Do the Right Thing


2h 1989
Do the Right Thing

Brief Synopsis

Racial tensions erupt when a Brooklyn pizza owner refuses to include black celebrities in his display of famous fans.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1989
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Location
Brooklyn, New York, USA; Silvercup Studios, New York, USA; Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Synopsis

On a sweltering hot day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, everyone has their own issues to deal with and tensions between Blacks and Italians rise. Issues of pride and prejudice, justice and inequity come to the surface as hate and bigotry smoulder--finally building into a crescendo as it explodes into violence.

Crew

Danny Aiello Iii

Stunt Man

Stuart Allen

Other

Gerald Alston

Song Performer

Matiki Anoff

Makeup

John Archibald

Grip

Erich Augenstein

Grip

Donald Bailer

Grip

Antony Baldasare

On-Set Dresser

Jeff Balsmeyer

Storyboard Artist

Kenny Barron

Other

Patricia Bases

Scenic Artist

Rodney Bauer

Grip

Richard Beaumont

Other

Sherman Benjamin

Production Assistant

Michael Lee Benson

On-Set Dresser

Martin Bernstein

Construction Coordinator

John N Berry

Special Effects Assistant

James R Bilz

On-Set Dresser

Ruben Blades

Song

Ruben Blades

Song Performer

Michele Boissiere

Production Assistant

Jim Boniece

Grip

James Boorman

Electrician

Kai Bowe

Other

Nandi Bowe

Assistant Director

Dennis Bradford

Assistant Art Director

David M Bromberg

Grip

Alfred V Brown

Music

Barry Alexander Brown

Editor

Carol Buck

Other

Kenny Buford

Production Assistant

Jonathan Burkhart

Assistant Camera Operator

Steven Burnett

Production Assistant

Wilfred Caban

Special Effects Assistant

Dawn Cain

Other

Ruth Carter

Costume Designer

Lawrence Casey

Scenic Artist

Fritz Celestin

Other

Spencer Charles

Production Assistant

Holly Chase

Auditor

Larry M. Cherry

Hair

Melissa A Clark

Other

Rodney Clark

Carpenter

Paul Collangello

Special Effects Assistant

Chantal Collins

Stunt Coordinator

Addison Cook

Electrician

Marko Costanzo

Foley Artist

Eric Daniel

Production Assistant

Larry Decarmine

Song

Val Desalvo

Electrician

John R Dexter

Music

Ernest Dickerson

Director Of Photography

Mike Dicosimo

Consultant

R W Dixon

Unit Manager

Robin Downes

Assistant

Andy Duppin

Stunts

Michael Ellis

Production Assistant

Peggy Farrell

Photography

Dominic Ferrar

Carpenter

Barry Finclair

Music

James Flatto

Sound Editor

Tom Fleischman

Sound

Michael M Fleming

Music

David Fletcher

Special Effects Assistant

Randy Fletcher

Assistant Director

Eileen M Folsom

Other

Susan D Fowler

Production Coordinator

Gary Frith

Stunts

Maureen Gallagher

Music

Rudy Gaskins

Sound Editor

William K. Gaskins

Driver

Michael Gaynor

Projectionist

Eugene Gearty

Sound Editor

Valerie Gladstone

Wardrobe

Jeffrey L Glave

Other

Tula Goenka

Assistant Editor

Mel Gorham

Other

Bob Gorlick

Camera Assistant

Jonathan Graham

Grip

Michael Odell Green

Assistant Art Director

Juliette Harris

Other

Bill Harrison

Special Effects Assistant

Donald Harrison

Music

Juliette Hassner

Music

Don Hewitt

Special Effects Assistant

David Hine

Song

Preston L. Holmes

