Albert Popwell, Broadway dancer turned actor who appeared in all four “Dirty Harry” films playing various thugs and whose face was captured on camera when Clint Eastwood challenged, “Go ahead, make my day,” died April 9 during open heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 72.
The New York City native enjoyed a career in entertainment that spanned six decades on the stage and film. Growing up in Harlem, he studied with dance legends Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus. He landed his first dancing role at the age of 12 in “The Pirates,” starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.
Popwell also appeared in “South Pacific,” “The Body Beautiful” and “Mr. Wonderful.” His last show on Broadway was “Golden Boy,” starring Sammy Davis Jr.
He next moved to Hollywood and landed TV roles on “Gomer Pyle” and “The Name of the Game” as well as guest starring on “Barnaby Jones,” “Streets of San Francisco,” “Sanford and Son” and “The Odd Couple.”
Popwell essayed memorable parts in WB’s “Dirty Harry” series: “Dirty Harry” (1971), ‘Magnum Force” (1973), “The Enforcer,” (1976), and “Sudden Impact” (1983), in which he played Detective Horace King.
Popwell further lent his talents to civic affairs. His concern for the advancement and nurturing of children earned him the moniker “Uncle Poppy” to youngsters of many cultures. Additionally, his work at the NAACP as a teenager continued throughout his life, and eventually he served as a judge in their “Act So Program.”
He is survived by his parents, a sister and a brother.