For a performer so famous for his music, Harry Belafonte also had a long and successful acting career. Beginning his training at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School of Social Research, Belafonte studied under renowned German director, Erwin Piscator and counted Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur, Rod Steiger and Tony Curtis as classmates.
In 1953 Belafonte made his film debut, co-staring with Dorothy Dandridge in Bright Road and the following year in his first Broadway musical, he won the 1954 best featured actor Tony award for John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. This was the start to a long and varied film and stage career as actor, producer, composer and lyricist.
In 1955 he starred in the Broadway show 3 For Tonight co-starring the legendary dance team of Marge and Gower Champion. That year they went on a national tour during which Belafonte, as the only African American in the company, faced significant opposition and hardship. Something that would follow him for years and would inform his life as an activist.
His film and television work has run the gamut from the 1954 Otto Preminger film Carmen Jones (again with Dandridge) to Islands in the Sun (1957, with James Mason, Joan Collins, Joan Fontaine and Dandridge) to Sidney Poitier’s Buck and the Preacher in which he starred alongside Poitier and Ruby Dee.
In 1996 he was named best supporting actor by the New York Film Critics Circle for Robert Altman’s Kansas City. His final dramatic role was in Emilio Estevez’ 2006 film Bobby, for which he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
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