Production Supervisor

Preston L. Holmes

Production Manager

Harold Horn

Carpenter

William House

Song

Charles Houston

Gaffer

Robert L Hurst

Music

Sarah Hyde-hamlet

Casting

Robert Ippolito

Key Grip

Eddie Joe

Production Assistant

Keith John

Song Performer

Cliff Johnson

Driver

James Johnson

Song

John Rosemond Johnson

Song

Marc Henry Johnson

Props

Beverly C Jones

Production Assistant

Raymond Jones

Song

Stephanie Jones

Production Assistant

Sullie Jordan

Driver

Richard Kerekes

Grip

Rashon Khan

Stunts

Jon Kilik

Line Producer

Roger Kimpton

Grip

Coretta Scott King

Other

Steve Kirshoff

Special Effects

Erik Koniger

Stunts

Joyce Kubalak

Scenic Artist

Kevin Ladson

Props

Andrew Lassman

Props

Francine Renee Lawrence

Stunt Coordinator

Jim Leavey

Other

Bill Lee

Music Conductor

Bill Lee

Music

David C. Lee

Photography

Spike Lee

Song

Spike Lee

Producer

Spike Lee

Screenplay

Skip Lievsay

Sound Design

Marissa Littlefield

Sound Editor

Malcolm Livingston

Stunts

David Lomax

Stunts

Chris Lopez

Assistant Director

Juan Lopez

Electrician

Tim Main

Carpenter

Ernie Mapp

Other

Mitchell Marchand

Other

Dominic Marcus

Stunts

Charlie Marroquin

Grip

Branford Marsalis

Music

Darnell Martin

Assistant Camera Operator

Lois E Martin

Music

Tony Martinez

Sound Editor

Brian P Maxwell

Driver

Sami Mckinney

Song

Claude Mcknight

Song

Melissa Meel

Other

Sergei Mihajlov

Electrician

Chris Miller

Carpenter

Jeffrey M Miller

Scenic Artist

Monique Mitchell

Grip

Octavio Molina

Property Master

Vincent Morris

Song

Marianna Najjar

Makeup

Arlene Nelson

Other

Kenneth D Nelson

Construction

John C Newby

Camera Operator

Jacki Newson

Other

Robert Nickson

Production Associate

Frederick Nielsen

Production Assistant

Erik Night

Production Assistant

Judith Norman

Production Assistant

Rex North

Dolly Grip

Michael O'hara

Song

John O'malley

Electrician

Eric Oden

Assistant

Brent Owens

Location Manager

George Pattison

Camera Operator

Eric A Payne

Stunts

Noelle Penraat

Negative Cutting

Rosie Perez

Choreographer

Karen Perry

Assistant

Lorri Perry

Song Performer

Lorri Perry

Song

Carl Peterson

Grip

Carl Prinzi

Grip

Frank Prinzi

Camera Operator

Traci Proctor

Other

Bruce Pross

Sound Editor

Kia B Puriefoy

Production Assistant

Lillian Pyles

Production Coordinator

Nic Ratner

Sound Editor

Andrea Reed-elmore

Casting Associate

Robi Reed-humes

Casting

Thomas Hudson Reeve

On-Set Dresser

Rufus Reid

Music

Sara Renaud

Other

Paul Reuter

Camera Assistant

Carlton Ridenhour

Song

Teddy Riley

Song

Teddy Riley

Song Performer

Maxine Roach

Music

Bruce Roberts

Production Assistant

Bruce Rogers

Other

Monty Ross

Coproducer

Steve Rosse

Set Decorator

Carolyn Rouse

Other

Astrid Roy

Other

Jon Rudo

Set Decorator

Jennifer Ruscoe

Wardrobe Supervisor

Rosalie Russino

Other

Eric Sadler

Song

Leander Sales

Apprentice

Otis Sallid

Choreographer

Alen W Sanford

Other

Twad Schuetrum

Carpenter

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1989
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Location
Brooklyn, New York, USA; Silvercup Studios, New York, USA; Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Award Nominations

