Ossie Davis - Rotten Tomatoes

Ossie Davis

Highest Rated:   100% 4 Little Girls (1997)
Lowest Rated:   15% Her Alibi (1989)
Birthday:  
Birthplace:   Not Available
A performer widely regarded as one of the most distinguished and eloquent actors of his or any generation, Ossie Davis combined an overwhelming amount of dramatic talent and instinct (evident via both stage and film work) with an indomitable fervor for social crusade. A native of Cogdell, GA, and a graduate of Howard University, Davis moved to Harlem at an early stage and trained with the Rose McClendon players. The actor then drew a considerable amount of attention -- alongside wife since 1948 Ruby Dee -- for helping to spearhead the American civil rights movement in the 1940s, over 20 years before it caught fire with the general public and mass media. Their combined efforts culminated in involvement with the triumphant March on Washington of August 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. In subsequent years, Davis also helped Dr. King raise money for the Freedom Riders and delivered a poignant eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X. Meanwhile, Davis and Dee both established themselves as forces in theater and on film. Davis himself debuted on Broadway in 1946, and took his film bow with the 1950 No Way Out, but 13 years passed before his sophomore cinematic effort, the 1963 Gone Are the Days -- an adaptation of his own play Purlie Victorious. Unfortunately, the actor spent much of the '60s appearing in programmers that were either underappreciated (Shock Treatment, 1964) or unworthy of his talents (Sam Whiskey, 1969), and didn't fully realize his potential until he scripted and directed the 1970 Cotton Comes to Harlem, a gritty crime comedy (with a predominantly African-American cast including Godfrey Cambridge and Redd Foxx) that almost singlehandedly jump-started the blaxploitation movement and predated Sweet Sweetback and Shaft by a year. Several additional directorial projects followed throughout the 1970s and '80s and found Davis growing deeper and more profound, and setting his sights higher; these included the ambitious -- if not quite successful -- Kongi's Harvest (1971) and the finely-wrought, socially charged coming-of-age drama Black Girl (1972), arguably Davis' best film. Unfortunately, Davis' third and fourth efforts behind the camera, Gordon's War (1973) and Countdown at Kusini (1976), disappointed on many counts, relegating him (for better or worse) back to acting. He appeared in the racially themed, made-for-television dramas Roots (1977), King: The Martin Luther King Story (1978, in which he played Dr. King Sr.), and Roots: The Next Generations (1979), then -- around a decade later -- achieved a career resurgence thanks to the intelligence and bravura of wunderkind Spike Lee, who cast Davis in six major films: School Daze (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989), Jungle Fever (1991), Malcolm X (1992, as an off-camera narrator), Get on the Bus (1996), and She Hate Me (2004). Two of those films also included Dee in the cast. Davis also enjoyed a renewed profile on television during the early '90s when he was tapped to play a regular character on the charming and laid-back Burt Reynolds sitcom Evening Shade (1990-1994); he portrayed Ponder Blue, the series' narrator and the owner of a barbecue restaurant. Davis remained not only active but astonishingly prolific over the following ten years. Subsequent projects included small supporting roles in Grumpy Old Men (1993), The Client (1994), and Doctor Dolittle (1998), and participation in a series of documentaries, among them Christianity: The First Thousand Years (1998) and We Shall Not Be Moved (2001). Davis died in February 2005, in Miami, while shooting the movie Retirement. He was 87. Davis and Dee co-authored a dual autobiography, In This Life Together, in 1998.

