.
As a funeral parlor cosmetician, he worked on such distinguished clients as Malcolm X and Nina Mae McKinney.
His agent pressured him to 'pass' for white to further his career, but he refused.
In a case of art imitating life, he starred in Oscar Miceaux's most controversial film, 'Veiled Aristocrats,' focusing on a black man 'passing' as a white man and encouraging his sister to the same.
Black film historians would generally prefer that he, rather than Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson or Stepin Fetchit, be representative of the talent that was squandered in the white-dominated Hollywood star system.
He was forever grateful to Mae West for casting him as 'the pimp' Money Johnson, over the objections of censors and theater owners, forever praising her as 'one of the greatest ladies of the theater.'
His portrayal of Money Johnson in the road show of 'Constant Sinner,' in which he shared an interracial kiss with West, so offended white middle-class sensibilities that he was convinced to leave the show (with pay) when it was learned that a lynch mob was looking for him.
He is referenced in an episode of The Cosby Show ('hair like Lorenzo Tucker, eyes like Billy Dee and a smile like Nat King Cole').
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Year In Review:
In 2016, Out of 18 Votes: 83.33% Annoying
In 2015, Out of 3 Votes: 33.33% Annoying
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