Best Original Screenplay

1989

Best Supporting Actor

1989
Danny Aiello

Articles

Do the Right Thing


As he contemplated making his third feature film in as many years, New York-based writer-director Spike Lee had the title first, while a string of high-profile police cases involving black suspects or victims gave him the rest. The 1986 mobbing of three black men in the largely Italian community of Howard Beach, Queens (which resulted in the death of one African-American male when he was struck by a car while attempting to evade a gang of white teenagers), the fatal 1984 Bronx shooting of elderly Eleanor Bumpurs by the NYPD, the strangulation death of graffiti artist Michael Stewart while in police custody in lower Manhattan in September of 1983 and other incidents fueled a screenplay concerned with boiling racial tensions in Manhattan and the outer boroughs during the administration of Mayor Ed Koch. Originally titled Heat Wave, for its setting during the hottest day of one explosive Brooklyn summer, Do the Right Thing (1989) was slated to be a Paramount release until the studio balked at Lee's scripted ending, in which an Italian-owned pizzeria is burned to the ground in retribution for the unjustified killing of a black man. Stepping into the breach were Universal Studios executives Sean Daniel (President of Production between 1984 and 1989) and Tom Pollock (Chairman, 1986-1995), who had endured a particularly vituperative backlash against Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and were eager to put the weight of the studio behind another important and controversial film.

Lee was persuaded to scale back his budget from $10 million to $6.5 million with Universal's guarantee of noninterference. The filmmaker had wanted Robert De Niro for the pivotal role of Sal, the white owner of a pizzeria in the black and Hispanic Brooklyn community of Bedford-Stuyvesant. De Niro passed and suggested character actor Clem Caserta but Lee went instead with Danny Aiello. A native New Yorker with early credits in John D. Hancock's Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part II (1974), Aiello had experienced a significant boost in his marquee value as Cher's fiancé in Norman Jewison's Moonstruck (1987) and as pop star Madonna's disapproving father in her "Papa, Don't Preach" music video, directed by James Foley. As conservative in his politics as Lee was progressive, Aiello initially turned down what he considered to be the racist depiction of Italian-Americans but was persuaded to reconsider when he was given the freedom to interpret his character in his own way. Matt Dillon was approached to play the role of Sal's reactionary son Pino but opted out on the advice of his agent; stepping into the role was Brooklyn native John Turturro, who had impressed Lee with his villainous turn in Tony Bill's Bronx-set Five Corners (1987). Fellow New York filmmaker Jim Jarmush suggested Richard Edson for the role of Sal's younger son Vito while Lee cast himself as the pizzeria's sole black employee, Mookie, whose clashes with Sal and his sons set the tone for Do the Right Thing's literally incendiary conclusion.

As Lee and casting director Robi Reed filled their large roster of speaking parts, many actors cast in one role wound up playing another. Lee had wanted Laurence Fishburne, the star of his earlier School Daze (1988), to play Radio Raheem, an oracular figure sporting an Ozymandian ghetto blaster whose death at the hands of overzealous NYPD officers sparks a fully-loaded third act race riot; when Fishburne demurred (claiming Do the Right Thing was a movie for white people rather than black), Lee replaced him with relative newcomer Bill Nunn, whose vacated role of community deejay Senor Love Daddy went to Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson had originally been picked to play one of the film's "Corner Men," a trio of sidewalk kibitzers who serve as a prescient Greek chorus throughout Do the Right Thing and provide much-needed comic relief.

Lee's vision for the production was to provide inroads for black actors and technicians; in addition to creating opportunities for people of color within the largely Caucasian trade unions servicing Do the Right Thing behind-the-scenes, Lee cast up-and-coming talents Martin Lawrence, Robin Harris and Rosie Perez in supporting roles opposite veteran actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The role of Smiley (played by New York stage actor Roger Guenveur Smith) did not exist even as late as the shooting script and was improvised on location during principal photography through July and August 1988. Do the Right Thing was another family affair for Lee, whose father Bill composed the original score, brother David served as still photographer and sister Joie played Mookie's sister, Jade.

