All posts tagged activists

 I was watching “Good Neighbor Sam” (1964) starring Jack Lemon, when I spotted a man I’d seen in several films but I didn’t know his name. He played the Judge, a dignified roles uncredited along with several others in the film.   I also remembered seeing his photo among Frances’s photos. I looked him up on IMDB.  Joel Fluellen was born in Monroe, Louisiana (1907) and worked on the New York stage before coming out to Los Angeles. His first screen credit was in “Without Reservation” his last was in “Casey’s Shadow.”

Initially he was reluctant to appear in films due to the limited range of roles available to African Americans. Nonetheless, his film and TV career is extensive.  He appeared in films such as The Jackie Robinson Story(1950) in which he played Mack Robinson; and Porgy and Bess(1959) Robbins; The Learning Tree(1969) Uncle Rob; Thomas and Bushrod(1974) Nathaniel;  and many others in which he played minor roles such as a cabby, a waiter, a porter some of which are uncredited.

Behind the scenes he was active in trying to change stereotypical roles of Blacks in Hollywood, lobbying hard for better parts and working conditions for his fellow African American performers.  In the 1940’s and 50’s, he submitted numerous resolutions urging the Screen Actors Union to use their power to oppose discrimination against Black actors.  HIs proposals were turned down.  Several years later, SAG formed the Ethnic Equal Opportunity Committee. In 1985 along with Frances, he received the first Paul Robeson Pioneer award from the Black American Cinema Society.

On February 2, 1990, Fluellen committed suicide in his home in Los Angeles

Filmography – Partial list

1950 – The Jackie Robinson Story – Mack Robinson

1959 – Porgy and Bess – Robbins

1961 – A Raisin in the Sun – Bobo

1964 – Good Neighbor Sam – Judge (uncredited)

1966 – The Chase – Lester Johnson

1969 – The Learning Tree – Uncle Rob

1970 – The Great White Hope – Tick

1976 – Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings  – Mr. Holland

1979 – Roots, The Next Generation – State Man

TV series in which he appeared included:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents –

Dick Van Dyke Show

Death Valley Days- Arthur

Dr. Ben Casey

Hill Street Blues