Geoffrey Holder, a dancer, choreographer, an actor (famously in the James Bond film “Live and Let Die”) and a two-time Tony winner for “The Wiz” who was famous for his deep voice and hearty, enthusiastic laugh, died of complications from pneumonia on October 5 in New York. He was 84.
Despite his wide range of artistic achievements, Holder probably reached his widest audience in his role as pitchman for 7UP in commercials of the 1970s and 1980s, in which he pushed the virtues of the “un-cola.”
Holder’s film career began with 1962’s “All Night Long,” a version of “Othello” adapted to the London jazz scene.
In “Doctor Dolittle,” he played the leader of the natives on Sea-Star Island — experiencing racism while on the shoot.
Holder appeared in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask” as the Sorcerer before taking on the role of Baron Samedi in “Live and Let Die,” which had a considerable amount of Caribbean-flavored choreography.
In John Huston’s 1982 feature adaptation of “Annie,” Holder played Punjab, one of Daddy Warbucks’ bodyguards.
In 1992 Holder had a supporting role in the Eddie Murphy vehicle. In 1998 he appeared in the Claude Lelouch film “Change and Coincidence.”
Holder was born into a middle-class family artistic family in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was mentored by his older brother Boscoe Holder, who led a dance troupe, the Holder Dance Company. After Boscoe moved away, Geoffrey assumed leadership of the troupe while still in his teens in the late 1940s.
Agnes de Mille helped bring him to the U.S., where he arrived in 1954, soon making his Broadway debut in the original, Caribbean-themed musical “House of Flowers,” for which he choreographed the Banda dance number.
For a year in the mid-’50s, Holder was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. He was a performer in an all-black revival of “Waiting for Godot” in 1957, and in 1964 appeared in the musical review “Josephine Baker.”
For original musical “The Wiz” in 1975, he was both the director and the costume designer, winning Tonys for each.For original 1978 musical “Timbuktu!,” Holder was director, choreographer, costume designer and even the illustrated the Playbill cover.
Holder was director and costume designer for the 1984 revival of “The Wiz,” and he did the staging for a 1993 concert featuring the Boys’ Choir of Harlem and Friends.
He is survived by his wife, Carmen de Lavallade, and their son, Leo.