While Universal preferred having Do the Right Thing shot in climate-controlled Los Angeles, Lee insisted on Brooklyn for authenticity. The production took up residence in an area of Bed-Stuy devastated by the crack trade, on a blighted stretch of Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street. The preponderance of vacant lots allowed Lee to construct Sal's Famous Pizzeria and a Korean grocery down to the minutest detail. (Photographs of Italian celebrities adorning the restaurant's walls were copied from the private collection of John Turturro.) Because of the modest budget, actors went without standard Hollywood amenities; there were no trailers and the cast bivouacked in the gymnasium of a local school. Because Lee wanted his principal players to appear in background shots, many of the actors remained on the set even when they had no speaking scenes, which forged a fraternity among a film crew divided by race and gender. Visitors to the set included heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson and recording artist Stevie Wonder; midway through shooting, Lee brought his cast and crew to a lavish pool party and barbecue at the New Jersey estate of Eddie Murphy. The getaway proved to be a respite from the tensions mounting as production progressed towards the film's climactic riot scene, which stretched through the night into the dawn of the following day and left several of the actors with real injuries. Filming inside the burning structure of the ersatz pizzeria, and protected only by a blanket, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson was nearly crushed by a falling cash register as the walls came down around him.

Upon its release in June of 1989 (after a strong showing at Cannes, where the film lost the coveted Palm d'Or to Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies and videotape), Do the Right Thing polarized film critics who identified in its controversial ending both unflinchingly acute social criticism and artistic naiveté bordering on reckless disregard . While Roger Ebert was a vocal champion, others (among them New York magazine writers David Denby and Joe Klein) theorized that the film would set off actual race riots. That didn't happen but nonetheless Do the Right Thing was given the cold shoulder at Oscar® time the following year. Nominated only for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role [Danny Aiello]" (the statue went to Denzel Washington in Edward Zwick's Glory) and Best Writing (Tom Schulman won for Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society), the film has the cold comfort of being better-regarded than either sex, lies and videotape or the 1990 Oscar®-winning "Best Picture," Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy (1989). At the 62nd Academy Awards presentation in March 1990, actress Kim Basinger used her brief on-camera time as a presenter to chastise the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not recognizing Do the Right Thing as a "Best Picture" contender while The New York Times opined that the film's loss of a "Best Original Screenplay" statue represented "Oscar® voting at its most irrational." In 1999, the film was included by the US Library of Congress in the National Film Registry for its designation as a "culturally significant" work. In 1996, Entertainment Weekly listed it among the "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever." In 2007, the American Film Institute included Do the Right Thing among its roster of the 100 great films of all time.

Producer: Spike Lee
Director: Spike Lee
Screenplay: Spike Lee
Cinematography: Ernest Dickerson
Music: Bill Lee
Film Editing: Barry Alexander Brown
Cast: Danny Aiello (Salvatore 'Sal' Fragione), Ossie Davis (Da Mayor), Ruby Dee (Mother Sister), Richard Edson (Vito), Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin Out), Spike Lee (Mookie), Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem), John Turturro (Pino), Paul Benjamin (ML), Frankie Faison (Coconut Sid).
C-120m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
Spike Lee: Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee and Jason Matloff, edited by Steve Crist (Ammo Books, 2010)
Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It by Spike Lee, as told to Kaleem Aftab (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006)
Spike Lee: Interviews, edited by Cynthia Fuchs (University Press of Mississippi, 2002)
Do The Right Thing

