• • • • •
TODAY in Black Film History
Born , 1895 Cairo, IL
Died , 1969 (age 73) Hollywood, CA ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
With his striking looks and powerful voice, made a name for himself on Broadway, in films, and later in television. Following graduation from medical school, Ingram was “discovered” on a Hollywood street corner by the casting director for an early silent film, Tarzan of the Apes (1918). In it, he made his (uncredited) screen debut and took on subsequent small film roles, usually as an African native or slave.
Ingram’s break came in The Green Pastures (1936), the biblical black folktale in which he played three roles including that of De Lawd, Adam, and Hezdrel. He won further praise playing Jim (opposite Mickey Rooney) in The Adv of Huckleberry Finn (1939). In what is probably his best-remembered performance, Ingram was the towering-sized Genie of the Lamp in the British production (1940), a fantasy directed by Michael Powell.
Ingram struggled to avoid stereotypes and refused to take demeaning roles. He was Ronald Colman’s dignified valet in The Talk of the Town (1942). In Sahara (1943), a War film starring Humphrey Bogart, he plays a heroic sergeant sacrificing his life for the troops. The same year, Ingram played the mischievous Lucifer, Jr., emissary from Hades, sent to scheme the downfall of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson in Cabin in the Sky (1943). Ingram’s career suffered through some legal issues. By the decade's end he resumed acting with substantial roles as Joe Lucasta, father of Eartha Kitt in Anna Lucasta (1958); Uncle Felix, a noble farmhand in God’s Little Acre (1958); and Teetot, a mentor to country singer Hank Williams in the biopic, Your Cheatin’ Heart (1964). Ingram kept busy on TV in such shows as Daktari, I Spy, Gunsmoke, and The Bill Cosby Show until he died in 1969. -