Born in Trinidad in 1930, Geoffrey Holder went on to become a dancer, stage actor, film actor and choreographer. A true Hollywood star, Holder’s career spanned six decades.
Holder began his career as a dancer, travelling to England for some of his earliest roles. From 1955-56 6ft 6ins Holder was a principal dancer with Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York.
It was 1973 Bond Blaxploitation character Baron Samedi, a villainous Voodoo henchman in Live and Let Die, who Holder will be best remembered as among many film audiences.
In 1975 he worked an all-black version of the Wizard of Oz, titled The Wiz, winning Tony Awards for best costume design and musical direction for his work on the production. Being nominated, alone, was a record achievement as he was the first black man to be nominated in either category.
Holder, who also played Punjab in the 1982 musical Annie, in 2010 described his ambitions as a theatre star. “I create for that innocent little boy in the balcony who has come to the theatre for the first time. He wants to see magic, so I want to give him magic. He sees things that his father couldn’t see,” the actor told Dance Magazine.
Holder’s film work extended beyond Bond. In the original 1967 Doctor Dolittle film he played a tribal chieftain and in 1972 he starred in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), as a sorcerer. More recently, in 2005, he narrated Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Multi-talented Holder was also a painter, photographer and sculptor. A talented painter, Holder’s skill was recognised in 1957 when he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work.
A family spokesman said that Holder died on Sunday from pneumonia-related complications. He died in New York. Holder is survived by his wife Carmen de Lavallade and their son, Leo.
Geoffrey Holder photographed with his wife and their son