Do the Right Thing

As he contemplated making his third feature film in as many years, New York-based writer-director Spike Lee had the title first, while a string of high-profile police cases involving black suspects or victims gave him the rest. The 1986 mobbing of three black men in the largely Italian community of Howard Beach, Queens (which resulted in the death of one African-American male when he was struck by a car while attempting to evade a gang of white teenagers), the fatal 1984 Bronx shooting of elderly Eleanor Bumpurs by the NYPD, the strangulation death of graffiti artist Michael Stewart while in police custody in lower Manhattan in September of 1983 and other incidents fueled a screenplay concerned with boiling racial tensions in Manhattan and the outer boroughs during the administration of Mayor Ed Koch. Originally titled Heat Wave, for its setting during the hottest day of one explosive Brooklyn summer, Do the Right Thing (1989) was slated to be a Paramount release until the studio balked at Lee's scripted ending, in which an Italian-owned pizzeria is burned to the ground in retribution for the unjustified killing of a black man. Stepping into the breach were Universal Studios executives Sean Daniel (President of Production between 1984 and 1989) and Tom Pollock (Chairman, 1986-1995), who had endured a particularly vituperative backlash against Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and were eager to put the weight of the studio behind another important and controversial film. Lee was persuaded to scale back his budget from $10 million to $6.5 million with Universal's guarantee of noninterference. The filmmaker had wanted Robert De Niro for the pivotal role of Sal, the white owner of a pizzeria in the black and Hispanic Brooklyn community of Bedford-Stuyvesant. De Niro passed and suggested character actor Clem Caserta but Lee went instead with Danny Aiello. A native New Yorker with early credits in John D. Hancock's Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part II (1974), Aiello had experienced a significant boost in his marquee value as Cher's fiancé in Norman Jewison's Moonstruck (1987) and as pop star Madonna's disapproving father in her "Papa, Don't Preach" music video, directed by James Foley. As conservative in his politics as Lee was progressive, Aiello initially turned down what he considered to be the racist depiction of Italian-Americans but was persuaded to reconsider when he was given the freedom to interpret his character in his own way. Matt Dillon was approached to play the role of Sal's reactionary son Pino but opted out on the advice of his agent; stepping into the role was Brooklyn native John Turturro, who had impressed Lee with his villainous turn in Tony Bill's Bronx-set Five Corners (1987). Fellow New York filmmaker Jim Jarmush suggested Richard Edson for the role of Sal's younger son Vito while Lee cast himself as the pizzeria's sole black employee, Mookie, whose clashes with Sal and his sons set the tone for Do the Right Thing's literally incendiary conclusion. As Lee and casting director Robi Reed filled their large roster of speaking parts, many actors cast in one role wound up playing another. Lee had wanted Laurence Fishburne, the star of his earlier School Daze (1988), to play Radio Raheem, an oracular figure sporting an Ozymandian ghetto blaster whose death at the hands of overzealous NYPD officers sparks a fully-loaded third act race riot; when Fishburne demurred (claiming Do the Right Thing was a movie for white people rather than black), Lee replaced him with relative newcomer Bill Nunn, whose vacated role of community deejay Senor Love Daddy went to Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson had originally been picked to play one of the film's "Corner Men," a trio of sidewalk kibitzers who serve as a prescient Greek chorus throughout Do the Right Thing and provide much-needed comic relief. Lee's vision for the production was to provide inroads for black actors and technicians; in addition to creating opportunities for people of color within the largely Caucasian trade unions servicing Do the Right Thing behind-the-scenes, Lee cast up-and-coming talents Martin Lawrence, Robin Harris and Rosie Perez in supporting roles opposite veteran actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The role of Smiley (played by New York stage actor Roger Guenveur Smith) did not exist even as late as the shooting script and was improvised on location during principal photography through July and August 1988. Do the Right Thing was another family affair for Lee, whose father Bill composed the original score, brother David served as still photographer and sister Joie played Mookie's sister, Jade. While Universal preferred having Do the Right Thing shot in climate-controlled Los Angeles, Lee insisted on Brooklyn for authenticity. The production took up residence in an area of Bed-Stuy devastated by the crack trade, on a blighted stretch of Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street. The preponderance of vacant lots allowed Lee to construct Sal's Famous Pizzeria and a Korean grocery down to the minutest detail. (Photographs of Italian celebrities adorning the restaurant's walls were copied from the private collection of John Turturro.) Because of the modest budget, actors went without standard Hollywood amenities; there were no trailers and the cast bivouacked in the gymnasium of a local school. Because Lee wanted his principal players to appear in background shots, many of the actors remained on the set even when they had no speaking scenes, which forged a fraternity among a film crew divided by race and gender. Visitors to the set included heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson and recording artist Stevie Wonder; midway through shooting, Lee brought his cast and crew to a lavish pool party and barbecue at the New Jersey estate of Eddie Murphy. The getaway proved to be a respite from the tensions mounting as production progressed towards the film's climactic riot scene, which stretched through the night into the dawn of the following day and left several of the actors with real injuries. Filming inside the burning structure of the ersatz pizzeria, and protected only by a blanket, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson was nearly crushed by a falling cash register as the walls came down around him. Upon its release in June of 1989 (after a strong showing at Cannes, where the film lost the coveted Palm d'Or to Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies and videotape), Do the Right Thing polarized film critics who identified in its controversial ending both unflinchingly acute social criticism and artistic naiveté bordering on reckless disregard . While Roger Ebert was a vocal champion, others (among them New York magazine writers David Denby and Joe Klein) theorized that the film would set off actual race riots. That didn't happen but nonetheless Do the Right Thing was given the cold shoulder at Oscar® time the following year. Nominated only for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role [Danny Aiello]" (the statue went to Denzel Washington in Edward Zwick's Glory) and Best Writing (Tom Schulman won for Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society), the film has the cold comfort of being better-regarded than either sex, lies and videotape or the 1990 Oscar®-winning "Best Picture," Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy (1989). At the 62nd Academy Awards presentation in March 1990, actress Kim Basinger used her brief on-camera time as a presenter to chastise the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not recognizing Do the Right Thing as a "Best Picture" contender while The New York Times opined that the film's loss of a "Best Original Screenplay" statue represented "Oscar® voting at its most irrational." In 1999, the film was included by the US Library of Congress in the National Film Registry for its designation as a "culturally significant" work. In 1996, Entertainment Weekly listed it among the "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever." In 2007, the American Film Institute included Do the Right Thing among its roster of the 100 great films of all time. Producer: Spike Lee Director: Spike Lee Screenplay: Spike Lee Cinematography: Ernest Dickerson Music: Bill Lee Film Editing: Barry Alexander Brown Cast: Danny Aiello (Salvatore 'Sal' Fragione), Ossie Davis (Da Mayor), Ruby Dee (Mother Sister), Richard Edson (Vito), Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin Out), Spike Lee (Mookie), Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem), John Turturro (Pino), Paul Benjamin (ML), Frankie Faison (Coconut Sid). C-120m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video. by Richard Harland Smith Sources: Spike Lee: Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee and Jason Matloff, edited by Steve Crist (Ammo Books, 2010) Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It by Spike Lee, as told to Kaleem Aftab (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006) Spike Lee: Interviews, edited by Cynthia Fuchs (University Press of Mississippi, 2002)

