William Marshall (actor)

William Horace Marshall (August 19, 1924 – June 11, 2003) was an American actor, director and opera singer. He played the title role in the 1972 blaxploitation classic Blacula and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream (1973), and appeared as the King of Cartoons on the 1980s television show Pee-wee's Playhouse and as Dr. Richard Daystrom on the Star Trek television series. He was 6‘5” (1.96 m) tall and was known for his bass voice.[1]

William Marshall
William Horace Marshall

(1924-08-19)August 19, 1924
DiedJune 11, 2003(2003-06-11) (aged 78)
Years active1952–1996
ChildrenClaude Marshall (1954-2012)
Malcolm Juarez (1969-2005)
Gina Loring
Tariq Marshall


Early life

Marshall was born in Gary, Indiana,[2] to Vereen Marshall, a dentist, and Thelma (née Edwards).[3]

He attended New York University as an art student but transferred to the Actors Studio to study theater. He studied at the American Theatre Wing and with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse.[4]


Marshall made his Broadway debut in 1944 in Carmen Jones. In 1950, he understudied Boris Karloff as Captain Hook in the Broadway production of Peter Pan. He played the leading role of De Lawd in the 1951 revival of The Green Pastures, a role he repeated in 1958 in a BBC telecast of the play.[3][5] He performed in several Shakespearean plays on the stage in the U. S. and Europe, including the title role in at least six productions of Othello. Harold Hobson of the London Sunday Times praised Marshall’s portrayal as "the best Othello of our time."[6]

In 1968, Marshall joined the Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles to play Othello in a jazz musical version, Catch My Soul, with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago.[7]

Marshall portrayed Paul Robeson and Frederick Douglass on stage. He researched Douglass' life extensively, and in 1983 produced and played the lead role in Frederick Douglass: Slave and Statesman.[8]

Film and television career

Marshall's career on screen began in the 1952 film Lydia Bailey as a Haitian leader. He followed that with a prominent role as Glycon, comrade and fellow gladiator to Victor Mature in the 1954 film Demetrius and the Gladiators. His demeanor, voice and stature gave him a wide range, though he was ill-suited for the subservient roles that many black actors of his generation were most frequently offered. He was a leader of the Mau-Mau uprising in Something of Value (1957), and Attorney General Edward Brooke in The Boston Strangler (1968). He probably received the most notice for his role in the vampire film Blacula and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream. In later years, Marshall played the King of Cartoons on Pee-wee's Playhouse, replacing actor Gilbert Lewis, during the 1980s. (The character's catchphrase "Let...the cartoooon...begin!" became immensely popular.)

In the early 1950s, Marshall starred briefly in a series about black police officers, entitled Harlem Detective. The show was canceled when Marshall was named as a communist in the anti-communist newsletter Counterattack.[9]

Despite blacklisting because of his supposed communist connections, Marshall managed to continue appearing in both television and films. He appeared on the British spy series Danger Man in episodes titled "Deadline" (1962) and "The Galloping Major" (1964). Marshall played the role of traveling opera singer Thomas Bowers on the 1964 Bonanza episode "Enter Thomas Bowers," and that same year he appeared, with actor Ivan Dixon, as the leader of a newly independent African nation and as a T.H.R.U.S.H. agent in the first-season episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. entitled "The Vulcan Affair". In 1968 he appeared as Dr. Richard Daystrom in the Star Trek episode "The Ultimate Computer". In 1969, he had a special guest appearance as the character Amalek in an episode of The Wild Wild West entitled "The Night of the Egyptian Queen".

He also won two local Emmys for producing and performing in a PBS production, As Adam Early in the Morning, a theatre piece originally performed on stage.[1] He also was featured in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour titled, "The Jar", with actors Pat Buttram and George Lindsey.

Later life and death

In addition to acting and producing, Marshall taught acting at various universities including the University of California, Irvine, and the Mufandi Institute, an African-American arts and music institution in the Watts section of Los Angeles. He did similar work at Chicago's ETA Creative Arts Foundation, which in 1992 named Marshall one of its Epic Men of the 20th century.[1]

For 42 years, Marshall was the partner of Sylvia Gussin Jarrico, former wife of blacklisted screenwriter Paul Jarrico. Marshall died June 11, 2003, from complications arising from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. He was survived by sons Tariq, Malcolm, and Claude Marshall and daughter Gina Loring. Eulogists at his funeral included Sidney Poitier, Ivan Dixon, Paul Winfield, and Marla Gibbs.[10]

Marshall was considered by many to be a much underrated actor and one who never got his due. Some have remarked that Marshall should have had a much more successful and larger screen career, even saying that Marshall would have been a perfect choice for the role of Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian.[11]



  1. "N/A". Long Beach Press-Telegram. May 26, 1952. p. 27.
  2. Sebastian, Simone M. (June 22, 2003). "William Marshall, 78, Stage, screen actor starred in 'Blacula'". Chicago Tribune.
  3. "William Marshall Biography (1924-2003)". filmreference.com. July 1, 2015.
  4. "William Marshall Biography (1924-2003)". CNN. Associated Press. June 17, 2003. Archived from the original on June 20, 2003.
  5. "William Marshall Biography (1924-2003)". Internet Broadway Database. July 1, 2015.
  6. "William Marshall, 'Blacula' actor, succumbs at 78". Jet Magazine. June 30, 2003. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  7. Christgau, Robert (June 2000). Any Old Way You Choose It. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 978-0815410416.
  8. "1983 Peabody Awards entry form". Hargrett Library, University of Georgia. 1983.
  9. Caute, David (May 1, 1979). The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower. Touchstone. ISBN 978-0671248482.
  10. "N/A". EXo News. July 9, 2003.
  11. Puckett, Terek (February 27, 2013). "Lead Actors: The Overlooked and Underrated". Sound on Sight. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.