Bahamian-born Calvin Lockhart first caught moviegoers' attention in the supercharged urban films Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and Halls of Anger (1970) before becoming a fairly steady fixture in the "blaxploitation" movies of the early-to-mid 1970s.
Born Bert Cooper to a large family in Nassau on October 18, 1934, he was raised there before moving to New York in his late teens with initial designs on becoming a civil engineer (Cooper Union School of Engineering). Dropping out after a year to pursue an acting career, Calvin worked as a carpenter and construction worker, among other odd jobs. He first studied with legendary coach Uta Hagen and then hit the New York theater boards. The story goes that he was discovered by playwright Ketti Frings while working as a taxi driver. She was so impressed with his arrogance that she cast him in her play "The Cool World" in 1960. From there Calvin drummed up interest via a bit of controversy on Broadway when he played a sailor in love with a white girl in the racially-themed "A Taste of Honey" starring Angela Lansbury.
Serious film and TV roles for black actors were scarce at that time, so Calvin moved to Europe. In Italy he owned a restaurant and formed his own theater company, serving as both actor and director. He also lived in Germany before settling in England. He starting building up film credits with minor work in such British movies as A Dandy in Aspic (1968) and Only When I Larf (1968). He made news in another racially-motivated project entitled Joanna (1968), which centered around a "mod", interracial romance with 'Genevieve Waite'.
Returning to the US with a stronger resume, he made a distinct early impression as a slick preacher bent on fraud in the hip cop flick Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and as an English teacher in the inner-city potboiler Halls of Anger (1970). He also involved himself in such black action features as Melinda (1972), Honeybaby, Honeybaby (1974) and The Baron (1977). Similar in charismatic style and intelligence to Sidney Poitier, the famed actor-director was impressed enough to cast Calvin in his broad comedy vehicles Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let's Do It Again (1975). Calvin could also play fey upon request, camping it up briefly in Myra Breckinridge (1970). During this rich period he also became an artist-in-residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford (the first black actor so honored) and appeared prestigiously in such productions as "Titus Andronicus" (1972).
Calvin's career grew lackluster, however, by the end of the decade, resorting to trivial guest parts in such TV shows as "Good Times" (1974) and "Get Christie Love!" (1974). He landed a recurring role on the nighttime soap "Dynasty" (1981) in the early '80s.
In 1974, Calvin married a woman also from the West Indies and had three children. After his career subsided, he decided to return to his homeland in the mid '90s and resettled in Nassau with his fourth wife, Jennifer Miles. There he involved himself with the Freeport Players Guild as a director. He also returned to films after a 15-year absence, completing Rain (2008/I), a movie shot in the Bahamas, shortly before he suffered a major stroke. Calvin died of complications on March 29, 2007, and his family is in the process of establishing a scholarship fund in his name for Bahamian student pursuing an acting or filmmaking career.
|Jenifer Miles||(1974 - 29 March 2007) (his death) 3 children|
Originally studied to become a civil engineer at Cooper Union in NYC.
Was the first black actor to play leads with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
After his death on 29 March, 2007, Lockhart's family announced plans to establish a scholarship fund in his name for Bahamian students who are interested in acting and filmmaking.
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