From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fare the well, Ossie. We'll miss you.

One of the great actors who passed during my hiatus from blogging was Ossie Davis. Ossie passed on February 4th, filming a movie in Tampa.

Ossie had been in film for well over 50 years, and was doing stage work before that as well as during. Along with his wife of 57 years Ruby Dee, the two of them made a name for themselves not only as actors, but as activists as well. They were both very active in the Civil Rights movements of the 60's. Ossie gave the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral. I remember when I saw the film Malcolm X last year, hearing Davis' voice reading the eulogy gave the film added poignancy as he summed up all the ways in which Malcolm's life defied easy categorization.

Most recently, I saw Davis in Bubba Ho-Tep, a movie that should have been too absurd for words seven different ways if you know the basic premise. Davis plays a black man in a nursing home who's convinced he's really JFK. There's a point where he's having a conversation with another of the home's residents (Bruce Campbell, playing a man who may be Elvis, or just thinks he is), and they have the following exchange:

Elvis: No offense, Jack, but President Kennedy was a white man.
JFK: They dyed me this color! That's how clever they are!

I remember seeing that scene in the trailer and later in the actual movie, and thinking to myself that only Ossie Davis would have the strength and dignity to pull that line off and make you think he's 100% convinced he's telling the truth. After the movie, I recall telling Brea "When I grow up, I want to be Ossie Davis." The man was that cool, that dignified, that charismatic to me.

I still hope I get there some day. Fare thee well Ossie. We miss you already. Keep watching over Ruby. You know she'll miss you every day.