Geoffrey Holder

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Geoffrey Holder
Holder at the Big Apple Con
15 November 2008.
Born Geoffrey Richard Holder
(1930-08-01) 1 August 1930 (age 84)
Port of Spain, Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago
Alma mater Queen's Royal College
Occupation Actor, choreographer, director, costume designer, dancer, painter, vocalist, voice artist
Years active 1957 – present
Spouse(s) Carmen De Lavallade (1955–present)
Family Boscoe Holder (brother)
Awards Outstanding Costume Design
1975 The Wiz
Best Direction of a Musical
1975 The Wiz
Best Costume Design
1975 The Wiz

Geoffrey Richard Holder (born 1 August 1930) is a Trinidadian actor, choreographer, director, dancer, painter, costume designer, singer and voice-over artist.

Early life[edit]

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Holder is of African descent. He is known for his height (6' 6"), "hearty laugh" and heavily accented bass voice.[1]

One of four children, Holder attended Tranquillity School and then secondary school at Queen's Royal College in Port-of-Spain. At the age of seven, he began dancing in the company of his brother, Boscoe Holder.[2]

Holder is a Tony Award-winning stage director and costume designer.


In 1952, the choreographer Agnes de Mille saw Holder dance on Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands.[3] She invited him to New York; he would teach at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance for two years.[4] He was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York from 1955 to 1956.[5]

In 1955, Holder married dancer Carmen De Lavallade, whom he met when both were in the cast of House of Flowers, a musical by Harold Arlen (music and lyrics) and Truman Capote (lyrics and book).[1] They were the subject of a 2004 film, Carmen & Geoffrey.[3] They live in New York City and have one son, Leo Anthony Lamont. Holder's brother was the London-based artist Boscoe Holder.

Holder began his movie career in the 1962 British film All Night Long, a modern remake of Shakespeare's Othello. He followed that with Doctor Dolittle (1967) as Willie Shakespeare, leader of the natives of Sea-Star Island. This was a trying experience for Holder, as he had to contend with casual racism from Rex Harrison's then-wife, Rachel Roberts, and his entourage.[6] In the 1972, he was cast as the Sorcerer in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*. The following year he was a henchman – Baron Samedi – in the Bond movie Live and Let Die; Holder also contributed to the film's choreography. In addition to his movie appearances, Holder became a spokesman for the 1970s 7 Up soft drink "uncola" advertising campaign.[7]

In 1975 Holder won two Tony Awards for direction and costume design of The Wiz, the all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Holder was the first black man to be nominated in either category.[1] He also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. The show ran for 1672 performances over a four-year period; it was revived in 1984.

As a choreographer, Holder has created dance pieces for many companies, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, for which he provided choreography, music and costumes for Prodigal Prince (1967), and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, for which he provided choreography, music and costumes for Dougla (1974) and designed costumes for Firebird (1982). In 1978, Holder directed and choreographed the Broadway musical Timbuktu![2][8][9][10] Holder's 1957 piece "Bele" is also part of the Dance Theater of Harlem repertory.[2]

In the 1982 film version of the musical Annie, Holder played the role of Punjab. He was also the voice of Ray in Bear in the Big Blue House and provided narration for Tim Burton's version of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He reprised his role as the 7 Up Spokesman in the 2011 season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice, where he appeared as himself in a commercial for "7 Up Retro" for Marlee Matlin's team.

Holder is also a prolific painter, ardent art collector, book author and music composer. As a painter, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship.[11] A book of his photography, Adam, was published by Viking in 1986.[12]


Holder with wife Carmen De Lavallade. photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1955




Year Film Role Notes
1962 All Night Long Film debut
1967 Doctor Dolittle Willie Shakespeare
1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask The Sorcerer
1973 Live and Let Die Baron Samedi also choreography
1975 The Noah voice
1976 Swashbuckler Cudjo
1978 Doctor J. Kanye
1982 Annie Punjab
1992 Boomerang Nelson
1998 Hasard ou Coincidence a Claude Lelouch movie
1999 Goosed
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Narrator
2006 Joséphine Baker. Black Diva in a White Man's World[1]
Year Title Role Notes
1958 Aladdin the Genie
1967 Androcles and the Lion
1983 Alice in Wonderland the Cheshire Cat
1985 John Grin's Christmas Ghost of Christmas Future
1988 The Cosby Show choreography
1990 The 62nd Annual Academy Awards performing
1997 Bear in the Big Blue House Ray Voice
2002–2003 Cyberchase Master Pi Episode 118, "Problem Solving in Shangri-La"
Episode 209, "Double Trouble"
2011 Celebrity Apprentice Himself
Video Games
Year Title Role Notes
1994 Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller Jean St. Mouchoir One of only two live actors in the game (as opposed to voice only)


  1. ^ a b c d Lucy E. Cross. MasterworksBroadway "Geoffrey Holder". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Zita Allen. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Cited By PBS "Great Performances – Biography, Geoffrey Holder". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Stephen Holden. New York Times "Creatively Connected Through Dance and Life". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Oxford African American Studies Center "Choreographers". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  5. ^ VisionaryProject "Geoffrey Holder, National Visionary". Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution. Penguin Press. pp. 242–3. 
  7. ^ TMZ "That 7 Up Uncola Guy: 'Memba Him?!". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Kina Poon. Dance Magazine "Geoffrey Holders Royal Vision". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Anna Kisselgoff. New York Times "Ballet – Harlem Dance Theatre Presents Firebird". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "Dance Consortium=Dougla". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  11. ^ DanceConsortium "Geoffrey Holder". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Geoffrey Holder. "Adam". Retrieved 26 November 2011. 


  • Holder, Geoffrey; Harshman Tom (1959). Black Gods, Green Islands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-8371-2789-0. 
  • Holder, Geoffrey (1973). Geoffrey Holder's Caribbean Cookbook. New York: Viking Press. OCLC 2700931. 
  • Holder, Geoffrey (1986). Adam. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-81028-2. 
  • Holder, Geoffrey; University Art Museum. (1995). Geoffrey Holder: the painter. Albany, New York: State University of New York at Albany. ISBN 0-910763-13-5. 
  • Holder, Geoffrey; Falke, Stefan; Lovelace, Earl (2004). The Dancing spirits of Trinidad: Moko Jumbies. New York: Pointed Leaf Press. ISBN 0-9727661-3-8. 

External links[edit]