|Born||December 5, 1933|
Harlem, New York City, U.S.
|Died||March 6, 1986 (aged 52)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||New York University|
|Known for||Playing Sgt. Waters in A Soldier's Play and film adaptation A Soldier's Story|
|Spouse||Diane (m. 1986)|
Adolph Caesar (December 5, 1933 – March 6, 1986) was an American actor, theatre director, playwright, dancer, and choreographer.
Known for his signature deep voice, Caesar was a staple of Off-Broadway as a member of the Negro Ensemble Company, and as a voiceover artist for numerous film trailers. He earned widespread acclaim for his performance as Sgt. Vernon Waters in Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier's Play, a role he reprised in the 1984 film adaptation A Soldier's Story, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.
Early life and education
Caesar was born Harlem, New York City in 1933 as the youngest of three sons born to a Dominican mother and a black indigenous father. At age 12, he contracted laryngitis which led to his notably deep voice.
After graduating from George Washington High School in 1952, Caesar enlisted in the United States Navy during the Korean War era, serving as a hospital corpsman for five years, achieving the rank of chief petty officer. Upon his discharge from the service, he decided to break into the theater and went on to study drama at New York University, graduating in 1962.
Caesar made his film debut in 1969 in Che!, playing Cuban revolutionary Juan Almeida Bosque. A year later, Caesar became an announcer for and then joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1970 for productions such as The River Niger, Square Root of the Soul, and The Brownsville Raid. Caesar also later worked with the Minnesota Theater Company, Inner City Repertory Company, and the American Shakespeare Theatre. He had a stint on the soap operas Guiding Light and General Hospital in 1964 and 1969, respectively.
Thanks to his voice, Caesar found frequent work as a voice-over artist for television and radio commercials, including theatrical previews and radio commercials for many blaxploitation films such as Cleopatra Jones, Superfly, Truck Turner and The Spook Who Sat by the Door. For many years, he was the voice of the United Negro College Fund's publicity campaign, reciting the iconic slogan "...because a mind is a terrible thing to waste."
Later in his career, Caesar also lent his voice to the animated series Silverhawks, in which he voiced Hotwing, a magician and skilled illusionist.
In 1980, Caesar appeared in the infamous Bruceploitation mockumentary Fist of Fear, Touch of Death, playing himself as a fictional television news reporter investigating the death of Bruce Lee.
A Soldier's Play
Caesar’s most iconic work, however started with his role as Army Sergeant. Vernon C. Waters in Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning stage drama, A Soldier's Play, in which Caesar won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play and an Obie Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Achievement. A Soldier’s Play is set in Louisiana during World War II, just before the U.S. military was desegregated. Waters is a self-loathing Black man who strives for equality and recognition for African-Americans while displaying a deep, borderline sadistic contempt for "stereotypically black" and Southern-born soldiers, and whose eventual murder by one of his own men kickstarts the story's plot.
In a 1985 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Caesar stated he drew on his own experiences in crafting the character of Waters. "I’d studied Shakespeare to death. I knew more about Shakespeare than Shakespeare knew about himself. After I did one season at a Shakespearean repertory company, a director said to me, ‘You have a marvelous voice. You know the king’s English well. You speak iambic pentameter. My suggestion is that you go to New York and get a good colored role.' Waters has tried his best, but no matter what you do, they still hate you.“ Caesar subsequently coined the character's signature phrase, "They still hate you".
Caesar subsequently reprised his role as Waters in Norman Jewison's 1984 film adaptation of Fuller's play, retitled A Soldier's Story. His performance was similarly acclaimed and earned him numerous accolades, including Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. He also won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor.
On the basis of his Soldier's Story success, Caesar was cast in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple as Old Mister Johnson, the father of Danny Glover's character. He also appeared on an episode of The Twilight Zone and an ABC Afterschool Special. Caesar's last completed film was Club Paradise, released posthumously.
Caesar had three children with his wife Diane, whom he was married to until his death.
