Geoffrey Holder, whose long career as an actor and dancer included an appearance as a James Bond villain, has died at 84, according to AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES.
Holder played Baron Samedi, a secondary foe for Bond in 1973’s Live And Let Die. At times, Holder’s Samedi drew attention from Roger Moore’s Bond (the actor’s first outing in the role) and Yaphet Kotto as the film’s primary villain, Dr. Kananga.
The movie, loosely based on Ian Fleming’s second 007 novel, is the only film in the Eon Production series include a supernatural element. Solitaire (Jane Seymour) has the ability to see into the future until she loses her virginity to Bond. As Steven Jay Rubin wrote in The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia, Baron Samedi “may or not be a supernatural being.”
With his imposing laugh, sinister manner and often outlandish costumes, Holder’s Baron Samedi certainly stands out in the film.
Late in the movie, it would seem Baron Samedi is merely a man taking advantage of the fear generated by voodoo. Bond punches Samedi into a casket full of deadly snakes. He cries out in agony as he seems to expire.
Yet, at the very conclusion of the movie, Baron Samedi is sitting on the front of the train Bond and Solitaire are taking to New York. His long laugh is the last thing the audience hears before the end titles version of the Paul and Linda McCartney title song.
As James Chapman wrote in 2000’s Licence to Thrill:
Inexplicable in narrative terms, this is the only explicitly supernatural moment in the Bond series which elsewhere, for all its implausibility, is insistent on rationality.
Besides acting in the film, Holder also worked behind the camera as Live And Let Die’s choreographer, arranging dances that were supposed to be part of voodoo ceremonies.
The Times described Holder thusly:
Geoffrey Holder, the dancer, choreographer, actor, composer, designer and painter who used his manifold talents to infuse the arts with the flavor of his native West Indies and to put a singular stamp on the American cultural scene, not least with his outsize personality, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 84.
Few cultural figures of the last half of the 20th century were as multifaceted as Mr. Holder, and few had a public presence as unmistakable as his, with his gleaming pate atop a 6-foot-6 frame, full-bodied laugh and bassoon of a voice laced with the lilting cadences of the Caribbean.
The obituary describes Holder’s career in detail, including a 1975 Tony Award, how he gained fame in the 1970s and ’80s for 7-Up and other highlights.
Here’s a sample of an oral history interview with Holder about his life and career:
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