Melvin Van Peebles, a revolutionary actor, screenwriter, director and producer who was an imposing icon of black cinema and cinema in general, has passed away. He was 89 years old.
Van Peebles was born in Chicago in 1932 and made his debut directing short films. He switched to feature films with the years 1967 The story of a three-day pass, who signaled his intention to explore issues of racism and diversity with his story of a black GI who demoted after daring to have a romance with a white store clerk in Paris.
He followed this with the 1970s Watermelon man, which starred Godfrey Cambridge as a white fanatic who wakes up one morning to find he is black. The fuzzy areaThe morality-style game explored what it was like to be black in America at the time.
In terms of directing, however, Van Peebles will remain best known for the years 1971. Sweet Sweetback song Baadasssss, a historic blaxploitation film that had limited release, mixed critical response, but began to garner serious word of mouth and ended up becoming the highest-grossing independent film at the time.
The writer and director was also notable for his stage work, creating the book, music and lyrics for several hit Broadway shows, winning two Tony Awards in the process. He has also appeared on camera numerous times, most notably in his son Mario’s films. In addition to his work on screen and on stage, he was also a novelist and composer.
One of Van Peebles’ notable TV projects was the 1981 miniseries Sophisticated gentlemen, which starred a young Alfre Woodard and Mario.
It was his son who issued a statement on Van Peebles’ legacy: “Daddy knew black pictures matter,” he wrote. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth?” We want to be the success that we see, so we need to see ourselves free. True liberation did not mean emulating the mentality of the colonizer. It meant appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all. “