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Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
No Score Yet Ghetto Child
  • Actor
2014
No Score Yet For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots
  • Actor
2010
No Score Yet Please Stand Back! (zurrueckbleiben bitte)
  • Actor
2008
No Score Yet King
  • Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.
$0.2M 2006
No Score Yet Proud
  • Lorenzo DuFau
2004
19% She Hate Me
  • Judge Buchanan
$81.9k 2004
No Score Yet Apollo At 70: A Hot Night in Harlem
  • Actor
2004
78% Bubba Ho-Tep
  • Jack Kennedy
2003
91% Baadasssss!
  • Granddad
$0.3M 2003
No Score Yet The Peace! DVD
  • Actor
2003
No Score Yet Deacons for Defense
  • Rev. Gregory
2003
No Score Yet Hughes' Dream Harlem
  • Actor
2002
No Score Yet J.C. Leyendecker: The Great American Illustrator
  • Narrator
2002
No Score Yet Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives
  • Actor
2002
No Score Yet The Feast of All Saints
  • Jean-Jacques
2001
No Score Yet We Shall Not Be Moved
  • Narrator
2001
65% Dinosaur
  • Yar
$135.7M 2000
No Score Yet Finding Buck McHenry
  • Mack Henry
2000
No Score Yet Here's to Life
  • Duncan Cox
2000
No Score Yet Scandalize My Name: Stories from the Blacklist
  • Actor
1999
No Score Yet The Soul Collector
  • Mordecai
1999
No Score Yet Chasing Secrets
  • Too Tall
1999
No Score Yet Paul Robeson: Here I Stand
  • Actor
1999
No Score Yet A Vow to Cherish
  • Alexander Billman
1999
43% Dr. Dolittle
  • Archer Dolittle
1998
No Score Yet Doctor Dolittle
  • Actor
1998
No Score Yet Tuskegee Airmen: American Heroes!
  • Host
1998
92% 12 Angry Men
  • Juror #2
1997
100% 4 Little Girls
  • Actor
1997
No Score Yet Miss Evers' Boys
  • Mr. Evers
1997
38% I'm Not Rappaport
  • Midge
1996
88% Get on the Bus
  • Jeremiah
1996
No Score Yet The Android Affair
  • Winston
1995
No Score Yet Mississippi, America
  • Narrator
1995
No Score Yet Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World
  • Actor
1994
80% The Client
  • Judge Harry Roosevelt
1994
No Score Yet Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World
  • Narrator
1994
65% Grumpy Old Men
  • Chuck
1993
No Score Yet The Ernest Green Story
  • Grandfather
1993
91% Malcolm X
  • Eulogy Performer
1992
No Score Yet Lincoln: The Making of a President, 1860-1862
  • Frederick Douglas
1992
25% Gladiator
  • Noah
1992
No Score Yet Smithsonian's Great Battles of the Civil War, Vol. 5
  • Actor
1992
No Score Yet Lincoln: Now He Belongs to the Ages, 1865
  • Frederick Douglas
1992
No Score Yet Queen
  • Parson Dick
1992
No Score Yet Smithsonian's Great Battles of the Civil War, Vol. 1
  • Actor
1992
No Score Yet Lincoln: I Want to Finish This Job, 1864
  • Frederick Douglas
1992
No Score Yet Lincoln: The Pivotal Year, 1863
  • Frederick Douglas
1992
81% Jungle Fever
  • The Good Reverend Doctor
1991
No Score Yet Hands upon the Heart
  • Actor
1991
61% Joe Versus the Volcano
  • Marshall
1990
93% Do the Right Thing
  • Da Mayor
1989
15% Her Alibi
  • Actor
1989
No Score Yet Freedom Man
  • Actor
1989
60% School Daze
  • Coach Odom
1988
40% Avenging Angel
  • Capt. Moradian
1985
22% Harry & Son
  • Raymond
1984
No Score Yet For Us, the Living: The Story of Medgar Evers
  • Screenwriter
1983
No Score Yet Death of a Prophet
  • Actor
1981
No Score Yet Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy 'Satchel' Paige
  • Chuffy
1981
No Score Yet All God's Children
  • Blaine Whitfield
1980
No Score Yet Hot Stuff
  • Captain John Geiberger
1979
No Score Yet Freedom Road
  • Narrator
1979
No Score Yet King
  • Actor
1978
83% Let's Do It Again
  • Elder Johnson
1975
No Score Yet Gordon's War
  • Actor
  • Director
1973
No Score Yet Black Girl
  • Director
1972
No Score Yet Malcolm X
  • Narrator
1972
No Score Yet Malcolm X
  • Actor
1972
No Score Yet Cotton Comes to Harlem
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1970
No Score Yet Night Gallery
  • Actor
1969
No Score Yet Slaves
  • Luke
1969
No Score Yet Sam Whiskey
  • Jed Hooker
1969
70% The Scalphunters
  • Joseph
1968
No Score Yet A Man Called Adam
  • Nelson Davis
1966
100% The Hill
  • Jacko King
1965
60% The Cardinal
  • Father Gillis
1963
No Score Yet Purlie Victorious
  • Purlie Victorious
  • Screenwriter
1963
No Score Yet John Brown's Raid
  • Actor
1960
No Score Yet The Joe Louis Story
  • Bob (uncredited)
1953
100% 14 Hours
  • Cab Driver
1951
83% No Way Out
  • John
1950

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet POV
1988
  • Appearing
  • 2014
No Score Yet The L Word
2004-2009
  • Guest
  • Melvin Porter
  • 2005
  • 2004
No Score Yet American Experience
1988
  • Narrator
  • 1993

Quotes from Ossie Davis' Characters