Roscoe Lee Browne

Actor, Director, Writer
With his commanding, mellifluous voice, actor of stage, film and television, Roscoe Lee Browne could easily have made a living as a dignified announcer and narrator. An entire generation of audiences would remember his ... Read more »
Born: 05/01/1925 in Woodbury, New Jersey, USA

Filmography

Actor (88)

Duck Souffle 2014 (Movie)

(Actor)

Sweet Deadly Dreams 2014 (Movie)

(Actor)

A Side Order of Life 2007 (Tv Show)

Actor

Epic Movie 2007 (Movie)

Narrator (Actor)

Smiley Face 2007 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties 2006 (Movie)

Narrator (Actor)

Will & Grace 2004 (Tv Show)

Actor

Law & Order 1992, 2003 (Tv Show)

Actor

10th Annual Trumpet Awards 2001 - 2002 (TV Show)

Actor

The Shield 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Treasure Planet 2002 (Movie)

Voice of Mr. Arrow (Actor)

Hamlet 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Hope Island 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Morgan's Ferry 2000 (Movie)

Pebo (Actor)

ER 1999 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Judas Kiss 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

The Premonition 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

A Different World 1987 - 1989, 1991 - 1992, 1994 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

Cosby 1996 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

EZ Streets 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Kirk 1996 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

Live Free and Die 1997 (Movie)

(Actor)

SeaQuest DSV 1987 - 1989, 1991 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

The John Larroquette Show 1994 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

Crosstown 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Dear God 1996 (Movie)

Idris Abraham (Actor)

Forest Warrior 1996 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Pompatus of Love 1996 (Movie)

Leonard Folder (Actor)

Babe 1995 (Movie)

Narration (Narrator)

Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X 1995 (Movie)

Narration (Narrator)

Last Summer in the Hamptons 1995 (Movie)

Freddy (Actor)

Sweet Justice 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Naked in New York 1994 (Movie)

Mr Reid (Actor)

Spider-Man 1994 (TV Show)

Voice

Noel 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Voice

Songs of Freedom 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

The Beast 1992 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Mambo Kings 1992 (Movie)

Fernando Perez (Actor)

Dark Water 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Voice

Eddie Presley 1991 (Movie)

Doc (Actor)

Open Window 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Moon 44 1990 (Movie)

Chairman (Actor)

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Ring Raiders 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Voice

The Glass Ceiling 1990 (Movie)

(Actor)

Gordon Parks: Moments Without Proper Names 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Oliver & Company 1988 (Movie)

of Francis (Voice)

Visionaries 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Voice

John Grin's Christmas 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

The 19th Annual NAACP Image Awards 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

The Cosby Show 1986 - 1987 (Tv Show)

Actor

Jumpin' Jack Flash 1986 (Movie)

Archer Lincoln (Actor)

Legal Eagles 1986 (Movie)

Judge Dawkins (Actor)

James A. Michener's "Space" 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

High Five 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

Soap 1977 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Nothing Personal 1980 (Movie)

Mr Paxton (Actor)

Miss Winslow and Son 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Actor

McCoy 1975 - 1976 (TV Show)

Actor

Twilight's Last Gleaming 1976 (Movie)

James Forrest (Actor)

Logan's Run 1975 (Movie)

Box (Actor)

Uptown Saturday Night 1974 (Movie)

Congressman Lincoln (Actor)

The World's Greatest Athlete 1973 (Movie)

Gazenga (Actor)

Cisco Pike 1972 (Movie)

Music Store Operator (Actor)

Super Fly T.N.T. 1972 (Movie)

Dr Lamine Sonko (Actor)

The Cowboys 1970 (Movie)

Cook (Actor)

The Liberation of L.B. Jones 1970 (Movie)

Lord Byron Jones (Actor)

The Ra Expeditions 1970 (Movie)

Narration (Narrator)

Topaz 1969 (Movie)

Philippe Dubois (Actor)

Uptight 1968 (Movie)

Clarence (Actor)

The Comedians 1967 (Movie)

Petit Pierre (Actor)

Black Like Me 1964 (Movie)

Christopher (Actor)

The Connection 1962 (Movie)

J J Burden (Actor)

Dr. Scorpion (TV Show)

Actor

Hidden Blessings (TV Show)

Actor

July '64 (TV Show)

Narrator

King (TV Show)

