Dead, Roscoe Lee Browne on April 11, 2007, at the age of 81 from cancer in a Los Angeles hospital, he was an African-American actor and director, known for his rich voice and dignified bearing.
Born in Woodbury, New Jersey on May 2, 1922, he first attended historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he became a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1946.
Browne managed to land the roles of soothsayer and Pindarus in Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Papp for New York City’s first Shakespeare Festival Theatre.
More work with the Shakespeare Festival Theatre followed, and he voiced an off-screen part as camera operator, J.J. Burden, in The Connection (1961), his first movie role.
In 1966, he wrote and made his directorial stage debut with A Hand Is on the Gate starring Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, and Moses Gunn.
A lifelong bachelor who coveted his privacy, in the turbulent decades of the civil rights revolution Browne avoided participation in public protests preferring instead to be “more effective on stage with metaphor…than in the streets with an editorial”.
Starting in the late 1960s, Browne increasingly became a guest star on TV on both comedy and dramatic shows like Mannix, All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, The Cosby Show, A Different World, and dozens of other shows.
He also was a regular on Soap where he played Saunders, the erudite butler from 1979–81, replacing Robert Guillaume who went on to his own show Benson.
Additionally, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for both “The Dream on Monkey Mountain” (1970) and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” (1989).
Roscoe found less successful ventures on 1960s Broadway, taking his first curtain call in “A Cool World” in 1960, which folded the next day.
He graced a number of other short runs including “General Seegar” (1962), “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” (1962), “The Ballad of the Sade Cafe” (1964), “Danton’s Death” (1965), and “A Hand Is on the Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music” (1966), which he also wrote and directed.
He did not return to Broadway until 1983 with the role of the singing Rev. J.D. Montgomery in Tommy Tune’s smash musical “My One and Only” in which his number “Kicking the Clouds Away” proved to be one of many highlights.
On the small screen, Browne made guest appearances on such shows as All in the Family and Barney Miller.
He also had roles on series like Soap and Falcon Crest.
Browne received several Emmy Award nominations over his long career, winning his first in 1986 for his guest appearance that year on The Cosby Show.
That same year he appeared in the film Legal Eagles alongside Robert Redford and Debra Winger.
Roscoe Lee Browne received a Tony Award nomination for his work in August Wilson’s Broadway play Two Trains Running.
With his authoritative yet smooth voice, Browne was the perfect choice for narrating films and documentaries.
He served as the narrator for both the popular 1995 family movie Babe and the 2006 animated film Garfield 2, among other projects.