Caesar was working on the Los Angeles set of the 1986 film Tough Guys (with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas) when he suffered a heart attack and died a short time later. His role was recast with Eli Wallach. He was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
|1969||Che!||Juan Almeida||Richard Fleischer|
|1975||Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle||Brutish (voice)||Picha
|1979||The Hitter||Nathan||Christopher Leitch|
|1980||Fist of Fear, Touch of Death||Himself||Matthew Mallinson|
|1984||A Soldier's Story||Sgt. Vernon Waters||Norman Jewison|
|1985||The Color Purple||Old Mister Johnson||Steven Spielberg|
|1986||Club Paradise||Prime Minister Solomon Gundy||Harold Ramis||Released posthumously|
|1968||The Wild Wild West||Vidoq||Episode: "The Night of the Gruesome Games"|
|1969||General Hospital||Douglas Burke|
|1970||The Challenge||Clarence Opano||Television film|
|1978||Watch Your Mouth||Jeff Cremer||2 episodes|
|1985||Tales from the Darkside||Mars Gillis||Episode: "Parlour Floor Front"|
|1986||The Twilight Zone||The Supervisor||Episode: "A Matter of Minutes"|
|Fortune Dane||Charles Dane||Episode: "Pilot"|
|ABC Afterschool Specials||Dr. Rancid||Episode: "Getting Even: A Wimp's Revenge"|
|SilverHawks||Hotwing / Seymour (voices)||Main cast|
|1965-67||Happy Ending / Day of Absence||Jackson||Philip Meister||St. Mark's Playhouse|
|1971||Rosalee Pritchett||Robert Barron||Shauneille Perry|
|Perry's Mission||Lester "Bobo" Johnson||Douglas Turner Ward|
|Ride a Black Horse||Harold|
|Mary Stuart||Count Bellievre||Jules Irving||Vivian Beaumont Theater||Broadway debut|
|1971-72||The Sty of the Blind Pig||Doc||Shauneille Perry||St. Mark's Playhouse|
|1972||A Ballet Behind the Bridge||Lalsingh||Douglas Turner Ward||Also choreographer|
|Frederick Douglass...Through His Own Words||Frederick Douglass||Also playwright|
|1974||Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide||The Newscaster||Dean Irby|
|1975||Waiting for Mongo||Doodybug||Douglas Turner Ward|
|1976-77||The Brownsville Raid||Pvt. James Holliman||Israel Hicks||Lucille Lortel Theatre|
|1977||The Square Root of Soul||—||Perry Schwartz||As playwright|
|1979||Plays from Africa||Dean Irby||St. Mark's Playhouse|
|1979||A Season to Unravel||Garrison||Glenda Dickerson|
|1980||Lagrima del Diablo||Aquilo||Richard Gant|
|1981-83||A Soldier's Play||Sgt. Vernon Waters||Douglas Turner Ward||Julia Miles Theater|
Awards and honors
|Academy Award||1985||Best Supporting Actor||A Soldier's Story||Nominated|
|Daytime Emmy Award||1987||Outstanding Performer in Children's Programming||ABC Afterschool Specials ("Getting Even: A Wimp's Revenge")||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||1982||Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play||A Soldier's Play||Won|
|Golden Globe Award||1985||Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||A Soldier's Story||Nominated|
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association||1984||Best Supporting Actor||Won|
|NAACP Image Award||1985||Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture||Won|
|Obie Award||1983||Outstanding Off-Broadway Achievement||A Soldier's Play||Won|
- ^ a b Little, Dylan K. "Adolph Caesar: The Iconic Actor With The Iconic Voice". Amandla!. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
- ^ "United States Census, 1940". FamilySearch.org. Intellectual Reserve, Inc. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
- ^ a b Adolph Caesar Dies; Acted in 'Soldier's Story' The New York Times via Internet Archive. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
- ^ a b Adolph Caesar: Fatal Heart Attack Fells Actor on Set Los Angeles Times via Internet Archive. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- ^ Tue, 12.05.1933 – Adolph Caesar, Actor born African American Registry. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
- "Adolph Caesar Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2008.
- 1933 births
- 1986 deaths
- African Americans in the Korean War
- African-American male actors
- African-American United States Navy personnel
- Afro-Latino culture in the United States
- American male film actors
- American male stage actors
- American male television actors
- American male voice actors
- American people of Dominica descent
- Burials at Ferncliff Cemetery
- Drama Desk Award winners
- George Washington Educational Campus alumni
- People from Harlem
- Male actors from New York City
- Military personnel from New York City
- United States Navy chiefs
- United States Navy corpsmen
- 20th-century American male actors