Geoffrey Holder, actor, James Bond villain, dead at 84

Geoffrey Holder, the Tony Award-winning director, actor, painter, dancer and choreographer, has died. He was 84.

The multitalented director, actor and choreographer died Sunday after a bout with pneumonia

Holder, seen here in 2005, was a Tony Award-winning director, actor, painter and choreographer who enjoyed a lengthy and eclectic show business career. (Tina Fineberg/AP Photo)

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 of complications of pneumonia at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York, according to Anna Glass, a producer and family friend.

From stage to screen and beyond

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.

Geoffrey Holder's film roles include playing Punjab in the 1982 film version of Annie and the top-hatted James Bond villain, Baron Samedi, in Live and Let Die. (Columbia Pictures/United Artists)
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.

Played Punjab and Baron Samedi

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.


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