Actor William Marshall, known for bringing the horror genre into the blaxploitation era of the 1970’s with “Blacula” and “Scream Blacula Scream,” died Wednesday June 11 in a Los Angeles rest home after suffering from Alzheimer’s. He was 78.
Born in Gary, Ind., Marshall was a member of the Actors Studio and the Neighborhood Playhouse in Gotham after spending time at NYU as an art student. In his early career, he traveled Europe performing Shakespeare to Ibsen.
In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Marshall returned to the U.S., nabbing guest roles in “Bonanza,” “Rawhide” and “Star Trek” as well as parts in films like “The Boston Strangler,” Tarzan sequels and a supporting role in “Something of Value,” starring Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier.
In 1972, Marshall starred in “Blacula” as an African prince wandering Europe, a role of his own invention, according to life partner of 42 years, Sylvia Jarricho. The sequel, “Scream Blacula Scream” boasted co-star Pam Grier.
He later won roles on TV’s “Benson” and “The Jeffersons” as well as King of Cartoons on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
Marshall reprised roles throughout his career. He played Othello in London, winning kudos as “the best Othello of our time” from the London Sunday Times and on TV’s USA in 1981.
He was also known for portraying notable African-American figures: He played Paul Robeson onstage and starred in L.A.’s PBS station KCET’s “Fredrick Douglass — Slave and Statesmen” in 1983 which he took on the road in the one-man show “Enter Fredrick Douglass,” circulating among college campuses and cultural venues for a decade.
He taught at UC Irvine and the Mufandi Institute in Watts, where he was also the director
Besides Jarrico, he is survived by three sons, and a daughter.
A summer memorial service will be announced soon.