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Actor Clarence Williams III (1939-2021)


jakeem
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Clarence Williams III, the stage-trained performer who rose to fame in the late 1960s as one-third of TV's youthful "The Mod Squad," has died at the age of 81. He died Friday in Los Angeles of colon cancer.

The veteran actor's career spanned more than  five decades in theater, television and film.

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In 1965, Williams and co-star Carolan Daniels received Tony nominations for their performances in a Broadway production of playwright William Hanley's "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. Williams was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. Daniels received her nod for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. 

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From 1967 to 1984, Williams was married to the actress Gloria Foster, who probably is best remembered for her performances as The Oracle in the first two installments of "The Matrix" trilogy. They remained friendly after their divorce. When she died of diabetes complications at the age of 67 on September 29, 2001, it was he who announced it.

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In 1968, Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton and Williams starred in ABC's "The Mod Squad," one of network television's first attempts at relevancy for younger viewers. Pete Cochran (Cole), Julie Barnes (Lipton) and the magnificently Afroed Lincoln "Linc" Hayes (Williams) -- all survivors of difficult pasts -- were undercover police officers recruited by Captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews). During the drama series' five-season run, the unit (described in promos as "One White, one Black, one blonde") infiltrated schools and youth groups, and took down adult criminals who preyed on young people. The program, whose co-producers included Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas, received a 1970  Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Dramatic Series.

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During Season 1 of "The Mod Squad," Foster guest starred as Janny Willis, a blind woman who receives protection from the undercover cops after she's attacked. The episode, titled "A Hint of Darkness, a Hint of Light," first aired on February 11, 1969. Foster reprised the role of Janny in the Season 2 episode "Return to Darkness, Return to Light" (original air date: March 17, 1970).

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In "Purple Rain,"  Prince's 1984 semi-autobiographical screen musical/drama, Williams played the abusive father of the rock star's character -- The Kid. Olga Karlatos appeared as The Kid's mother. "Purple Rain" was the year's 10th highest-grossing film.

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John Frankenheimer's gritty 1986 drama "52 Pick-Up" featured Williams as Bobby Shy, a skeevy and menacing member of a blackmail operation that threatened the security of an L.A. businessman (Roy Scheider). Also starring in the film: Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover and Kelly Preston. The movie's screenplay was adapted by Elmore Leonard from his 1974 novel.

52 Pick-Up (1986) - IMDb

Keenen Ivory Wayans' 1988 comedy “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” which lampooned blaxploitation films of the '70s, co-starred Williams as the longtime Black Panther member, Kalinga. Eve Plumb, the erstwhile Jan Brady of TV's "The Brady Bunch," appeared as Kalinga' wife.

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In 1990, Williams was reunited briefly with Lipton on an episode of David Lynch's offbeat ABC drama series "Twin Peaks." He played FBI Agent Roger Hardy, who arrived in the  Washington town for some serious discussions with Special Agent Dale Cooper (series star Kyle MacLachlan). During his visit, Hardy stopped by the Double R Diner, owned by Norma Jennings (played by Lipton, a series regular).

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Williams starred as Mr. Simms, the creepy mortician who tells four stories in the 1995 Afro-centric horror film "Tales From the Hood." The anthology from executive producer Spike Lee and director Randy Cundieff attained a cult following after it was released for home video consumption.

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In the 1997 historical drama "Hoodlum," Laurence Fishburne (pictured at right) portrayed the Harlem crime kingpin Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson. Williams had the role of Bub Hewlett, the right-hand man of gangster Dutch Schultz (played by Tim Roth). Williams would later portray Johnson in the 2007 film "American Gangster," which starred Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Clarence Williams III. - Bilder - Star - TV SPIELFILM

In the 2000s, Williams co-starred in 10 installments of The Hallmark Channel's "Mystery Woman" series of made-for-television films. He co-starred with Kellie Martin, who played the bookstore owner-turned-sleuth Samantha Kinsey. Williams appeared as Philby, the bookstore's caretaker. 

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Mod Squad broke new ground. Clarence Williams III broke new ground. You can draw a direct line from Clarence Williams III to both Denzel & Idris. It’s his MF moody blood running through The Kid in Purple Rain that’s the furnace of his pain & genius. Rest In Power Red heartBlack heartGreen heart, Linc.
 

 

In 1965 my HS drama class attended a matinee of Slow Dance on the Killing Ground. Afterwards, as the bus pulled away from the Plymouth Theater, we spotted the young actor who had electrified us for 2 1/2 hours, walking down the street
 
Clarence Williams III was terrific on the stage, and even cooler out in the world that day. It made the whole idea of being a stage actor more magical somehow. RIP. 
 

 

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I got to work with Clarence Williams III on my second TV movie, THE LOVE BUG, back in 1995. I had grown up watching him as Linc in THE MOD SQUAD and thought he was the epitome of cool. Turns out he was. Rest In Peace, Clarence.
 
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When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me. From the Mod Squad, to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill, he always performed with dynamic energy. Rest in power, king Raised fist
 
 
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35 minutes ago, jakeem said:

 

 

From 1967 to 1884, Williams was married to the actress Gloria Foster, who probably is best remembered for her performances as The Oracle in the first two installments of "The Matrix" trilogy.

Going back in time 83 years is quite the trick. 

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