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Roscoe Lee Browne (May 2, 1922 - April 11, 2007) was an American actor and director, known for his rich voice and dignified bearing. 


Early life

Roscoe Lee Browne was born on May 2, 1922 in Woodbury, New Jersey. He was the fourth son of a Baptist minister, Sylvanus S. Browne, and his wife Lovie Browne. He first attended historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he became a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1946.

During World War II, he served in Italy with Negro 92nd Infantry Division and organised the Division's track and field team.

After the war Browne undertook postgraduate work at Middlebury College, Columbia University and at the University of Florence. A middle-distance runner, he won the Amateur Athletic Union 1,000-yard national indoor championship in 1949. He occasionally returned to Lincoln University between 1946 and 1952 to teach English, French and comparative literature. Upon leaving academia he earned a living for several years selling wine for Schenley Import Corporation. In 1956, he quit his job with Schenley to become a full-time professional actor.

Acting career

When Roscoe Lee Browne was in his mid-30s, he lost his job in New York. During this time Roscoe had a lot of friends working in theater. Four of Roscoe’s women friends, who were actresses, walked over to Roscoe and told him not to worry. When these friends asked what he was planning to do, Roscoe told them, he wanted to be an actor. However, all of Roscoe’s friends tried to talk him out of it because of how many unemployed actors there were in Los Angeles. One of Roscoe’s friends then gave Roscoe a list of auditions in the hopes that after failing three or four auditions he would get discouraged and quit acting. The very first audition Roscoe went to was Shakespeare in the Park. The director, Joseph Papp, asked Roscoe how long he had been acting. Roscoe answered “about twelve hours”. To his friend’s surprise Roscoe actually got two roles, soothsayer and Pindarus in the play, Julius Caesar.

More work with the Shakespeare Festival Theater followed, and he voiced an off-screen part as camera operator, J.J. Burden, in The Connection (1961), his first movie role. In The Cowboys (19720, in a role as a camp cook, he leads a group of young cowhands avenging the death of John Wayne's character in the movie.

Browne was determined not to accept stereotyped roles that had routinely been offered to black actors. He also wanted to do more than act and narrate. In 1966, he wrote and made his directorial stage debut with A Hand On The Gate starring Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, and Moses Gunn. A lifelong bachelor who coveted his privacy, in the turbulent decades of the civil rights revolution Browne avoided participation in public protests preferring instead to be "more effective on stage with metaphor. . . than in the streets with an editorial."

His stage success brought him to the attention of producer Leland Hayward, and in 1964 he began a regular stint as a cast member on Hayward's satirical NBC-TV series That Was the Week That Was. starting in the late 1960's, Browne increasingly became a guest star on TV on both comedy and dramatic shows like Mannix, All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, The Cosby Show, A Different World, and dozens of other shows. He also was a regular on Soap where he played Saunders, the erudite butler from 1979 - 1981, replacing Robert Guillaume who went on to his own show Benson. Browne later guest starred on Benson with Gillaume. His appearances on The Cosby Show won him an Emmy Award i 1986 for his guest role as Professor Foster.

He and fellow actor Anthony Zerbe toured the United states with their poetry performance piece, Behind the Broken Words, which included readings of poetry, which included readings poetry, some of it written by Browne, as well as performances of comedy and dramatic works.

Browne found additional success performing in the plays of August Wilson, both on Broadway and the Pittsburgh Public Theater. He was described as having "a baritone voice like a sable coat", speaking the King's English with a strong mid-Atlantic accent. To someone who once said Browne sounded "too white", he replied "I'm sorry, I once had a white maid." Four years before his death, Browne narrated a series of WPA slave narratives in the HBO film, Unchained Memories (2003).


Browne died of stomach cancer in Los Angeles on April 11, 2007 at the age of 84.

He was remembered for his contributions in a New York Times contributions in a New York Times encomium by Frank Crohn, President of The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society:

"We mourn the loss of our long-time Trustee and faithful friend. He was always to be counted upon to be supportive of the aims and purposes of the Society. He filled our lives with the soft sound of poetry as only he could recite it. Now the stage could recite it. Now the stage is empty and the lights are low."





Kingpin (Spider-Carnage universe)

Kingpin (Silver Armor Spider-Man universe)

Chameleon (Disguised as Kingpin)

  • The Insidious Six
  • Battle of the Insidious Six
  • The Man Without Fear


  • During an interview Nick Jameson revealed that when not recording their lines he and Roscoe Lee Browne would quote William Shakespeare to each other.