Actor

Lady in a Corner (TV Show)

Actor

Stuck With Each Other (TV Show)

Actor

The Big Ripoff (TV Show)

Actor

You Must Remember This (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

With his commanding, mellifluous voice, actor of stage, film and television, Roscoe Lee Browne could easily have made a living as a dignified announcer and narrator. An entire generation of audiences would remember his touching narration of the feature film, "Babe," but his sly comic timing brought him a wealth of comedic roles as well, including the acerbic butler Saunders on the edgy sitcom, "Soap" and the sly Professor Foster on the seminal eighties sitcom, "The Cosby Show." Browne was also recognized for advancing the presence of African-Americans on the stage, with roles in the New York Shakespeare Festival as early as 1956. A well-rounded man, he was also an instructor of literature and French, as well as a gifted athlete, winning the 1951 world championship in the 800-yard run. An inspiration to countless actors over the decades, this true Renaissance man elevated all projects he was involved in, whether big and small.

Born on May 2, 1925, this son of a Baptist minister was raised in Woodbury, NJ, where he was a voracious reader and a promising athlete. After a stint in the U.S. Army, Browne graduated in 1946 from the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he ran track. He would go on to do his post-graduate studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, at Columbia University in New York City, and at the University of Florence in Italy, before returning to his alma mater to instruct courses in comparative literature and French. Browne also continued to pursue athletics, where he excelled at track and field. He placed first in the Amateur Athletics Union 1000-yard run in 1949, as well as won the 880-yard run in the 1952 Millrose Games.

His athletic achievements won him wide exposure via news coverage - enough so, that he was offered a sales representative position by a wine seller. Browne took the job, but was disappointed when he came to the realization that he was selling alcohol to bars in Harlem. A short time later, in 1956, he made the abrupt decision at age 45 to leave his job and pursue a full-time career as an actor. He landed his first role soon thereafter, in a production of "Julius Caesar" in the first season of the New York Shakespeare Festival. Only a few years later, Browne went on to play the lead in an off-Broadway production of playwright Jean Genet's play "The Blacks," a scathing commentary on the devastating effects of colonialism.

Browne's talents and accomplishments did not go unnoticed by observers of African-Americans in theater. In 1963, Browne was the narrator for the Edward Albee play, "The Ballad of the Sad Café," with The New York Times dropping the provocative morsel that Browne's understudy happened to be Caucasian. In 1966, he directed his first stage production of "A Hand is on the Other Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music," which starred Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones, among others.

After conquering the stage, Browne made his silver screen debut with a small role in "The Connection" (1961), a drama about a group of jazz musicians anxiously awaiting their heroine connection. After parts in such films as "Terror in the City" (1964) and "The Comedians" (1967), he played a spy posing as a flower shop owner in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Topaz" (1969), as well as a cook to John Wayne and his men in the western, "The Cowboys" (1972).

Thanks to his rich voice and an overall dignified, sometimes imperious presence, Browne was in demand for guest-starring roles on television in both dramas and comedies. He landed his first regular stint on "That Was the Week That Was," (NBC, 1964-65), and throughout the 1960s, appeared on such shows as "Mannix," (CBS, 1967-1975) "The Invaders" (ABC, 1967-68), "The Outcasts" (ABC, 1968-69) and "The Name of the Game" (NBC, 1968-1971).

In the 1970s, Browne made the requisite appearances in blaxploitation movies such as "Superfly" (1972) and "Superfly TNT" (1973). But it was on television during that decade, that the multi-faceted actor made his first real mark, guesting on dramas such as 'The Streets of San Francisco" (ABC, 1972-77) and sitcoms such as "Sanford & Son" (NBC, 1972-77), "Good Times" (CBS, 1974-79) and "Barney Miller" (ABC, 1975-1982) - the latter of which, was where he earned his first Emmy nomination. In a highly memorable role on "All in the Family," (CBS, 1971-79), he played an arrogant black lawyer who gets the better of bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) while the two are trapped in an elevator. In a later episode he played the similar role of an educated black man - basically, Bunker's worst nightmare - who again shows him up. Browne had made such an impression going toe-to-toe with O'Connor - as well as with all his other television roles - that when actor Robert Guillaume's character of Benson was spun off the quirky series, "Soap" (ABC, 1977-1981) into his own self-titled show, Browne replaced him as the character of Saunders, an equally acerbic butler to the wacky Tate family on the controversial sitcom.

