Dick Anthony Williams


Also known as: Dick A. Williams


Born: August 9, 1934
Chicago, Illinois

Died: February 16, 2012
Los Angeles, California

Obituary: Dick Anthony Williams, a stage and film actor who was twice nominated for a Tony Award, died Feb. 16 in Los Angeles. He was 77.

Mr. Williams, who was a co-founder of the New Federal Theatre, starred in a string of dramas on Broadway in the early and mid-1970s. His first appearance, in 1970, was in filmmaker Melvin van Peebles' unorthodox musical assemblage, Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. His next two assignments, What the Wine-Sellers Buy and Black Picture Show—both New York Shakespeare Festival productions staged at Lincoln Center—were short-lived, but brought Mr. Williams a Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award nomination apiece. He won the Drama Desk for Wine-Sellers, in which he played a Detroit pimp called Rico.

"Mr. Williams is cool and brilliant," wrote Clive Barnes in the New York Times of Wine-Sellers, "like a refrigerated diamond."

We Interrupt This Program… and The Poison Tree followed in 1975 and 1976. Following those plays, Mr. Williams concentrated on film work, taking parts in "Dog Day Afternoon," "The Deep," "The Jerk," "Gardens of Stone," "Tap," "Mo' Better Blues," "Edward Scissorhands," and numerous television movies and guest shots on television series. As on stage, his most memorable filmic role was as a pimp, in this case a flamboyant philosopher armed with a sword cane called Pretty Tony in the 1973 blaxploitation film "The Mack."

Mr. Williams was sometimes frustrated by the lack of opportunities African-American actors faced in Hollywood. "Too much of this business is run on favors," he told the New York Times in 1980. "But there are so few black executives that black actors have no access to the system."

"Producers don't think about casting a black unless the script says 'black,'" he added.

Mr. Williams was born Aug. 9, 1934, in Chicago, and suffered from polio as a child. He first made a splash Off-Broadway in 1968 in Big Time Buck White, which he also directed. In 1970, he directed Ed Bullins' The Pig Pen.



Playbill Cover - The Poison Tree The Poison Tree
Jan. 8, 1976 - Jan. 11, 1976
Bobby Foster Performer
Playbill Cover - We Interrupt This Program... We Interrupt This Program...
Apr. 1, 1975 - Apr. 5, 1975
Al Seaver Performer
Playbill Cover - Black Picture Show Black Picture Show
Jan. 6, 1975 - Feb. 9, 1975
Alexander Performer
Playbill Cover - What the Wine-Sellers Buy What the Wine-Sellers Buy
Feb. 14, 1974 - Mar. 17, 1974
Rico Performer
Playbill Cover - Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death
Oct. 20, 1971 - Jul. 30, 1972
Who's Who


Drama Desk Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1975 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Black Picture Show Nominee
1974 Outstanding Performance What the Wine-Sellers Buy Winner

Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1975 Featured Actor in a Play Black Picture Show Nominee
1974 Featured Actor in a Play What the Wine-Sellers Buy Nominee
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