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Paul Winfield Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (18) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 22 May 1939Los Angeles, California, USA
Date of Death 7 March 2004Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NamePaul Edward Winfield
Height 6' 1½" (1.87 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Signifying intelligence, eloquence, versatility and quiet intensity, one of the more important, critically-acclaimed black actors to gain a Hollywood foothold in the 1970s was Paul Winfield. Born in 1939 in Portland, Oregon, he lived there in his early years before moving with his family to Los Angeles' Watts district. He showed early promise as a student at Manual Arts High School, earning distinction with several performance awards. As a senior, he earned his first professional acting job and extended his theatrical education with a two-year scholarship to the University of Portland in Oregon. Subsequent scholarships led to his studies at Stanford and Los Angeles City College, among other colleges. He left UCLA just six credits short of his Bachelor's degree.

Paul's first big break came in 1964 when actor/director Burgess Meredith gave him a role in Le Roi Jones' controversial one-act play "The Dutchman and the Toilet". Director Meredith cast him again four years in "The Latent Heterosexual" with Zero Mostel. Although he won a contract at Columbia Pictures in 1966 and built up his on-camera career with a succession of television credits, he continued to focus on the legitimate stage. A member of the Stanford Repertory Theatre, he concentrated on both classic and contemporary plays. In 1969, Paul joined the Inner City Cultural Center Theatre in Los Angeles for two years, which offered a drama program for high school students.

In the late 1960s, Paul redirected himself back to performing on television and in films with guest work in more than 40 series on the small screen, including a boyfriend role on the first season of the landmark black sitcom Julia (1968) starring Diahann Carroll. In films, he was given a featured role in the Sidney Poitier starrer The Lost Man (1969), and earned comparable roles in R.P.M. (1970) and Brother John (1971) before major stardom occurred. 1972 proved to be a banner year for Paul after winning the male lead opposite Cicely Tyson in the touching classic film Sounder (1972). His towering performance as a sharecropper who is imprisoned and tortured for stealing a ham for his impoverished family earned him an Oscar nomination for "Best Actor" -- the third black actor (Sidney Poitier and James Earl Jones preceded him) to receive such an honor at the time.

From there a host of films and quality television roles began arriving on his doorstep. In minimovies, Paul portrayed various historical/entertainment giants including Thurgood Marshall, Don King and baseball's Roy Campanella, and was Emmy-nominated for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in King (1978) with Sounder co-star Cicely Tyson as wife Coretta. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he earned solid distinction in such prestige projects as Backstairs at the White House (1979), Roots: The Next Generations (1979) (another Emmy nomination), The Sophisticated Gents (1981), The Blue and the Gray (1982), Sister, Sister (1982), James Baldwin's American Playhouse: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1985), Under Siege (1986) and The Women of Brewster Place (1989). Although the big screen did not offer the same consistent quality following his breakthrough with Sounder, he nevertheless turned in strong roles in Conrack (1974), Huckleberry Finn (1974), A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich (1978) (again with Ms. Tyson), Damnation Alley (1977), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and White Dog (1982).

Paul never achieved the promise of a Sidney Poitier-like stardom and his roles diminished in size. Relegated to character roles, he still appeared in such quality television as Breathing Lessons (1994), although he was not the major focus. After two nominations, he finally won the Emmy for a guest performance as a judge on Picket Fences (1992). Paul's showier work at this period of time included the film Catfish in Black Bean Sauce (1999) and a surprise cross-dressing cameo as Aunt Matilda in Relax... It's Just Sex (1998). On stage, he graced such productions as "Richard III" (at New York's Lincoln Center Theatre), "Othello", "The Merry Wives of Windsor", "The Seagull", "A Few Good Men", "Happy Endings" and "Checkmates", which became his sole Broadway credit. Paul also served as Artist in Residence at the University of Hawaii and subsequently at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In his final years, he narrated the A&E crime series City Confidential (1998), appeared as a teacher in a television adaptation of his earlier success Sounder (2003), and enjoyed a recurring role as Sam for many years on the series Touched by an Angel (1994).

Suffering from obesity and diabetes in later life, Paul Winfield passed away from a heart attack at age 64 in 2004, and was survived by a sister, Patricia. His longtime companion of 30 years, set designer and architect Charles Gillan Jr. predeceased him by two years.

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

Trivia (18)

(March 5, 2002) His companion of 30 years, set designer and architect Charles Gillan Jr., has died of a rare bone disease in Los Angeles, California.
Was a dog breeder in California. Bred pugs at his home.
Won an Emmy Award in 1995 for his portrayal of Judge Harold Nance on the drama series Picket Fences (1992).
There were originally more scenes of his character, Lt. Ted Traxler, in The Terminator (1984), that were cut to keep the film's pace moving but are now available on the special edition DVD from MGM. There were scenes that showed him and his partner-in-crime, played by Lance Henriksen, taking part in the chase sequence that ensues after the Tech Noir shoot out. The last two scenes took place in the police station that revealed that Traxler believed Kyle Reese, played by Michael Biehn, to be telling the truth--one taking place after the questioning of Reese and one where Reese and Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, are about to escape from the police station during the Terminator's, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, siege where Traxler gave Reese his gun and car keys.
Cousin of actor William Marshall, also known as Blacula (1972).
Survived by cousins Tariq Marshall, Gina Loring and Claude Marshall.
While at a dog show in Denver, Colorado in the late 1990s, Winfield fell into a diabetic coma and required three weeks of hospitalization.
Winfield did not play an active role in the gay rights movement. His good friend actor-producer Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen in Adventures of Superman (1952)) described him as "openly gay in his life if not in the media". Like many actors of his generation he concealed his homosexuality for fear of losing employment. Larson stated that Winfield had been distraught in his final years due to his longtime partner's death in 2002.
His mother, Lois Beatrice Edwards, was a union organizer in the garment industry; his stepfather, Clarence Winfield, was a construction worker.
Received the NAACP Image Award for Best Actor and inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
In August 2000, Winfield appeared with John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra at Tanglewood on Parade, as narrator of "The Unfinished Journey".
Winfield has been honored by Cord, the Black Publishers of America, the National Association of Media Women, the California Federation of Black Leadership, and Black Child Development Institution of Washington, D.C.
Was first impacted by the film Home of the Brave (1949), which starred African-American actor James Edwards in a leading role, not a typical supporting role as a servant.
Gifted at playing the violin and cello, he was given a scholarship to Yale University on these merits but turned the scholarship down.
His Sounder (1972) on-screen leading lady, Cicely Tyson, also became his off-screen paramour. The two lived together for 18 months.
Bred and showed black pug dogs for several decades until his diabetes forced him to stop.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 579-581. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Following his death, he was interred with Charles Gillan Jr. at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles, California.

Personal Quotes (4)

I was given a lot of prestige as a distinguished black actor but very little power. They give prestige out by the buckets, but they give power by the teaspoon, just enough to stroke your ego.
Since I am not particularly pretty and I can't sing or dance, I started off in television with a lot of bit parts either as a black activist or some type of psychopathic heavy.
My whole philosophy is if you're going to do something enjoy it -- even if it's a part that's serious. I guess it's the irrepressible comedian in me. Although I must say I don't enjoy watching my work. I have tapes and tapes of things I've done that I keep meaning to watch, but I never seem to get around to them. It's just not something I do, sitting around watching my old movies and saying, "Gee, look at how thin I was then.".
[on Sounder (1972)] The love and devotion the Lee family expresses is what it is all about. This is the real black experience. [In most back films] those cats don't show any humor or emotions. They just get in and out of bed.

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