Obituaries

Obituaries

Melvin Van Peebles, Godfather of Black Cinema, Dies at 89

He directed 'Watermelon Man,' did everything on 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song' and wrote a pair of Broadway musicals.

9/23/2021 12:17:00 AM

Melvin Van Peebles has died at 89. Considered by many to be the godfather of modern Black cinema, Van Peebles was an influential link to a younger generation of filmmakers that includes Spike Lee and John Singleton

He directed 'Watermelon Man,' did everything on 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song' and wrote a pair of Broadway musicals.

Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, his musical about black urban life, to Broadway and received Tony nominations for best book and best original score in 1972. A year later, he received another book nom forDon’t Play Us Cheap!, centering on a devil who attempts to break up a party in Harlem. The two musicals garnered nine Tony noms in all.

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Van Peebles also directed a 1973 film version ofDon’t Play Us Cheap!as well as the action comedyIdentity Crisis(1989), which starred his son. He helmed and appeared with Mario inPosse(1993), a Western about African-American soldiers who mutiny against their racist white officer, and contributed a song, “Cruel Jim Crow,” to that movie.

Van Peebles had a writing credit on the stock-car biopicGreased Lightning(1977), starring Richard Pryor, and adapted his novel about the growth of the Black Panther Party into a 1995 movie,Panther, that was directed by his son.In 2003, he was portrayed by Mario in headtopics.com

Baadasssss(2003), a son’s homage to his dad. And two years later, Van Peebles was the subject of a documentary,How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It).The son of a tailor, Melvin Peebles was born on Aug. 21, 1932. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan in 1953 with a degree in literature, served for nearly four years in the U.S. Air Force and married a German woman. After his discharge, he worked as a portrait painter in Mexico, then moved to San Francisco, where he ran cable cars.

Van Peebles also made three short films, beginning with the slice-of-lifeThree Pickup Men for Herrick(1957), which he hoped would serve as his calling card into the motion-picture industry. But when he was unable to find directorial work in L.A., he, his wife and their children, Megan and Mario, moved to Europe. In Holland, he studied with the Dutch National Theatre, did some acting and added the “Van” to his last name.

After his marriage dissolved, Van Peebles headed to Paris, where he authored five novels and wrote and directed his first feature,La permission, an adaptation of his novel about a love affair between an African-American soldier and a French woman. It won acclaim in Europe, was retitled

The Story of a Three-Day Passfor U.S. audiences and chosen as the French entry for the San Francisco Film Festival in 1967.It was well-received by critics and festivalgoers, but few knew that the filmmaker behind Read more: Hollywood Reporter »

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donwinslow A life well lived. Rest in peace Melvin Van Peebles. My condolences to his family and all who loved him. Was he vaxxed? Righteous brother. Sweet Sweetback was somethin' else for its time. Watermelon Man makes most satirical films seem toothless. RIP Z RIP Melvin Van Peebles 🙏 Again? I would swear he died a long time ago and that is how I know all these films and his son Mario Van Peebles talked about him.

May he rest in peace 🙏🏾. Melvin van Peebles last moments before death, he knew he was about to die 😭😭 RIP Oh, man!

Melvin Van Peebles, Influential Director, Actor and Writer, Dies at 89Melvin Van Peebles, the influential filmmaker behind “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song,” and father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles, has died. He was 89. “Dad knew that Bl… 🕯🕊 😔😔😔🙏🙏🙏 1/ 🙏 madlib / MarioVanPeebles Rest In Power Melvin Van Peebles ✊️🙏🌹🌍

Melvin Van Peebles BruceBarcott R.I.P. Brother hopes the family is well. Rest in Power. 🙏🏾 Run Sweetback. 🙏🏾🙏🏾 My Condolences to Mario Van Peebles & family💜🙏🏼 RIP Mr. Peebles. My condolences to his family. Oh shit

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RIP 🙏🏻

Melvin Van Peebles, Influential Director, Actor and Writer, Dies at 89Melvin Van Peebles, the influential filmmaker behind “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song,” and father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles, has died. He was 89. “Dad knew that Bl… 🕯🕊 😔😔😔🙏🙏🙏 1/ 🙏 madlib / MarioVanPeebles Rest In Power Melvin Van Peebles ✊️🙏🌹🌍

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