Ossie Davis (1917-2005)


Ossie Davis, the distinguished African-American character actor, director and civil rights activist, died of natural causes on February 4 in Miami Beach, where he was filming a movie. He was 87.

He was born Raiford Chatman Davis on December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. His parents called him "R.C." When his mother registered his birth, the county clerk misunderstood her and thought she said "Ossie" instead of "R.C.," and the name stuck. He graduated high school in 1936 and was offered two scholarships: one to Savannah State College in Georgia and the other to the famed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but he could not afford the tuition and turned them down. He eventually saved enough money to hitchhike to Washington, D.C., where he lived with relatives while attending Howard University and studied drama.

As much as he enjoyed studying dramatics, Davis had a hunger to practice the trade professionally and in 1939, he left Howard University and headed to Harlem to work in the Rose McClendon Players, a highly respected, all-black theater ensemble in its day.

Davis' good looks and deep voice were impressive from the beginning, and he quickly joined the company and remained for three years. With the onset of World War II, Davis spent nearly four years in service, mainly as a surgical technician in an all-black Army hospital in Liberia, serving both wounded troops and local inhabitants before being transferred to Special Services to write and produce stage shows for the troops.

Back in New York in 1946, Davis debuted on Broadway in Jeb, a play about a returning black soldier who runs afoul of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south. His co-star was Ruby Dee, an attractive leading lady who was one of the leading lights of black theater and film. Their initial romance soon developed into a lasting bond, and the two were married on December 9, 1948.

