Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dick Anthony Williams, RIP

With everything going on this week, the death of venerable character actor Dick Anthony Williams on Feb 15 kind of slipped under the radar. Had it not been for the post on the page of FB friend, actor Erik Todd Dellums, I probably would have missed it entirely.

The Chicago-born actor and two-time Tony nominee died at 73. At 6' 7" and possessing a coolly-slung baritone, Williams played judges, district attorneys, radicals, preachers, cops, criminals, doctors, federal agents throughout a 40 year film career. He was in Dog Day Afternoon, Edward Sissorhands and Mo Better Blues.

But Williams was in The Shield, The Jerk, The Deep, The X-Files, The Rapture, The Star Chamber, The Omen III, The Jeffersons, The Deep, The Anderson Tapes, The Lost Man.He was in episodes of Starsky & Hutch, Nanny & the Professor,  Law & Order, Ten Speed & Brown Shoe, Cagney & Lacey.

He played his characters cool, smart and with a knowing side-smile; he could show them thinking, rather than just reacting. And although he was rarely the star of any of these vehicles--which is a sin in its own right--Williams could be counted on to deliver an unforgettable performance. Even as a pimp Pretty Tony in The Mack, the brother could bring the heat:

Here is an early role in the seldom-seen 1968 movie Up Tight! In an amazing scene that features a constellation of black talented actors including Raymond St. Jacques, Frank Silvera, Janet MacLachlin, Williams--sitting the almost the farthest from the camera, no less--is just devastating:
I wish I could find a clip to show you, but Williams' Malcolm X in the 1989 American Playhouse broadcast of The Meeting is every bit as good as Denzel Washington's more widely seen portrayal in Malcolm X.


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