Harry Belafonte

  1. Sidney Poitier, Porgy and Bess, 1958. 
    Columbia’s hated  czar, Harry Cohn, wanted – incredibly – to do it in black-face.  With Fred Astaire  as Sportin’  Life opposite Al Jolson’s Porgy and Rita Hayworth’s Bess!  Said the Gershwin brothers:  “Get outa here!”  Columbia gave up and sold its rights to Fox which  sold out to  Samuel Goldwyn’s final production . His plan was to reunite the Carmen Jones lovers, Dorothy Dandridge and Belafonte.  Harry would have  nothing to do with what had been seen since the 1935 Broadway musical  as racial stereotypes of child-like blacks. “When I was approached by Sam Goldwyn,” Belafonte told the New York Times’  Guy Flatley in 1972,  “I told him I had no interest in doing such a film at that time. The leading man was a black man on his knees, the leading lady was a black whore, Crown was a sex maniac, Sporting Life a cocaine pusher. That was not where my head was at. The NAACP attacked Poitier for miming about plenty  of nuttin’ during the rise of Martin Luther King, demos, sit-ins, boycotts and marches.  Seeking career longevity (he was told if he didn’t play Porgy he would probably lose The Defiant Ones), Poitier made no apology. “I was a hired actor.  I couldn’t go in there and say: ‘You guys, make these pictures.’  I’d have been dismissed.” Belafonte added: “I’ve known Sidney for 26 years, and one thing that has sustained our friendship is that I don’t challenge him. He’s my friend, and that’s it. He knows why I turned down Porgy and Bess and I know why he accepted it, and never the twain shall meet. But I have never caught Sidney in an immoral act, in anything that is the least bit unethical.”

  2. Woody Strode, Sergeant Rutledge, 1959.  “The big studios wanted an actor like Sidney or Belafonte,” recalled Strode about  his  US Cavalry sergeant charged with rape and murder.  But director John Ford snarled:  “They’re not tough enough to do what I want Sergeant Rutledge to be.”  And Woody strode away with the movie…  “That was a classic. It had dignity. John Ford put classic words in my mouth… You never seen a Negro come off a mountain like John Wayne before. I had the greatest Glory Hallelujah ride across the Pecos River that any black man ever had on the screen. And I did it myself. I carried the whole black race across that river.” He made three more films for Ford – who called him his best friend – Two Rode Together, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and 7 Women during 1961-1965.
  3. Jacques Sernas, Salambo (US: The Loves of Salambo),  France-Italy,  1960.     Producer Charles Brackett  wanted Belafonte as the Carthagian mercenary in love with Gina Lollobrigida. With most of the Spartacus crowd: Charles Laughton, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov.  Europe just didn’t have the money.  
  4. Raymond St Jacques, Cotton Comes To Harlem, 1960.      “Neither Shaft nor Cotton… appealed to me. It’s a multi-leveled thing, of course – how can I be against a movie that uses a black crew? And Ossie Davis, the director of Cotton, is a close friend of mine. Nevertheless, being black does not automatically make it good.” The cop-art was based on Chester Himes’s tough black cops, Godfrey Cambridge playing Grave Digger Joens and St Jacques as Coffin Ed Johnson. 
  5. Trini Lopez, The Poppy Is Also A Flower, 1965.     UNO planned six telefilms about its work – by Kubrick, Preminger, etc. Only this one was made when Terence Young gave up a third Bond gig to work with 007 creator Ian Fleming on this star-studded battle to stop heroin flowing into Europe. Fleming died before completing the script. (Everyone else died on-screen!). Somehow there was time for Lopez to sing two songs at Monte Carlo’s Sporting-Club after Belafonte backed away. Why Monaco? Because Princess Grace (Kelly) would introduce the mess on ABC TV on April  22, 1966.
  6. Richard Roundtree, Shaft, 1970.      “I’m simply not turned on by pictures that seduce an audience with the use of violence in the name of race. The fact that it’s Shaft doing it doesn’t make it any more palatable to me than the white flicks that do it. It’s true that there is some violence in Buck and the Preacher [his  1971 Western with Sidney Popitier], but it’s not violence for violence’s sake… Nobody yet has been able to convince me that violence is going to get us where we want to go.”
  7. Paul Benjamin, Across 110th Street, 1971. Harlem disliked producer Anthony Quinn’s first ideas – Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr, even John Wayne. Too Hollywood! Not street enough! Quinn switched invites to Benjamin, Antonio Fargas, Yaphet Kotto and took over the top cop, himself, in the blacks v Mafia thriller, bloody enough for Scorsese or Tarantino.



 Birth year: 1927Death year: 2023Other name: Casting Calls:  7