Category Archives: Ossie Davis, Actor

Ossie Davis!

I was looking at an old Bonanza episode the other day and paused when I saw a black cowboy. I looked closer and saw that it was Ossie Davis. I did a little research and saw that it was originally televised in 1969. He was playing a black man in the Antebellum South, trying to protect his family in a hostile environment. “Ossie Davis!” I thought as I sat up taller. He was here for so many years and then he left us quietly as if someone gently blew out his candle in 2005. 

I do not think that I had ever seen him that young on the screen. I normally thought of him with his wife, Ruby Dee in their latter years. They did a lot of work in the Spike Lee movies, and I especially remember his pivotal role as the concerned patriarch in the movie Jungle Fever. They had roles acting as the voices of reason and conscious in Lee’s films.  

Years before, Ossie Davis was known for writing the play Purlie Victorious where he played the leading role of Reverend Purlie Victorious. It was a breakthrough play for blacks back in the early 60’s. I do recall seeing it staged in downtown Chicago, back in the day. And then there was the movie, made in 1963, a year of so many iconic films.

It was called, Gone Are the Days where Ruby Dee, his wife, played Lutiebelle and Ossie Davis played the Reverend Purlie Victorious. It was produced and directed by Brock Peters and Nicholas Webster and Godfrey Cambridge, Alan Aida, Hilda Haynes, Sorrell Booke and Beah Richards were outstanding in their roles. I found out that it on YouTube, viewed it and it is a blast! It held me spellbound. So superb. Afterwards I wrote this jingle,

There was a great actor named Ossie 
Who had Ruby Dee as his posse. 
Yes, together they made good, black art. 

Both of them playing a vital part!”

In the 80’s while living in Memphis, I heard that this husband-and-wife dynamic duo would be speaking over at LemoyneOwen College. I simply gassed up and made the trek over to the campus Whenever notable talent made its way to the Sunny South, we knew to snatch the opportunity because those events were few and far between. So, I went to lay eyes on them while they were there in the Bluff City.

 I am so happy to say that I saw them because we are all mortals who pass on sooner or later. They were in the college auditorium and there was standing room only. They spoke as a unit as they sat close to each other, revealing their mutual love and understanding for each other. I do not remember a word that they said because I was relishing each moment. I just knew that I was breathing in the same space with Ossie Davis along with his beautiful and gifted wife, Ruby Dee! And yet, I marvel! 

Lynn M. 
October 8, 2022