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Remembering Geoffrey Holder

By on October 4, 2014

Geoffrey Holder, the towering Trinidadian actor best known to film audiences as the villainous top-hatted Voodoo henchman Baron Samedi in the James Bond film Live and Let Die, has died. He was 84.

Holder won a pair of Tony Awards for stage direction and costume design for the 1975 musical “The Wiz,” and is well-known for his roles in the film version of “Annie” and 7-Up commercials. He was also an established choreographer and painter, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957.

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Holder was equally known as a dancer, stage actor and choreographer. He was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York from 1955-56. He also appeared in an all-black version of Waiting for Godot.

Holder, 6ft 6inches, first played the role of Samedi in House of Flowers, a Caribbean-themed Broadway musical. He did not originate the character, which was based on a voodoo spirit of the same name traditionally depicted with skull face and top hat and known for disruption, obscenity and debauchery.

In 1973’s Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s blaxploitation-riffing debut in the role of 007, Samedi is the cackling follower of Yaphet Kotto’s Mr Big/Kananga. He is shot, then thrown into a coffin of venomous snakes by Bond but famously appears in a final scene at the back of a train at the end credits, having presumably used his supernatural powers to cheat death.

Holder died on Sunday in New York from complications related to pneumonia, according to a family spokesperson. He is survived by his wife, fellow Broadway actor Carmen de Lavallade, and their son Leo. He will be missed but always remembered.