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He was a Broadway star at age seventeen. His first job out of college was the 530-performance run of Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun, in which he appeared with Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis. At age thirty-two, he became the first African American actor to play an authority figure in a major primetime network broadcast, which was also the first-ever made-for-TV movie, Companions in Nightmare. As impressive as these accomplishments are, they all occurred long before Louis Gossett Jr. won an Emmy Award and an Oscar and became one of the best-loved and most famous and respected actors in America.
In this frank and revealing autobiography, Mr. Gossett looks back over his fifty-five-year career in theater, film, and television (with a little basketball, singing, and guitar playing on the side). He reminisces about a mostly happy childhood in Coney Island; tells wonderful stories about working and playing with the biggest names in show business; and reveals how, in spite of what might seem to many a charmed life, his road was often made rocky by the scourge of racism from without and personal demons within.
Among the most treasured memories of his early Broadway days are the twice-weekly poker games with Poitier and Paul Newman, between shows on matinee days, and playing softball in the Broadway Show League, where he discovered very quickly that he wasn't the only gifted athlete in show business. He tells the story of his brief but unforgettable romance with the highly talented but tragically short-lived actress Diana Sands, and he reveals how Shirley Booth kept him from being fired from the cast of a pre-Broadway touring show and got him invited to a lot of parties at the same time.
Mr. Gossett's bitterest memories include a day that still ranks among the worst in his life. Having arrived in Hollywood and being put up, for the first time, in the lavish Beverly Hills Hotel, he started out on what should have been a leisurely drive from the rental car office back to the hotel. Almost immediately, he was pulled over by an L.A. County sheriff for DWB (Driving While Black). He was stopped six more times before he reached the hotel. In the end, that short trip took four hours. But the horror and humiliation of that experience were just a foretaste of what L.A. police officers would put him through later that same night. These events, and many more like them, were part of what inspired him to launch the Eracism Foundation in 2006 and devote the rest of his life to an all-out offensive against racism, violence, and ignorance.
Louis Gossett Jr. is not your run-of-the-mill movie star, and An Actor and a Gentleman isn't just another Hollywood memoir. It is a funny, fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking tour through the last half-century of American life, as seen through the eyes of one of our most talented artists.
This is a beautiful read: heart-warming, elegant and telling of what it means to have been born and raised in an era which does not encourage the climb Gossett, Jr. achieved. Read morePublished 12 months ago by claire ford fullerton
I was looking forward to reading this, a fan of Mr. Gossett Jr.'s. At first, he comes off well in the book -- lots of positive words and seeming self-reflection. Read morePublished on July 12, 2010 by Tragiclaura