Early Life and Education
William Marshall was born August 19, 1924, in Gary, Indiana. Immediately after graduating high school, he attended Governors State University. He later attended New York University. He continued to hone his theater acting skills by training at the Actors Studio, the American Theatre Wing, and the Neighborhood Playhouse.
In 1944, Marshall made his Broadway debut. He acted in the stage play, Carmen Jones. From there, his career took off. He acted in both American and European plays. He also performed in various Shakespeare plays, depicting a myriad of characters. In at least six productions of Othello, he played the lead. His performances received much praise from European tabloids.
Not too long after starring in Othello, Marshall was cast for the role of Frederick Douglass on stage. He spent a great deal of time researching Douglass’ life in preparation for the role. After depicting the famed abolitionist, he was ready to transition from the stage to film and television.
Film and TV Acting
In 1952, Marshall landed his first cinematic role in the film Lydia Bailey. His career in film and television nearly ended as soon as it was taking off. His association with blacklisted actor Paul Robeson raised suspicion about his political views. He was able to avoid a ban and later co-starred in the film Demetrius and the Gladiators(1954).
Over the course of his acting career, Marshall landed a number of roles, portraying unique and interesting characters. He acted in Something of Value (1957), The Jar (1964), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964/1967), Star Trek (1968), The Boston Strangler (1968), and many more.
In 1972, Marshall was propelled to a level of fame that would persist throughout the remainder of his career. He starred in the 1972 film Blacula. He also starred in the film’s sequel Scream, Blacula, Scream! The Blacula films made history as they were the first films to showcase a Black vampire.
In the 1980s, Marshall played the King of Cartoons on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. He also taught acting at several universities and at Chicago’s ETA Creative Arts Foundation. There, he was named one of the organization’s Epic Men of the 20th Century. William Marshall had developed diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately died on June 11, 2003. He was 78 years old.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer. Thank you.**