USS Mason veteran, Lorenzo DuFau, Ossie Davis, himself
a WWII veteran, forms the heart
of the movie “Proud.” He is the grandfather who passes
the story of the “men of the Mason” on to his grandson
and thus insures that his shipmates will live on. “I am a part
of American history,” he says. “Proudly we served and
I want that acknowledged.”
As an actor, writer,
producer and director, Ossie Davis has himself shaped American history
and insured that the richness of African-American experience is presented
with artistry and joy.
Born in Cogdell,
Georgia, Mr. Davis attended Howard University and began a career as
an actor and writer with the Rose McClelland Players in Harlem in
1939. He joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and served with great
distinction as a member of a medical team in West Africa.
1946, Mr. Davis made his Broadway debut in “Jeb,” the first of many roles
that included following Sydney Poitier into the lead of “Raisin
in the Sun.” Mr. Davis used his backstage waiting time to write “Purlie
Victorious” in which he starred in 1961. The artistically acclaimed
play became the musical “Purlie” and introduced Melba
Moore and Cleavon Little.
film career of Ossie Davis is legendary. Beginning
with “No Way Out” in
1950 with Sydney Poitier, Davis has appeared in dozens of feature
films from “The Cardinal,” “The Hill,” and “The
Scalphunter” through recent movies such as “Dr. Doolittle,” “Do
the Right Thing,” and “On The Bus.” He directed “Cotton
Comes to Harlem” in 1970 and continued to direct and produce
movies and plays. Mr. Davis did not neglect television. Beginning
in 1965 in the title role of “The Emperor Jones,” he’s
given award-winning performances in “Teacher, Teacher, King,” and “Miss
Evers’ Boys” to name a few. He’s been a regular
on “Evening Shade” with his friend Burt Reynolds.
with his wife actress/writer Ruby Dee has produced
such notable achievements as the television special “Today Is
Luther King: The Dream and The Drum,” “A Walk Through
the 20th Century with Bill Moyers” and their autobiography “With
Ossie and Ruby.”
Davis received many honors and citations, including
the New York Urban League Frederick
Douglass Award and the NAACP Image Award. With Ruby
Dee, he received The Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement
Award and in 2002 The President’s
National Medal of Arts at the Kennedy Center.
He appeared as Melvin Van Peebles' father in "Baadasssss!"
in 2003 and in "She Hate Me" in 2004.
Davis died of natural causes in Miami Beach, Florida
on February 4, 2005.