Roscoe Lee Browne: Dead at 81
Actor Roscoe Lee Browne, whose rich voice you no doubt recognized the moment you heard it, died Wednesday at age 81. Spokesman Alan Nierob said Browne died early Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a long battle with cancer, the AP reports.
Browne’s career included classic theater to TV cartoons, narrating the 1995 hit movie Babe as well as winning a 1965 Obie Award for playing a rebellious slave in the off-Broadway Benito Cereno. He also was a poet and a former world-class athlete.
Born to a Baptist minister in Woodbury, N.J., Browne graduated from historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he later returned to teach comparative literature and French. He also was a track star, winning the 880-yard run in the 1952 Millrose Games.
Browne was selling wine for an import company when he decided to become a full-time actor in 1956 and had roles that year in the inaugural season of the New York Shakespeare Festival in a production of Julius Caesar. In 1961, he starred in an English-language version of Jean Genet’s play The Blacks and was the narrator in a 1963 Broadway production of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.
In movies, he was a spy in the 1969 Alfred Hitchcock feature Topaz and a camp cook in 1972’s The Cowboys, which starred John Wayne.
“Some critics complained that I spoke too well to be believable” in the cook’s role, Browne told the Washington Post in 1972. “When a critic makes that remark, I think, if I had said, ‘Yassuh, boss’ to John Wayne, then the critic would have taken a shine to me.”
He had several guest spots on TV before winning an Emmy in 1986 for a guest role as Professor Foster on The Cosby Show. [Photo: Browne in 1979. AP]