Browne continued to be sought out for voice-over work throughout his career, narrating the 1977 record album, The Story of Star Wars and recording a number of poetry readings and books on tape. In fact, Browne and actor Anthony Zerbe spent decades traveling the country in the poetry show, "Behind the Broken Words." But it was his television work that paid the bills. After numerous guest appearances on such shows as "Hart to Hart" (ABC, 1979-1984) and "Magnum P.I." (CBS, 1980-88) - and a regular role on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-90) - Browne made yet another memorable performance on "The Cosby Show," (NBC, 1984-92), starring as Dr. Barnabus Foster, the college professor of Cosby's Dr. Cliff Huxtable. Most memorable was the 1986 episode, "The Card Game," during which he is called in as a last-minute replacement for a game of hysterically corrupt game of pinochle. Not surprisingly, the game descends into an embarrassment of cheating and signals between the regulars. Browne was so effective sparring with Cosby, that he won an Emmy for the role, reprising it on another "Cosby" episode as well as several episodes of the "Cosby" spin-off, "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-93).

Browne's inimitable baritone voice led to more voiceover work, especially in animation, where he voiced characters on "Batman: The Animated Series" (Fox, 1992-95) and "Spider-Man" (Fox Kids, 1994-98). But it was when he lent his vocal talents to a certain film starring a little pink piggy, cinematic magic happened. As the narrator of the hit family film, "Babe" (1995), his line readings ventured from gentle to firm, bringing a sense of grand elegance to the now-classic tale of an orphaned pig struggling to take the place of a sheep dog on a farm. So effective were his readings, that Browne returned for the disappointing sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City" (1998).

Even in his twilight years, Browne was as busy as ever, never showing signs of slowing down. He continued to make his presence known with guest parts on "ER," (NBC, 1994- ), "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990- ) and "The Shield" (FX, 2002- ). His last works before he passed away were, fittingly, narrations for the films, "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties," (2006) and "Epic Movie" (2007). To the surprise of many who may not have known his name, but surely knew his face and that magnificent voice, Browne passed away in Los Angeles after succumbing to cancer on April 11, 2007.

Relationships

Sylvanus Browne

Father

Lovie Lee

Mother

EDUCATION

Lincoln University

Chester County , Pennsylvania 1946
Occasionally returned to Lincoln University between 1946 to 1952 to instruct classes in comparative literature, French and English

University of Florence

Graduate studies

Middlebury College

Graduate studies

Columbia University

New York , New York
Graduate studies

Milestones

2007

Narrated "Epic Movie," a comedic satire of films

2004

Guest-starred on an episode of "Will and Grace" (NBC)

2000

Portrayed Polonius in Campbell Scott's version of "Hamlet" for the Odyssey TV network

1995

Narrated hit movie "Babe"

1992

Starred on Broadway in "Two Trains Running" by August Wilson; nominated for a Tony Award

1988

Played recurring role on CBS primetime soap "Falcon Crest"

1986

Won an Emmy for a guest role as Professor Foster on "The Cosby Show" (NBC)

1979

Replaced Robert Guillaume as the butler on the ABC sitcom "Soap"

1979

Played the neighbor in the CBS TV series "Miss Winslow and Son"

1978

Made TV-movie debut, "Dr. Scorpion"

1975

Co-starred in TV series "McCoy" (NBC)

1972

Had a memorable guest role as a snobbish black lawyer trapped in an elevator with bigot Archie Bunker in an episode of "All in the Family" (CBS)

1968

Portrayed a spy in the Alfred Hitchcock feature "Topaz"

1966

Made stage directing debut, "A Hand is On the Gate: An Evening of Negro Poetry and Folk Music" starring Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones; also co-starred and wrote

1965

Reprised stage role in TV version of "Benito Cereno"

1963

Played Babu in "Benito Cereno" in New York

1962

Feature acting debut, "The Connection"

1961

Starred in an English-language version of Jean Genet’s play "The Blacks"

1956

Made stage acting debut in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "Julius Caesar"

1952

Worked as national sales representative for Shenley Import Corp.

Starred in August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" in Los Angeles

Had featured role in the musical "My One and Only"

Was member of Long Wharf Theatre Company in New Haven, CT

Taught French and comparative literature at Lincoln University

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