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Cleavon Little Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 1 June 1939Chickasha, Oklahoma, USA
Date of Death 22 October 1992Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, USA  (colon cancer)
Birth NameCleavon Jake Little
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Versatile, charismatic African-American actor Cleavon Little was born on June 1, 1939, in Oklahoma but grew up in California and attended San Diego College. He earned a scholarship to Juilliard and moved to New York, then trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Art and was soon appearing off-Broadway. Classically trained ("Hamlet" "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), he won the Tony award for a less weighty musical, "Purlie", which took him west. A few film roles came his way with What's So Bad About Feeling Good? (1968), John and Mary (1969), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), and the cult film Vanishing Point (1971) but it was the 1972 sitcom The New Temperatures Rising Show (1972) that finally got him some leverage in Hollywood. The by-now popular actor caught the eye of film producers. With his sly charm and appeal, he was a natural for comedy and hit the apex of his career after winning a co-starring role opposite Gene Wilder in the Mel Brooks western spoof Blazing Saddles (1974). He never matched that success but did continue with important stage roles ("I'm Not Rappaport") and other TV series work (Bagdad Cafe (1990)). A hard-working, heavily driven man, Little was plagued by ulcers and stomach disorders for much of his life. He died at age 53 of colon cancer in 1992.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Valerie Wiggins (19 February 1972 - 1974) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (2)

He won the lead role of Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles (1974) over Richard Pryor, who co-wrote the script intending to play the role himself. Studio execs were apparently nervous over Pryor's reputation as a racy comedian and thought Cleavon would be a safer choice.
He was a talented Shakespearean but was forced at the time to accept comedy parts when few black actors were considered for such important and serious roles. His passion remained for the classics, and he returned frequently to play such parts.

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