With Hollywood making much more socially conscious, adult films, particularly those that tackled themes of race (Lonely Are The Brave, Pinky, Lost Boundaries all 1949), it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling for Davis. His first film, with which he co-starred with his wife Dee, was a tense Joseph L. Mankiewicz's prison drama with strong racial overtones No Way Out (1950). He followed that up with a role as a cab driver in Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours (1951). Yet for the most part, Davis and Dee were primarily stage actors, and made few film appearances throughout the decade.

However, in should be noted that much of Davis time in the '50s was spent in social causes. Among them, a vocal protest against the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and an alignment with singer and black activist Paul Robeson. Davis remained loyal to Robeson even after he was denounced by other black political, sports and show business figures for his openly communist and pro-Soviet sympathies. Such affiliation led them to suspicions in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the early '50s, but Davis, nor his wife Dee, were never openly accused of any wrongdoing.

If there was ever a decade that Ossie Davis was destined for greatness, it was undoubtly the '60s. He began with a hit Broadway show, A Raisin in the Sun in 1960, and followed that up a year later with his debut as a playwright - the satire, Purlie Victorious. In it, Davis starred as Purlie, a roustabout preacher who returns to southern Georgia with a plan to buy his former master's plantation barn and turn it into a racially integrated church.

Although not an initial success, the play would be adapted into a Tony-award winning musical, Purlie years later. Yet just as important as his stage success, was the fact that Davis' film roles became much more rich and varied: a liberal priest in John Huston's The Cardinal (1963); an unflinching tough performance as a black soldier who won't break against a sadistic sergeant's racial taunts in Sidney Lumet's searing war drama The Hill (1965); and a shrewd, evil butler who turns the tables on his employer in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1969).

In 1970, he tried his hand at film directing, and scored a hit with Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), a sharp urban action comedy with Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as two black cops trying to stop a con artist from stealing Harlem's poor. It's generally considered the first major crossover film for the black market that was a hit with white audiences. Elsewhere, he found roles in some popular television mini-series such as King, and Roots: The Next Generation (both 1978), but for the most part, was committed to the theater.

Happily, along came Spike Lee, who revived his film career when he cast him in School Daze (1988). Davis followed that up with two more Lee films: Do the Right Thing (1989), and Jungle Fever (1991), which also co-starred his wife Dee. From there, Davis found himself in demand for senior character parts in many films throughtout the '90s: Grumpy Old Men (1993), The Client (1994), I'm Not Rappaport (1996), and HBO's remake of 12 Angry Men (1997).

Davis and Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, In This Life Together, and in 2004, they were among the artists selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. Davis had been in Miami filming an independent movie called Retirement with co-stars George Segal, Rip Torn and Peter Falk.

In addition to his widow Dee, Davis is survived by three children, Nora Day, Hasna Muhammad and Guy Davis; and seven grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Ossie Davis (1917-2005)

