Classic Video Showplace

Roy Glenn (Part 2)

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.


 As part of Astound Broadband’s celebration of Black History Month, we here at the “Showplace” are putting the spotlight on African American actors who excelled not just on the big and small screens but those who also inspired change with their courage and perseverance.


Roy Glenn was a victim of the stereotypical casting of African-Americans over the first 20 years of his career as an actor and entertainer in the radio, television and film industries.  But in the early 1950s, the versatile performer was about to branch out when given the opportunities he deserved.


One of his larger film roles was that of a lawyer in the 1950 biopic film, The Jackie Robinson Story, the picture featuring Ruby Dee and Robinson, starring as himself.  The picture focused on Robinson’s struggle for racial equality and his perseverance to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball in the 1940s.


The following biographical information was obtained via a Bill Caldwell article in the “Joplin Globe” (first appearing May 26th, 2018).


In 1951 he broke into television – cast in The Amos ‘n Andy Show in multiple roles for 16 episodes over a four-year period. Glenn appeared as an FBI agent on the show — this at a time when there were no black FBI agents in America. His bass-baritone voice gave him an edge on playing authority figures. CBS kept the show for four years, finally pulling it in 1955 after many complaints of racial stereotypes and biases on the program.


In 1954, Otto Preminger wanted to put together Oscar Hammerstein’s version of the opera “Carmen” as an all-black contemporary film. He produced the film with Glenn, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy in 1954. Dandridge was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Glenn kept busy with ongoing roles in television series. In 1957, he appeared on 11 different shows. He was everything from a dock worker to a police detective to a gravedigger to a bartender to a minister to a stonemason to a cowpoke on Rawhide. He had a recurring role on The Jack Benny Program over a 10-year period. It was in the 1960s that he landed roles that gained him increased recognition, including the 1961 classic, A Raisin in the Sun.

His highest-profile role was in 1967 when he portrayed Sidney Poitier’s father in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (which also featured Louis Gossett Jr. in his film debut).  The conflicting viewpoints between the two generations were shown point blank in an argument between the father and son. Glenn’s character made the pointed comment that his son’s interracial marriage would be a crime in at least 16 states were it known.        

He also appeared on Broadway in the play Golden Boy, which starred Sammy Davis Jr. The play, another boxing story, ran for 568 performances over two years from 1964 to 1966. He was described as a “Hollywood big name” along with Lola Falana, Louis Gossett Jr. and Ben Vereen by one reviewer.   It was in 1970 that Glenn was elected the first black national officer in the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, an actors union contemporary with the Screen Actors Guild. The union voted him recording secretary during its 1970 convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

While Glenn never had a starring role in any television show, he continued to land significant roles on the big screen in classic films like St. Louis Blues, The Sound and the Fury, I Love You, Alice B. Tokias! (1968), The Great White Hope (1970) and in the popular sequel, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971).


Other prominent films he played in during the 1950s and 60s include The Royal African Rifles, The Golden Idol, Riot in Cell Block 11, The Raid, Carmen Jones, A Man Called Adam, Hang ‘Em High and Finian’s Rainbow.


In all, Glenn played in over 50 motion pictures.


Glenn once again played a lawyer in Escape, a role that turned out to be his final film role.


Glenn died of a heart attack brought on by cardiovascular disease in his home in Las Angeles, California.  He left behind three children and his wife of over twenty years, Francis.


He was just 56 years young.


Be sure to tune in to see Roy Glenn’s performances in classic films like The Jackie Robinson Story, and more, airing regularly on the Astound Broadband TV Network.


To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.