Ossie Davis, the distinguished African-American character actor, director and civil rights activist, died of natural causes on February 4 in Miami Beach, where he was filming a movie. He was 87. He was born Raiford Chatman Davis on December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. His parents called him "R.C." When his mother registered his birth, the county clerk misunderstood her and thought she said "Ossie" instead of "R.C.," and the name stuck. He graduated high school in 1936 and was offered two scholarships: one to Savannah State College in Georgia and the other to the famed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but he could not afford the tuition and turned them down. He eventually saved enough money to hitchhike to Washington, D.C., where he lived with relatives while attending Howard University and studied drama. As much as he enjoyed studying dramatics, Davis had a hunger to practice the trade professionally and in 1939, he left Howard University and headed to Harlem to work in the Rose McClendon Players, a highly respected, all-black theater ensemble in its day. Davis' good looks and deep voice were impressive from the beginning, and he quickly joined the company and remained for three years. With the onset of World War II, Davis spent nearly four years in service, mainly as a surgical technician in an all-black Army hospital in Liberia, serving both wounded troops and local inhabitants before being transferred to Special Services to write and produce stage shows for the troops. Back in New York in 1946, Davis debuted on Broadway in Jeb, a play about a returning black soldier who runs afoul of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south. His co-star was Ruby Dee, an attractive leading lady who was one of the leading lights of black theater and film. Their initial romance soon developed into a lasting bond, and the two were married on December 9, 1948. With Hollywood making much more socially conscious, adult films, particularly those that tackled themes of race (Lonely Are The Brave, Pinky, Lost Boundaries all 1949), it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling for Davis. His first film, with which he co-starred with his wife Dee, was a tense Joseph L. Mankiewicz's prison drama with strong racial overtones No Way Out (1950). He followed that up with a role as a cab driver in Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours (1951). Yet for the most part, Davis and Dee were primarily stage actors, and made few film appearances throughout the decade. However, in should be noted that much of Davis time in the '50s was spent in social causes. Among them, a vocal protest against the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and an alignment with singer and black activist Paul Robeson. Davis remained loyal to Robeson even after he was denounced by other black political, sports and show business figures for his openly communist and pro-Soviet sympathies. Such affiliation led them to suspicions in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the early '50s, but Davis, nor his wife Dee, were never openly accused of any wrongdoing. If there was ever a decade that Ossie Davis was destined for greatness, it was undoubtly the '60s. He began with a hit Broadway show, A Raisin in the Sun in 1960, and followed that up a year later with his debut as a playwright - the satire, Purlie Victorious. In it, Davis starred as Purlie, a roustabout preacher who returns to southern Georgia with a plan to buy his former master's plantation barn and turn it into a racially integrated church. Although not an initial success, the play would be adapted into a Tony-award winning musical, Purlie years later. Yet just as important as his stage success, was the fact that Davis' film roles became much more rich and varied: a liberal priest in John Huston's The Cardinal (1963); an unflinching tough performance as a black soldier who won't break against a sadistic sergeant's racial taunts in Sidney Lumet's searing war drama The Hill (1965); and a shrewd, evil butler who turns the tables on his employer in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1969). In 1970, he tried his hand at film directing, and scored a hit with Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), a sharp urban action comedy with Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as two black cops trying to stop a con artist from stealing Harlem's poor. It's generally considered the first major crossover film for the black market that was a hit with white audiences. Elsewhere, he found roles in some popular television mini-series such as King, and Roots: The Next Generation (both 1978), but for the most part, was committed to the theater. Happily, along came Spike Lee, who revived his film career when he cast him in School Daze (1988). Davis followed that up with two more Lee films: Do the Right Thing (1989), and Jungle Fever (1991), which also co-starred his wife Dee. From there, Davis found himself in demand for senior character parts in many films throughtout the '90s: Grumpy Old Men (1993), The Client (1994), I'm Not Rappaport (1996), and HBO's remake of 12 Angry Men (1997). Davis and Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, In This Life Together, and in 2004, they were among the artists selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. Davis had been in Miami filming an independent movie called Retirement with co-stars George Segal, Rip Torn and Peter Falk. In addition to his widow Dee, Davis is survived by three children, Nora Day, Hasna Muhammad and Guy Davis; and seven grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted Best Picture of the Year (1989) by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Released in United States Summer June 30, 1989

Released in United States on Video January 11, 1990

Released in United States 1989

Released in United States March 1999

Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.

Began shooting July 18, 1988.

Completed shooting September 14, 1988.

Selected in 1999 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in USA on laserdisc January 18, 1990.

Released in United States Summer June 30, 1989

Released in United States on Video January 11, 1990

Released in United States 1989 (International Program)

Released in United States March 1999 (Shown in Los Angeles (American Cinematheque) as part of program "Out in the Streets: The Films of Spike Lee" March 15-20, 1999.)

Recipient of the "Winstar Classic Film Tribute" at the at the 2000 IFP Gotham Awards.